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.

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Comments on “The Press Needs An Intervention When It Comes To Over-Hyping 5G”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with 5G besides being overhyped is distance. Well, there is AT&T’s 5GE BS, which is really 4G Enhanced, which is nothing special fro what others have, but they don’t want to call it 4GE. More confusing marketing B.S.

But Distance is a big one. Because 5G doesn’t travel as far as 3G or 4G, you actually need 3 times the cell towers to cover the same area as 4G. So even if/when they upgrade a cell tower near you, there’s going to be large gaps in the network until they build more towers to fill those gaps.

Do you need faster speed? I can already stream video content just fine which is the biggest bandwidth hog. A bit lower latency, OK, not a big deal to me. If I was online gaming, playing like Call of Duty, maybe then it might matter some. 5G is not the second coming.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Because 5G doesn’t travel as far as 3G or 4G, you actually need 3 times the cell towers to cover the same area as 4G."

Sounds like an opportunity for economy of scale. Those 5G cell towers will be cheap, cheap, cheap, so reinstalling on a 3-1 basis will actually a net cost benefit. Also, don’t worry about non-urban areas, no one ever goes there, so your 5G enabled car won’t get lost in the boonies.


DB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You are making the same error as the press.

5G is a set of technologies grouped into one upgrade. Using additional frequency bands is only one of the changes. It’s those added high frequencies that will have short range (and the opportunity for a higher density of cells). The existing low frequency bands will behave as they always have, with the opportunity for higher communication rates with more sophisticated modulation.

For most people, in most areas, nothing will change.

ECA (profile) says:


requires MORE power..
5g as it does with 4g, will be cut back after you hit the cap..
Lag and latency has little to Do with Clarity and quality of signal..It NEVER your computer while on the internet..its WORSE with wireless..

Backbone backbone backbone…Fiber fiber fiber…and LOTS of upgrades.. AND they arnt doing them.. which they should, BEFORE they even try to goto 5g..

Also, if 5g is oging to the 5ghz range, its in the lower range of microwave..(yes your MW in your house has almost the same hz..)

The Main problem with 4g and 3g and others is simple but they dont want to fix it.. How many persons in 1 area, using 1 celltower, can you have??? it is NOT infinite. And the cell companies HATe over lapping signals…that means you have to use MORE towers..

John85851 (profile) says:

We'll never have a 4 day workweek

Two points to consider:

1) When has any technology led to a 4 day work week? If 5G is as great as they claim, people will never stop working because they get such great coverage! Why go on a vacation when they can work anywhere, any place? Bosses will love this!

2) Why doesn’t the wider media push back on these claims instead of just pushing what Verizon and AT&T say? It’s great that TechDirt is doing this, but critical articles need to spread beyond just the tech-savvy.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: We'll never have a 4 day workweek

Technology did lead to the 5 day work week, and the 40 hour work week. Ford supported shifting to the 5/40 work week, if only because they were ahead of the productivity curve and were willing to share the gains with workers. This wasn’t an altruistic gesture – Ford preferred employees who could buy their cars, and Employees with more time off would be more likely to want to buy a car. It was a capitalist decision.

I can’t remember the specific prediction, but Ford predicted something like a 20 hour work week by the end of the century as we gained in productivity. Then ruthless, quarter to quarter capitalism took off in the 1970s, and workers stopped gaining any benefit from increases in productivity. Capitalists love to keep using Fords langauge of technology leading to reduced work weeks, while simultaneously denying the benefits of technology to workers.

tom a sparks (profile) says:

smart tech with cellphone connection

I never understood why this so-called smart tech needs a cellphone connection
when short rang p2p packet radio network would work better

Is it because "everything" is being done in the "Cloud"?
what has happened to local processing of data?

smart cars: V2V network](
IOT: wifi

Is it because everything is being done in the "Cloud"?

tom (profile) says:

Pretty sure we heard much the same at this point in the roll outs for 4G and 3G and 2G and the switch from analog to digital. Life changing, new tech, blazing speeds, etc.

What we got with all those were incremental improvements and those often took years to get fully deployed.

When the press lives in the few minute news cycle, everything has to be hyped in order to gets its few minutes of fame before the next over hyped thing takes its place.

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