AT&T's 5G 'Arrives,' Quickly Shows Why 5G Won't Be A Panacea For Broadband Competition

from the blistering-hype dept

We've talked a lot about how while fifth-generation "5G" wireless will deliver faster and lower latency networks, its role as some kind of broadband panacea has been severely over-hyped. For one, it's going to take years before users actually see a healthy selection of actual 5G devices in the wild (Apple's 5G iPhone won't launch until 2020 or later). And despite carrier promises, deploying these upgrades to traditionally ignored rural and less affluent urban markets will take years.

Even then, these same companies' monopoly over cell tower connectivity in many areas will only ensure prices remain high. That's all compounded by the looming Sprint, T-Mobile merger, which will reduce the number of overall competitors in wireless from four to three, something that never ends well for price competition should you actually bother to study telecom history (especially US telecom history).

None of this has stopped wireless carriers, network gear makers, and stenographing news outlets from heralding 5G as an almost mystical panacea. A panacea that's going to single-handedly birth the smart cities and cars of tomorrow and result in us all (I'm told) working four day work weeks. Of course more quietly, even Wall Street has acknowledged that many of these promises are over-hyped as even initial 5G marketing tech demos under deliver on unrealistic industry promises. To be clear 5G is a good thing. But it's not fucking magic.

This week, AT&T made a lot of waves by announcing it will be the first to "launch" 5G next week in select cities. Even AT&T, a company with a bad habit of redefining what a "launched" broadband market actually means, chose its words carefully in terms of managing user expectations:

"We've worked closely with our technology suppliers to reach this mobile 5G milestone. While the initial launch starts small and will be limited, as the 5G ecosystem evolves customers will see enhancements in coverage, speeds and devices.

"This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era," said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and chief technology officer. "Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It's early on the 5G journey and we're ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the months ahead."

The caveats aren't subtle. For one, the new 5G service is only initially going to be made available to users who pony up $500 for a mobile hotspot. And while the service should offer some impressive speeds (depending on regional congestion and throttling) for $70 per month, the service comes with a 15 GB usage cap that all-but ensures the line can't really be used as a replacement for a traditional fixed-line connection. AT&T can't be bothered to explain in its press release what happens when you surpass that usage threshold (I've inquired), but you'll either be subject to throttling or steep, additional per gigabyte penalties.

Of course this is all before AT&T imposes all manner of zero rating and other tricks that could potentially give its own Time Warner content an unfair advantage in the market, the degree of which depends on whether AT&T and friends win next February's looming net neutrality court battle. Should they win that fight, the door is open to not only implementing all manner of underhanded, anti-competitive restrictions, but thanks to the Pai FCC dismantling of transparency requirements, there's no real punishment for failing to make those limitations clear to the end user.

Historically, telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast do absolutely everything in their power to avoid having to seriously compete on price. They also simply adore erecting entirely arbitrary and unnecessary limitations, then charging customers an arm and a leg to avoid them. So while 5G will generally be a positive force (in the sense that faster, more resilient networks are always good), anybody who thinks it won't suffer from most of the same problems plaguing current American networks hasn't been paying attention.

Filed Under: 5g, overhype, wireless
Companies: at&t


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2018 @ 7:23am

    Dial Up Throttling Once Surpass Threshold.

    AT&T can't be bothered to explain in its press release what happens when you surpass that usage threshold (I've inquired), but you'll either be subject to throttling or steep, additional per gigabyte penalties.

    If it is anything like my AT&T phone hotspot, it will be:

    "Get 15GB mobile hotspot data per device (After 15GB, speed slows to max of 128Kbps.)"

    Almost guarantee this will be the same. Welcome to dial up speeds on your new 5G plan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2018 @ 1:17pm

      Re: Dial Up Throttling Once Surpass Threshold.

      Welcome to dial up speeds on your new 5G plan.

      Almost. If you do the math, you can get a bit more than 15GB/month on 53.3K dialup (about 17-18 GB).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Dec 2018 @ 7:38am

    OMG OMG OMG WE'RE GETTING 5G!!!!!!!!
    LIONS WILL LAY DOWN WITH LAMBS!!!

    And I'll watch 2 Netflix movies and then need to wait 30 days to get my next ration of bandwidth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 20 Dec 2018 @ 7:54am

    5G?

    They never even met the definition of 4G, which was supposed to be 1 Gbps. 5G specifies 20 Gbps. Any bets on whether any US 5G deployment will ever reach that speed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 20 Dec 2018 @ 9:13am

      Re: 5G?

      Once again, anyone able to find an actual spec for 5G?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2018 @ 10:48am

          Re: Re: Re: 5G?

