Wireless Carriers Are Training Consumers To Equate "5G" With Bluster And Empty Promises

from the bluster-and-bullshit dept

Buried beneath the unrelenting marketing for fifth-generation (5G) wireless is a quiet reality: the technology is being over-hyped, and early incarnations were rushed to market in a way that prioritized marketing over substance. That's not to say that 5G won't be a good thing when it arrives at scale several years from now, but early offerings have been almost comical in their shortcomings. 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.

In many areas, a "launched" 5G market consists of just a few city blocks. Most phones also don't support the standard yet, and those that do are expensive and have worse battery life because existing 5G antennas are a battery drain. You'll also likely have to pay extra to use 5G, making it not really worth it for those already happy with 4G speeds (most of us).

The wireless industry seems oblivious to the fact that by misrepresenting what 5G is, what it can do, and where it's available, it's only associating 5G with hype and bluster in the minds of US consumers.

The latest case in point: early tests of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra are showing that phones from AT&T and T-Mobile are displaying "5G" icons when the phones aren't actually using 5G networks to transfer data. While 5G is generally seen as one thing in the minds of most people, the three variants of the technology leaning on low band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum all deliver decidedly different experiences.

"On AT&T and T-Mobile, the small Galaxy S20 will only have low-band and mid-band 5G. The Galaxy S20+ and Galaxy S20 Ultra have all three kinds. But AT&T and T-Mobile appear to be feeding their low-band phones a "5G" icon if the cell they're attached to is capable of 5G, even if the network and phone use only 4G technologies for the time. You can be on a low-band 5G cell and have the network decide you should use 4G for several reasons. Right now, low-band 5G can't combine with low-band LTE or high-band Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) LTE, so if a network decides that one of those will give you better performance, you'll be on 4G but see "5G."

In addition to being decidedly different experiences and speeds, these options will all have decidedly different availability depending where you live. Low-band 5G, for example, isn't offering connectivity that's much different from the 4G networks you're used to. And yet you'll be asked to pay even more money for the honor from many carriers, despite the fact that US consumers already pay some of the highest prices in the developed world for mobile data. And that's likely to get worse in the wake of the FCC rubber stamping competition-eroding megamergers and obliterating its consumer protection authority at lobbyist behest.

It's all a confusing mess that was largely rushed to market, and it's all being compounded by wireless carriers that were so excited to spike lagging smartphone sales that they made clarity and consumer education an afterthought. Instead of acknowledging that 5G is an evolutionary advancement, wireless carriers have spent the last three years insisting it's revolutionary and transformative -- even insisting it will help cure cancer (not likely, as hospitals are unlikely to even use it).

Again, 5G really will be a hugely beneficial technology when it's deployed more widely a few years from now. It's faster, more resilient, has lower latency, and many of the associated technologies it's bundled with (like virtualization) make networks easier to manage in a litany of ways. But by consistently misleading consumers (or just failing to educate them on the tech's reality), most wireless carriers are training consumers to see 5G as little more than fluff and nonsense.

Filed Under: 5g, hype, lies, overhype, service quality, wireless
Companies: at&t, verizon

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  1. identicon
    A shot of reality, 9 Mar 2020 @ 10:48am

    Also something to note, 4G LTE is not even full 4G, so it seems even more disingenuous to be hawking, much less mislabeling, 5G. But this is what happens when marketing takes precedence over accuracy.

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