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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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 5:03am

    Promised the moon but sold a pebble

    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.

    Oh if only, they're also training people to see 5G and think 'more money for minimal extras, if any'. 'Fluff and nonsense' is downright pleasant when compared to 'expensive scam', and between worse phones, laughable 'gains' and higher prices the initial impression most people are going to be getting of 5G is going to be notably different from the gushing praise that the stenographers calling themselves reporters/journalists have been tripping over themselves to apply to it.

    They might think they're doing themselves a favor hyping up 5G, and in the short-term that might work, but long-term all they're really doing is making people rightly suspicious of it and less likely to be interested given the history of broken promises and bogus claims.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 8:12am

      Re: Promised the moon but sold a pebble

      Promised the moon but sold a pebble

      Probably for the best. As everyone knows, moon rocks are pure poison!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 8:28am

      Re: Promised the moon but sold a pebble

      'more money for minimal extras, if any'. 'Fluff and nonsense' … 'expensive scam' … worse phones, laughable 'gains' and higher prices

      So, they're training people to associate 5G with wireless phone companies?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 11:23am

      Re: Promised the moon but sold a pebble

      In other words, the markets had best enjoy the spike while they can. Once the public wises up, which given the amount of obvious propaganda will be faster than "actual" 5G can be made available, the slump will return. When it does, it's going to take a lot more to get that same spike again. Investors, you've been warned.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 6:50am

    I don't see an advantage to 5G. Of course I suspect I use a phone differently than the rest of the average market. The main use is as a phone, not as a mini-computer.

    I do use the text function but how much does faster matter? 50 milliseconds saved (or whatever speed) has absolutely no bearing on a message that may wait to be picked up when ever the receiver gets around to it. That's the beauty of electronic messaging, it will wait.

    All I see when I look at 5G is more costs with no benefit whatever.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 8:28am

      Re:

      Of course I suspect I use a phone differently than the rest of the average market. The main use is as a phone, not as a mini-computer.

      That is quite unusual these days.

      I do use the text function but how much does faster matter?

      Not only does it not matter, but that will not be affected at all by 5G. Text messages go over the SMS channel, and 5G is the mobile data channel - completely separate.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 6:58am

    Don't panic!

    6G won't be bluster and empty promises.

    The marketing department is hard at work developing 6G as we speak.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 7:32am

    You would be a sucker to pay extra on your smartphone for 5G. Even IF you're in an area that supposedly has 5G, the range is shorter for 5G. You need about 4 times the towers to cover the same area as 4G. So you have a lot of big 5G gaps.

    So you would really just be giving these company's more money for very little if any benefit. If you have money to throw away for the hell of it, then, by all means, waste it.

    I can already stream video on my Smartphone which I think is about the biggest bandwidth hog. Why would you need any faster speed anyway??? How about better 4G in a lot of gaps in the network now!!! I'd rather see that.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 8:01am

      Re:

      You would be a sucker to pay extra on your smartphone for 5G.

      Thanks to Qualcomm, you may not have much choice.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:27am

      Re:

      "Why would you need any faster speed anyway??? How about better 4G in a lot of gaps in the network now!!! I'd rather see that."

      Expanding the 4G coverage would cost the carriers a lot of money and not really give them anything.

      Meanwhile they'll be getting massive subsidies and pork barrel projects in order to plaster every major city with wifi routers and signal repeaters. AND get to jack the price on the average subscription through the sky.

      Oh, if there was only some government regulation in place preventing large corporations from screwing their customers TOO outrageously.

      Maybe you should talk to the FCC? (/s)

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

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 7:39am

    5G and weather forecasting / GPS?

    Have all the voices expressing concern that the current (and future) 5G signals and noise levels will interfere with various frequencies used in weather forecasting and GPS been completely drowned out?

    In the report from the last World Radiocommunications Conference ( link) it seems like they are just calling for several studies to be done "...in time for WRC-23..." which will apparently be scheduled for some time in 2013 (link).

    While I am sure it will take some time to accurately determine exactly which frequencies, signal levels, and noise levels will acceptable or unacceptable, this seems like it could be a bad case of kicking the can down the road. After 2023, when the studies are done, I wonder how much longer it will take the ITU to come up with concrete recommendations or limits for permissible frequencies, signal levels, and noise levels. And when they finally do make these determinations, will it be too late? Will the telecom companies already have made huge investments in 5G infrastructure? Will weather forecasting and GPS capabilities already have been sacrificed on the altar of telco profits?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 9:52am

      Re: 5G and weather forecasting / GPS?

      If 5G does interfere with weather/gps signals, then the telcos won't have a choice but to make changes. They aren't near big enough to go up against the military.

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

      • icon
        Upstream (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 10:22am

        Re: Re: 5G and weather forecasting / GPS?

        According to this [article] (https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/11/dod-joins-fight-against-5g-spectrum-proposal-citing-ris ks-to-gps/) the DOD has already had to move some things to make room for commercial interests:

        GPS signals use several blocks of the L band, including a primary channel centered on 1575.42MHz. GPS uses L band signals because of their ability to penetrate cloud cover, rain, and vegetation. The L band is also used by the DOD for a number of other purposes, including tactical air navigation, landing assistance telemetry, Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) signals, and missile range and aircraft telemetry—though the DOD has already had to move some of these applications further up the spectrum range to make room for previous "commercial reallocation."

