Yet Another Study Shows U.S. 5G Is Far Slower Than Many Other Nations

from the not-the-revolution-we-were-promised dept

Last May, a largely overlooked report by OpenSignal detailed how, despite endless hype, U.S. 5G is notably slower than 5G in most other developed countries. Because U.S. regulators failed to make mid-band spectrum (which offers faster speeds at greater range) widely available, many U.S. wireless carriers like Verizon embraced higher millimeter wave spectrum (which has trouble with range and building wall penetration) or low-band spectrum (which offers greater range but at notably reduced speeds). The result of the study was fairly obvious:

A new updated report by OpenSignal didn't have any better news. According to the wireless network analysis firm, average 5G download speeds in the US is somewhere around 50 Mbps. And while that's certainly nothing to sneeze at, it's a far cry from carrier hype proclaiming 5G is somehow utterly revolutionary, and it's far from the 200-400 Mbps speeds being seen in many other countries:

"When we consider the average download speed using 5G technology we see a very different story. While Saudi Arabia remains in first place, South Korea jumps to second place with average 5G Download speeds of a staggering 312.7 Mbps — over five times faster than South Korea’s already fast 4G speeds. The U.K. moves up the rankings with the U.S., Netherlands and Germany now dropping into the last three positions."

To be clear the U.S. is taking steps toward fixing the problem. The FCC just completed a major auction of mid-band spectrum, though confidentiality means we don't yet know who the winners of the auction were. It's also worth noting that because of the heavy use of low-band spectrum in the U.S. (again, offering slower speeds but at better range), U.S. 5G signal availability and reliability (assuming you've in a launch market and were able to afford a new phone that supports it) has been pretty good, even if our implementation of 5G isn't as fast as many other nations.

The problem is that while 5G is somewhat faster than 4G in the States, a modest evolution is not what's being advertised to the end user. Companies like Verizon advertise 5G as a near-mystical panacea that's capable of revolutionizing everything from smart cities to cancer treatment, even though a closer examination usually shows that's simply not true. Carriers have also been repeatedly misleading the public about where 5G is actually available, which is associating the standard with empty hype in the minds of consumers.

The other problem that will plague the U.S. (but gets largely ignored by firms employed by wireless carriers who don't want the subject talked about) is the cost of 5G in the States. Americans already pay some of the highest prices for 4G in the developed world, and with the triple punch of captured regulators, the death of net neutrality rules (which prohibited non-transparent "creative" nickel-and-diming of users) and an almost mindless lust for competition and job-eroding industry consolidation, Americans will once again wind up paying higher prices for slower service than most developed nations.

That's all a long way of saying that for a country that prattles on endlessly about the importance of the "race to 5G," we're a far cry from ever being able to claim we're actually winning it.

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Filed Under: 5g, fcc, mid-band, race to 5g, us, wireless
Companies: verizon


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  • icon
    bratwurzt (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 6:38am

    The best

    Whenever I see a comment that contains "US is the best at..." the only FTFY is "...fucking over their citizens".

    Luckily they have a stable political process that can't be abused.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 6:42am

    Verizon ads for 5G

    I've lately seen an incomming barrage of Verizon ads extolling the virtues of its 5G build out nationwide. I seem to have been bracketed by these ads, for some reason, having never ever used Verizon.

    Claim: it's 25 times faster.
    Fact check: 25 times zero is still zero.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:01am

      Re: Verizon ads for 5G

      "Claim: it's 25 times faster.
      Fact check: 25 times zero is still zero."

      Alternatively:

      Claim: it's 25x faster than 4G
      Fact check: it's still slower than 4G in other countries.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 9:07am

        Re: Re: Verizon ads for 5G

        Fact check: 5G is not even 2x faster than 4G. Not even 1.8x as the graph claims (the title is wrong... In the US it's not 1.8x "faster" but 1.8x "as fast". That's 0.8x faster, a big difference.)

        It is somewhat amusing that Verizon, et. al., are fighting against the very system they helped create in order to bring this new product to market. Karma, bitches.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 10:01am

          Re: Re: Re: Verizon ads for 5G

          "Fact check"

          I wasn't stating facts, I was following on from the hyperbole used by the previous poster in a sarcastic manner.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 10:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Verizon ads for 5G

            Yep. I was just clarifying a mistake in the graph in the article that illustrates the problem is even worse than you described. It wasn't an attack. I apologize if that's how it came off.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 6:58am

    I remain satisfied with 3G, I HAVE no need for the silly expensive nanny devices and their ridiculously insecure invasive applications.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:03am

      Re:

      "I remain satisfied with 3G"

      Good for you. But, your personal satisfaction doesn't help the person who needs higher speeds.

      "I HAVE no need for the silly expensive nanny devices and their ridiculously insecure invasive applications."

      I'm not sure which applications you're referring to, but this suggests you don't know what the argument is here.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:12am

        Re: Re:

        What's the argument? Are you arguing?
        5G is a product in search of a market.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "What's the argument? "

          There's things that 3G does not allow to happen due to its low speed. I'm also not aware of any specific application that you're afraid of that would require 5G and is not also using previous connection types. Hence my question.

          "5G is a product in search of a market."

          Maybe, but 4G isn't, so I'm interested to see what you think makes 3G the best choice, given that there are things you cannot do effectively with 3G.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Best choice" is something that varies from person to person, there is no best choice for everyone solution.

            I'm sure there are many things I cannot do, I'm not real worried about it.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 9:10am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              But you though someone... anyone... would give a shit about what you personally want or need and felt the need to tell us all. That's cute.