          Thanks, kinda-sorta. PDF pages should be banned.

          Looks like the ITU's wishlist for year 2020 service. If 5G was mentioned in there, my old eyes lost it in the text-over-background in the PDF.

          Used to be IEEE issued the Standards for computer network communications. Looks like ITU is handling radio/computer now.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 20 Dec 2018 @ 9:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 5G?

            Maybe I'm mistaken but I thought IMT-2020 was the specification for 5G. Wikipedia says:

            The ITU IMT-2020 specification demand for speeds up to 20 gigabits per second, achievable with millimeter waves of 15 gigahertz and higher frequency.[citation needed] 3GPP is going to submit 5G NR (New Radio) as its 5G communication standard proposal. 5G New Radio can include lower frequencies, from 600 MHz to 6 GHz. However, the speeds in these lower frequencies are only slightly higher than new 4G systems, estimated at 15% to 50% faster.[2]

            Note the "citation needed" for the IMT-2020 stuff. I thought it would be easy to find the spec, but that turned out not to be the case. Maybe something in the references or external links of the WP article will be what you're looking for. I didn't look through all 78 of them.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2018 @ 8:24am

    I'll just use my 5G data aaaaaaannnndddd it's gone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2018 @ 8:43am

    I really hope Elon's new satellite mesh internet option works. That would kick our current companies into gear. Just look at what Google in places it was able to deploy it internet. It is extremely cheap these days to deploy 10-40 gbps networks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2018 @ 9:23am

    5g will be very expensive to build out a network,
    Its range is low compared with 4g, it,ll need
    3-4 times the amount of cell towers that 3g use,s .Its likely to be more expensive for the customer
    ,someone has to pay for all that new equipment .
    5g phones will probably be more expensive than
    4g phones .
    I think its like 3d tv it may be rejected or ignored
    by most consumers unless its faster and competes
    on price with 3g broadband .
    It may take 5-7 years to be avaidable in all
    area,s outside citys .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dank710 (profile), 20 Dec 2018 @ 10:30am

    5G is intended to enslave us even more

    I'll stick with 3G and wifi. Not interesting in being controlled by the matrix more than I already am.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2018 @ 11:27am

      Re: 5G is intended to enslave us even more

      YOU USE WIFI? Good lord man, don't you know that is everywhere? Why do you think all of the mega corps like McDonalds and Starbucks started to have free wifi in their restaurants?

      Its because they can use it to control your brain. Our brain cells work by tiny electircal impulses. What is wifi? ELECTRICITY!

      You step into a restaurant around noon and BOOM! Suddenly you are hungry for lunch. think that happened by chance? NO SIR! Its the free wifi invading your brain and controlling your thoughts.

      FREE YOURSELF! Dialup is the way to go. The scream of your computer as it connects to the internet is the sound of you breaking the chains that the corporate overlords have placed on your PC. Relish it every day.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Dec 2018 @ 12:52pm

    SOP-Standard operational procedure...

    For Everyone that has been thru this before, and have seen this before...

    its SOP..and 90% of us wont get it, wont use it, Cant use it, think its dumb, have found other alternatives(until they kill that one)...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    frink, 21 Dec 2018 @ 5:18am

    Verizon?

    No comparison with Verizon? Seems like they win this "Arrival" as they offer speeds around 300 Mbps and, depending on location, peak speeds of nearly 1 Gig, with no data caps. I think it's at least worth mentioning...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2018 @ 8:35am

    Yay now I can get 5 minutes of fast wireless service per month for only $500 +$70 per month. Darth Vader offers better deals than that even after the alterations! 15gig cap is useless as a fixed connection. Allegedly it's going to be 400mbi/sec which takes 5 minutes at full speed to hit the cap if I did the math correctly. Insultingly useless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2018 @ 12:43pm

    De-Regulation is a good thing.

    This article proves my point. If the FCC was allowed to over regulate the market, it would be over a year later before I could get 5G.

    Removal of oversight and barriers do allow the market to move faster and provide more services. In this case, 5G will be available both faster and without requiring AT&T to invest vast amounts of money on equipment upgrades.

    Now, repeat after me. The system is fixed! The system is fixed!

    Now, go celebrate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 24 Dec 2018 @ 6:43pm

      Re: De-Regulation is a good thing.

      Removal of oversight and barriers do allow the market to move faster and provide more services. In this case, 5G will be available both faster and without requiring AT&T to invest vast amounts of money on equipment upgrades.

      Do you have evidence for that? Keeping in mind of course that correlation does not imply causation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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