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 9 Mar 2020 @ 7:45am

    I don't understand all of the hate. Life is sooo much better now that 5G is here. What did we ever do without it? Okay, back to tending the Apple tree here in Eden...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 8:24am

      Re:

      Life is sooo much better now that 5G is here.

      Not so much "here" as "there", where "there" is a few large stadiums. And only the good seats...

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

  • 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.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:22am

      Re:

      "But this is what happens when marketing takes precedence over accuracy."

      It's just another sign pointing to the egress. It's not easy to not be the type of guy of which one is born every minute when every corporation has gotten used to never having a high bar of standards they need to pass.

      Caveat Emptor

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 11:00am

    The only way we're gonna get 5G, especially in a timely fasion, is if we all band together and pay the companies concerned more to install/enable the technology than the companies can pay to the Senate members to prevent it from happening! Let's face it, when we live in a country that has the most corrupt government of the so-called non-3rd world countries, the only way forward is via backhand, monetary payments!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      Let's face it, when we live in a country that has the most corrupt government of the so-called non-3rd world countries, the only way forward is via backhand, monetary payments!

      The fuck are you smoking? It must be good if you think that paying the baby bells any amount of money will actually do anything beyond lining the pockets of C-Level execs, political puppets, and investors. Care to tell us what it is and where we can find some?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2020 @ 1:21pm

      Re:

      "we live in a country that has the most corrupt government of the so-called non-3rd world countries"

      I am interested in the analysis from which this came, is it a study or maybe a thesis?

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:20am

      Re:

      "...is if we all band together and pay the companies concerned more to install/enable the technology than the companies can pay to the Senate members to prevent it from happening!"

      Given that everyone with a mobile phone will already be paying those companies as much as they think they can charge for the privilege of being on a "5G network", why would they accept far lesser benefits from you than they'll be getting from the government pork barrel AND the option to extort anyone with a cell phone for as much money as they can pay without breaking?

      You've got quite a naíve impression of corporate accountability there. You actually think that if you meekly show up and agree to heavy petting that means they won't screw you?

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 2:01pm

    Consequently...

    Wireless carriers are training consumers to equate 6G with bluster and empty promises. Or 7G or nG.

    Remember that 4G as it rolled out with LTE is a far cry from the 4G standard that was set. And the expectations for 5G (when it actually works) doesn't reach those 4G standards either.

    So the Generational mobile internet access paradigm has been entirely commandeered for marketing purposes. They might as well be offering now with more pixie dust!

    Though now, arguably, pixie dust is synonymous with hobbled encryption so the police can unlock your phone.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:14am

      Re: Consequently...

      "So the Generational mobile internet access paradigm has been entirely commandeered for marketing purposes. They might as well be offering now with more pixie dust!"

      An apt analogy. People keep forgetting, much thanks to the repeated chanting from assorted marketing departments, that 3G, 4G, and 5G are just increases in frequency (=bandwidth) compensated for by the exponential loss of range, precisely according to the laws of electromagnetism.

      That means where in theory you could make 4G work at great range the effective bandwidth means you're actually under 3G or even 2G. So in reality you'll only be using 4G if you've got a signal repeater really close.
      5G is basically a wifi access point. Even in theory you'll not be using it unless you've got direct line of sight to a repeater within 100 feet.

      The entire telco industry has managed to get the world caught up in a scheme worthy of P.T. Barnum. The 5G rollout allows them to finagle money from investors, massive subsidies from governments, plenty of business for associated vendors under interesting ownership...and as if that wasn't good enough, jack prices WAY up there for no real reason or improvement in service. Pixie dust is a very good description of it.

      They could spend a tenth of that money refurbishing and expanding 4G instead and actually get it to perform to specs, but that won't get them massive investments and price hikes.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:15am

      Re: Consequently...

      "Or 7G or nG."

      ...and that is basically at the point where we no longer have a modem. We have a kitchen microwave.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 9 Mar 2020 @ 3:08pm

    Strange thing

    If interesting to get a speed program on your phone that tells you you got a SUPER GREAT CONNECTION, but in practice its LAGGED ALL to hell when you try to use that speed. On 4G..

    4G in the USA is considered the slowest world wide.. Can you see them upgrading 4G, then calling it 5G?? I CAN.

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

  • icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 5:00am

    ...because 5G IS bluster, hype, and empty promises.

    It's a good, decent article, Karl, but this bit does stick out;

    "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."

    Umm...no. No, not really.

    The advantages of 5G come at a cost. This cost is called "range". A 5G transmitter station is, essentially, just a Wifi access point with better parallell capacity. That's how the laws of electromagnetism roll, frankly. What you gain in frequency and bandwidth you lose exponentially in signal range.

    Which means that even AFTER a complete rollout in any given city you'll still be better off just taking a step into the nearest convenience store and piggyback off their wifi some 90% of the time, because then, as now, you will still mainly be on 3G unless you've got a signal mast in direct line of sight.

    5G has only ever been hype. It's a convenient excuse for carriers to obtain new investor money and hike prices rather than have to spend untold amounts of money making their older 4G networks actually perform to optimal speed.

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


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