from the not-the-revolution-we-were-promised dept
If you listen to Verizon marketing, it goes something like this: fifth generation (5G) wireless is going to absolutely transform the world by building the smart cities of tomorrow, revolutionizing medicine, and driving an ocean of innovation.
In reality, US 5G has largely landed with a thud, studies showing how the US version is notably slower than overseas 5G (and in fact often slower than the 4G networks you’re used to) because the US didn’t do enough to drive middle-band spectrum to market. Contrary to Verizon claims it’s not a technology that’s likely to revolutionize medicine. Service availability also remains very spotty, and US consumers continue to pay some of the highest prices for mobile data in the developed world, regardless of standard.
Some variations of the technology are also a bit of a battery hog, something Verizon support was begrudgingly forced to acknowledge this week by informing users that if they want better battery life, they’re better off turning 5G off:
“Verizon has spent years hyping 5G despite it bringing just a minor speed upgrade outside the limited areas where millimeter-wave spectrum has been deployed, but the carrier’s support team advised users yesterday to shut 5G off if their phones are suffering from poor battery life. The tweet from VZWSupport, now deleted, said, “Are you noticing that your battery life is draining faster than normal? One way to help conserve battery life is to turn on LTE. Just go to Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data and tap LTE.”
The Tweet was deleted once it began getting attention from users and journalists amused by the disconnect given two straight years of marketing that claimed the technology was near-miraculous. Granted, companies like Apple have adapted to this reality by unveiling a “Smart Data mode” that shifts each phone from 5G to LTE when 5G speeds aren’t necessary, conserving battery life. Samsung, Huawei, and other handset manufacturers have issued similar warnings about how the wireless industry’s shiny new standard is a bit of an energy hog.
Again, that’s not to say 5G isn’t going to offer meaningful improvements, eventually. The standard ideally delivers significant improvements in speed, latency, and reliability (assuming it’s actually available to you). But these improvements are more evolutionary than revolutionary. The problem: as wireless carriers looked to use the standard to justify higher and higher rates, they’ve over-promised what it’s capable of. That, in turn, is creating a consumer brand impression that associates 5G not with reliability, but hype and bluster; the exact opposite of what marketing departments were hoping for.