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 10:00am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So, why should anyone care what you say on the subject of a service you will never use? Is sticking with 3G that boring that you have to ramble about things that you supposedly don't care about to begin with?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      3G, 4G, 5G... the speed of the connection has absolutely nothing to do with the apps that are available, only with whether you're able to use them effectively. And invasive apps do not necessarily require fast speeds. You can get privacy violating apps that can run on 1G.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 1:31am

      Re:

      "I remain satisfied with 3G, I HAVE no need for the silly expensive nanny devices..."

      A good case for expanding 4G until it actually has coverage and nominal speeds rather than, as is now, half the citizenry in a modern capital still chugging away on 3G because the 4G signal repeaters are too far apart to provide decent signal strength.

      I'll give you a point that 5G is silly. Overhyped, expensive, not worth the effort or maintenance, most likely used mainly as a way for large telco nigh-monopolies to gouge their customer base for more money for nothing in return...

      But saying you're satisfied with 3G is your personal opinion. As many have noted there's a lot a 3G connection just can't do.

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

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:01am

    Snake Oil

    There has to be some kind of truth-in-advertising law that can cover this. 25x claims, but bandwidth only increases from 29 to 51 Mbps? You'll never get me to buy this snake oil.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:09am

      Re: Snake Oil

      "When the Federal Trade Commission finds a case of fraud perpetrated on consumers, the agency files actions in federal district court for immediate and permanent orders to stop scams; prevent fraudsters from perpetrating scams in the future; freeze their assets; and get compensation for victims."
      ftc

      Our government would not lie to us now would they? lol

      Words on paper == paper tiger

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 1:34am

      Re: Snake Oil

      "There has to be some kind of truth-in-advertising law that can cover this."

      In the US? Err...forgive my doubt but I thought that's where you were from?
      A demand to be truthful in advertising is one of those government regulation directives which americans tend to hate. And it might in this case fall partially into the purview of the FCC at which point Pai wouldn't sit up and notice if Verizon had promised their 5G connection would heal the blind and lame.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 7:58am

    See, Trump was right all along - no need for Huawei hardware, just find a way to make 5G slower than 4G...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 9:33am

    " ... for a country that prattles on endlessly about the importance of the 'race to 5G,' we're a far cry from ever being able to claim we're actually winning it."

    Winning it? We're a far cry from being able to claim we're actually participating in it.

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

  • icon
    Ann Brush (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 2:09pm

    The perils of slow 5G

    There is one under appreciated side benefit of having very slow 5G in the US: It means that Americans are killed in fewer number and more slowly by 5G waves. The graphic shows that US Mbps (Millions of Brave People Succumbing) values are much lower than South Korea for example. I’m sure we can all get behind that.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2020 @ 2:25pm

    The standards for something like 5G are developed by the ITU - the International Telecommunications Union. Let us say the there are 35 features in their definition of '5G'. In Europe and Asia, they implement all 35 features, and get appropriate blazing speeds for customers. It is treated like the valuable international infrastructure it is. In the USA, telco execs probably get bonuses for seeing how many of the features they can ignore and still charge customers for '5G', and that's exactly what they do. They leave out as much as they can, up to the point where their lawyers tell them that they would be committing fraud. 'Can we put five grandmas in the ad and call it 5G?' 'No.'

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

  • icon
    lorgskyegon (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 2:29pm

    This is so AT&T and Verizon

    Can sell you their "new 5G+" service. 50% faster than 5G for twice the cost.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 3:14pm

    With all of that.

    Lets see what good 5G can, might do.
    What are the odds, that it will be setup and displayed to be the Next Wireless internet to home?
    Or do you think they Wont expand the systems PAst what they already have?
    Because they need Fiber optic to Every Antenna they have installed, Unless they are idiots and still TRYING to use Copper lines to run a system that needs Access to 1000+ customers per antenna 24/7.
    Which COULD explain allot of the problems they Are having. Since no one is doing the Last mile of Fiber(intercity). Having a copper line that can handle all the Individual signals, would take them limiting the Speed, and just add more connections, Insted of having enough bandwidth for everyone.
    SOP, deal with what you got, as long as you can and PROFIT.

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

  • icon
    Morlan (profile), 31 Aug 2020 @ 11:21pm

    5G is widely believed to be smarter, faster and more efficient than 4G. It promises mobile data speeds that far outstrip the fastest home broadband network currently available to consumers.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2020 @ 2:03am

      Re:

      God is widely believed to be kinder, more just and balanced than all other governments (democracies and dictators alike). It promises an afterlife that far outstrips the best living standards currently available to humans on this planet.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 1 Sep 2020 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      But its funny,
      What can you add on top of all this speed, that the corps, and gov want added, and Not slow things down. Every wonder what Caller ID can really do? As well as other tech involved? Wires and relays Sucked to monitor things. With all the computers and the abilities they can do, the speed is based on the added overhead of the rest of the system, and how many locations are monitoring you.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 1 Sep 2020 @ 11:04pm

        Re: Re:

        "Wires and relays Sucked to monitor things"

        They did, but if what scares you is the difference between 4G and 5G, you really missed the boat.

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

        • icon
          ECA (profile), 2 Sep 2020 @ 1:55pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Missed the boat?
          On what? The overhead thats being added to it, and how easy it will be to Monitor or capture the data being sent back and forth??
          NOT to hard if they setup inside the hardware..
          Ping the antenna, and send a code and it tells you everyone connected to it. There are no laws against that, YET. there are few if any laws regulating the Cellphone system.

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


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