The Washington Post And AT&T Team Up To Over-hype 5G

from the hype-it-up dept

Buried underneath the blistering hype surrounding fifth-generation (5G) wireless is a quiet but unpopular reality: the technology is being over-hyped to spike lagging cell phone and network gear sales, and early incarnations were rushed to market in a way that prioritized marketing over substance. That’s not to say that faster 5G networks won’t be a good thing when they arrive at scale several years from now, but early offerings have been almost comical in their shortcomings to the point where, at least in tech policy circles, 5G has become a sort of magic pixie dust, capable of fixing anything.

AT&T has repeatedly lied about 5G availability by pretending its 4G network is 5G. Verizon has repeatedly hyped early non-standard launches that, when reviewers actually got to take a look, were found to be barely available. And both companies have worked overtime to suggest 5G will revolutionize things like brain surgery, when a closer look past the press release usually reveals such claims to be little more than silly bunk.

Whereas normally it would be journalism’s role to point these falsehoods out and deflate marketing hype, apparently major papers have decided to join the fun. The Washington Post and AT&T this week announced a new partnership that both sides claim in press materials will somehow revolutionize journalism. Says AT&T of the new effort:

“AT&T and The Washington Post are working together on the future of digital storytelling. Teams at both companies will experiment with new formats and see what immersive journalism can do better as the world is increasingly connected to 5G. What could this look like? Think about using virtual or augmented reality to put you in the middle of a congressional hearing or giving you a front row seat at a campaign rally. Or perhaps you could see the effects of climate change by taking a virtual tour of a glacier with a digital expert by your side.”

The problem with these claims is that there’s nothing inherent in 5G that will help “revolutionize journalism” that wasn’t possible via existing telecom technology. Outlets like the Post already have access to ultra-fast gigabit WiFi and gigabit Ethernet, not to mention 30 Mbps+ 4G networks. Sure, 5G will be faster and more reliable when it’s deployed at scale five years from now, but much like the sector’s claim that 5G will revolutionize surgery (nobody’s going to use a wireless connection when a fiber to Ethernet hardline is available), these pie in the sky claims tend to be lacking in the supporting evidence department.

I mean maybe something genuinely interesting comes out of such a partnership, but the Washington Post blog about this partnership reads like a damn advertisement (because it is one):

“The Post has focused heavily on the reader experience, and an important part of that is our ability to create an immersive, engaging experience along with our reporting and to deliver that with the best site and app performance readers expect from us,? said Scot Gillespie, Chief Technology Officer at The Post. ?With AT&T?s 5G technology, we will not only be able to deliver news more quickly, but we will also be able to deliver it in completely new and compelling ways that are enabled by leveraging the capabilities of 5G.”

That’s indistinguishable from a press release. It’s worth noting that the New York Times struck a similar partnership with Verizon earlier this year, though neither paper has detailed the underlying financial details of these partnerships. It’s pretty telling of the era that nobody at either paper thought such a partnership could potentially represent a possible conflict of interest as they cover one of the most heavily hyped tech shifts in telecom history.

You’d hope that as they cement these relationships both papers will point out things like the fact that wireless carriers are actively trying to make it harder to know where 5G really is. Or the fact that AT&T has routinely used bogus phone icons to pretend modified 4G networks are actually 5G. Or that thanks to monopoly domination of the sector, Americans are going to pay an arm and a leg for 5G service. Or how thanks to the industry’s refusal to deploy fiber to more rural and less affluent parts of America (despite billions in tax breaks and subsidies), 5G will have scattered availability to the regions that need it most.

Again while it’s possible something marginally interesting could come out of these experiments, the lion’s share of promises and claims related to 5G have by and large been over-hyped bunk. Hopefully both papers remember it’s their jobs to debunk this kind of nonsense, not amplify it.

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Companies: at&t, washington post

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Comments on “The Washington Post And AT&T Team Up To Over-hype 5G”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


Of course THIS site would never "partner" with anyone or promote the interest of those who sponsor it or its "thinktank."

Techdirt has criticized Google numerous times. Your bullshit is invalid. Try something new — like, say, attempting to be @dril. (At least that might be entertaining.)

ECA (profile) says:

Ok..I can see it Now..

We are going to get 3D news..
Whee they bring up Game data and display it as ‘No one else’ has done..
No longre will they Lie to you, they will add Substance in the Form of Video on demand.
"It might have gone something like this" is the new Hot comment..
(I get tired of those word, Might have, could have, may have when you can hear them every day on the news)

Anonymous Coward says:

5G, in general, is just overhyped. How much faster do you need Data on your smartphone? How about just better 4G everywhere? I go to a number of areas where my T-Mobile service just sucks when it’s in town.

The biggest issue with 5G is distance. You need about 4 times the towers for 5G to cover the same area as 4G. 4G has a lot of weak areas as it is. Throw up 5G and 3/4 of the same area is not covered.

What do you need faster speed on your cell cell phone? let alone worth paying even more money every month to rarely, ever get it? The biggest Internet bandwidth hog is generally streaming video. We can already do that just fine.

Maybe as an Internet replacement for your Home Internet?!?! Because you’re tired of the CAP and overpriced service costs. But do you think 5G will be any better? It’s going to be a lower cap than what you have, maybe they’ll say unlimited? but really just slow you way down and also not really saving much money.

It’s going to be a few more years, Minimum for 5G. It’s not just adding 5G to the towers they already have, but they need a ton more towers to cover the same areas. Many places as it is, it’s hard to get any towers built. I really wouldn’t worry about 5G. I sure wouldn’t pay MORE just to get it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: building towers

in a smaller eastern city in NY someone put up what may be 5G towers in some neighborhoods without notifying people in the area. One resident woke up with a tower on his lawn and not sure if they were able to identify who did it. They also put towers in between telephone poles and the local govt had to figure out who authorized it. Turns out nobody local has any jurisdiction over these installations.

Norahc (profile) says:

What do you need faster speed on your cell cell phone? let alone worth paying even more money every month to rarely, ever get it? The biggest Internet bandwidth hog is generally streaming video. We can already do that just fine.

Cell phone providers need a way to make even more money by increasing the bills and making you buy a new phone every few years.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I posted above, as well as the person said..
NO LANDLINES.. That ones that lasted and never failed with backup power for over a week, and is the base of all emergency services.
Cellphones, and a product that can be used to Track, monitor, locate you and dont have the privacy regulations of LANDLINES..

THEN, they will add something special..
Laser Sat uplink…They want OFF the gov. Backbone..they want their OWN then they are incharge.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a very shortsighted article and yes, one can have their opinion. This is no different than saying "oh there will no such thing as electric cars" a few years back. Oh look tesla.

Anyone saying there is no need for 5g? really? look at the data
clearly shows data consumption is getting higher and higher and it’s not stopping anytime soon.

Automated driving? Do you even know how much data is consumed? and you think 4G is going to sustain? lol.

Please stop spreading your ignorance. Update your information and learn.

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