The Press Needs An Intervention When It Comes To Over-Hyping 5G
from the words-are-but-wind dept
By now we’ve made it very clear that while fifth generation wireless (5G) is good, it’s being painfully over-hyped. Yes, better faster networks with lower latency are always a good thing. And, in time, these networks will power a lot of nifty things. But if you read press coverage of the technology, you’d walk away thinking that 5G is akin to some kind of mystical panacea; something you just sprinkle around on the sidewalk anytime you want innovation and magic to spring forth from between the cracks. It will somehow result in four-day workweeks, we’re told. It will revolutionize cancer treatment, companies insist.
Wireless carriers facing slumping smartphone sales would certainly like you to think 5G is more revolutionary than it actually is. So would network hardware vendors eager to sell upgraded gear to those wireless carriers. But again, while faster networks are good, they’re not magic, and it’s the press’ job to make it clear 5G is more evolution than revolution.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, apparently. For example, this Tom’s Hardware piece documenting five ways “5G will change your life” is rife with examples that will do nothing of the sort. Like this claim that 5G will somehow revolutionize the classroom:
“The faster speeds and lower latency that 5G will deliver will make AR and virtual reality transformative for kids in classrooms.
Toby Redshaw, Verizon’s senior vice president of 5G innovation, offered a scenario in which 5G could make education more accessible: “You have a child that sits in a class for four hours. There’s a presentation about China: a PowerPoint. It’s a good environment. But there’s another child in the class. [The teacher:] ‘Put on that headset and we’ll drop you into a 360-degree video so you can be [in China] without being there.’ [The kid:] ‘I’m flying over the Great Wall! That is unbelievable!’ The second child had an experience. A whole chunk of his brain lit up. That immersive environment is between three and eight times more effective.”
But guess what? Classrooms already have gigabit+ connectivity in the form of cheaper, more reliable WiFi. Why would said classrooms suddenly decided to pay Verizon for 5G to fuel their VR goggles, assuming VR is being used at all, when their existing connections can already easily power these technologies for less money? Another of the five examples in the piece, hospital diagnostics, suffers from the same logical problem:
“Just as 5G could make it easier for kids to experience subjects that most of us have only read about in books, next-gen speeds combined with augmented reality could also make it easier for doctors to learn and perfect procedures.”
But as we just noted, no hospital is going to use 5G for next-gen VR and AR diagnostics when the kind of bandwidth 5G provides is already available over the hospital’s existing WiFi or Ethernet connections. And no medical professional worth their salt is going to trust a sensitive medical procedure to a frequently capped and throttled cellular network. Especially when we’re talking about Verizon, a company recently under fire for throttling and upselling firefighters as they attempted to fight one of the biggest fires in California history.
Other examples in the story are equally thin. Autonomous and smart cars, for example, can already use 4G networks. 5G might be faster and more reliable, but it’s not going to just start crapping out autonomous cars in and of itself. Similarly, given what’s likely to be high cost and spotty availability, 5G isn’t really going to be a panacea when it comes to broadband competition either. In other words, four of the article’s five “life changing” examples either aren’t real or are being over-hyped. And like most of these reports, it ignores that thanks to regulatory capture, the biggest impact 5G is likely to have on most of us is going to be higher prices.