Ever since the introduction of modern smartphones in the early 2000s, the world has become increasingly more Internet-connected. To do this, mobile carriers had to develop data services so that people could browse the web when not connected to Wi-Fi. In the beginning, data speeds were incredibly slow. As time progressed, both mobile carriers and phone companies worked together to improve bandwidth and connection strength. Every few years, a new generation of cell service was introduced. Today, most phones in the U.S work on the 4G LTE network. In some developing countries, consumers are still using the outdated 3G network.
For the past few years, 4G LTE has been suitable for services such as social media and general web browsing. However, with new developments such as virtual reality and increasingly more data-heavy content, 4G LTE is seeming to feel a bit outdated. Live-streaming 360-degree 8K video on YouTube just isn’t possible over 4G. That’s where 5G comes in.
5G Versus The Past
5G is not too complicated. It’s just faster and more expansive than 4G. Estimates right now claim that 5G is up to 20 times faster than current 4G LTE speeds. Of course, these speeds can only be achieved under ideal conditions, but nevertheless, 5G will be substantially faster. As with older data service generations, 5G is taking its time to roll out. The process is more complicated than you might think, as both the phones themselves and cell carriers need to be equipped with the right hardware. Chipmakers such as Qualcomm have already introduced mainstream 5G modems to the market.
Additionally, a handful of phone manufacturers have either introduced or announced a 5G phone for 2019. Some investors are already betting their money on 5G-related stocks. In the past 6 months, Chinese 5G stocks have risen by approximately 75% in value. Huawei and ZTE are the big fish in the Chinese 5G market, both producing a high volume of smartphones along with 5G chips. The Motorola Z3 was one of the first phones of the year to implement support for 5G. Unfortunately for consumers, that 5G compatibility only comes with the purchase of a $350 snap-on “Moto-Mod” case-like shell. The Z3 is sold through Verizon, which introduced limited 5G coverage in select cities across the U.S. Currently, the 5G bandwagon isn’t really worth hopping on.
Major companies, both cell carriers and phone manufacturers, have committed to it, but pricey products and restricted coverage make 5G a hard sell. Some report that Apple plans to implement 5G into its 2020 iPhone, which will surely bring it to the mainstream. By then, cell service providers will have already been able to upgrade their current systems. While 5G will usher in a new age Internet consumption, it doesn’t seem likely that the revolution will happen anytime soon.