Be wary of Verizon’s 5G push

Verizon wants the FCC to hurry up and make “spectrum bands above 24 GHz available for mobile broadband.” Meaning, Verizon is continuing a PR push so that everyone knows that they plan on being the first wireless company to offer customer “5G” speeds.

(Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam) asked for the Commission to move quickly to adopt an order and to make this spectrum available for 5G deployments. McAdam reiterated Verizon’s commitment to to be the first U.S. company to roll out 5G wireless technology and described Verizon’s work with its 5G Technology Forum partners, including its plans to field test 5G in early 2016.Verizon announced plans earlier this year to roll out field trials of its 5G wireless technology by next year. – Wireless Week

That sounds great except we have no idea what offering 5G means yet. The definition of 5G has yet to be defined. By some estimates:

  • 5G may be 40 times faster than 4G speeds.
  • Or, 5G could be just 4 times faster than 4G speeds.
  • Or, 5G may be able to reach speeds of 1 GBs.

But that hasn’t stopped companies from guessing on when this imaginary 5G network would be ready for public consumption. Some are guessing that 5G networks could be ready for public consumption around 2020-2021. Others think it could be before 2020….Other think it could be well after 2021.

One thing we know for sure is that Verizon, AT&T and others will do everything in there power to water down the definition of 5G so that at the end of the day, a basic 4G upgrade is enough to be deemed 5G ready.

We saw this when 4G networks were introduced.

Back in October of 2010, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) declared that LTE technology wasn’t technically 4G, and that no major wireless carrier was technically deploying 4G networks. According to the ITU, only technology like LTE-Advanced, capable of speeds over 100 Mbps, could be considered 4G.

Carriers ignored the declaration with T-Mobile arguing their HSPA+ build was the “largest 4G network,” and Sprint & Verizon also made 4G part of marketing for their respective LTE networks (technically, LTE and Mobile WiMax). The ITU then decided to expand the definition to include the current generations of those technologies: WiMAX 802.16e and LTE.

So, what the ITU did was basically allow carriers to technically call anything they do as 4G as long as it offers a “substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities” over existing 3G networks. AT&T has been particularly egregious on that front, marketing devices as 4G even if they couldn’t upload at 3G speeds.

The European Commission’s Horizon 2020 plan, includes roughly $172 million for 5G research and development. However, even they are troubled by the fact that nobody can precisely state what 5G even means:

When it comes to wireless technology, carriers will say or do anything to promote upcoming standards or next-generation wireless technology. Moving forward, consumers should be aware of the wireless industry trying to dumb-down the idea of what 5G speeds entail. Then, when a company such as Broadcom insists their new Wi-Fi gear is 5G ready, customers can be intelligent enough to know that the product being offered has nothing to do with 5G.

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