Between 2019 and 2020, network companies were racing against each other to be the first to launch 5G commercially. But even in 2022, 5G doesn’t seem to be picking up the expected pace. And today, some experts are even going as far as to say that 5G is failing.
But why is something as magnificent as 5G struggling to capture an audience? Sure, the pandemic put a huge dent in 5G rollouts. But, that’s just one of many problems that the 5th generation of wireless internet is facing.
In this post, we’ll look at the progress 5G has made so far and analyze why it hasn’t been as successful as anticipated. So, let’s begin.
What is 5G
The 5th generation of wireless internet is the technology that a huge number of people worldwide have been waiting for. It will potentially allow many new things to happen in the technological world, and experts believe that it has the power to completely change how we use modern technology.
Visit my post, “Everything You Need to Know About 5G,” to learn about 5G cell towers, antennas, devices, infrastructure, and its benefits in-depth.
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Here are some changes experts predict will happen when 5G starts working at full capacity.
Promises That Came with 5G
To begin with, according to the experts, 5G can significantly enhance our internet browsing experience. In controlled lab environments, it reached a magnificent speed of 1 Gbps all the way up to 10 Gbps. But in real-world conditions, it could be anywhere between 100 Mbps to 300 Mbps.
Besides that, it seems like it will be much more reliable than our current network. That’s because, instead of single-cell towers, 5G uses small cells— WiFi router-like structures set every 200 meters or so.
But increasing your internet speed and reliability isn’t the only thing that 5G is capable of.
Full-Scale IoT Deployment
5G was built from the ground up to support the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT refers to the billions of gadgets and appliances wirelessly connected to the internet. Experts say that when the IoT is in full effect, your devices will be capable of sending your user data to their manufacturer, where machine learning (ML) can analyze it and optimize your device to enhance your user experience in real time.
Think of this. Wouldn’t it be convenient if your refrigerator could automatically detect that you’re out of milk and order some for you? Or how amazing would it be if your thermostat could detect your comfort level while you’re sleeping and adjust itself accordingly to improve your sleep quality?
These are the kinds of things that IoT promises to add to our lives. And 5G is the piece that tech companies needed to solve this puzzle.
Experts say that because of the omnipresence of wireless internet, we can convert anything from a pill to an airplane into an IoT object.
Learn more about IoT in my separate post, “Internet of Things: What IoT Deployment Means for Your EMF Exposure”.
A Highly Immersive Metaverse
You may have already heard of the metaverse. It’s an immersive version of the internet that you can access using VR and AR gadgets.
Facebook started experimenting with the concept in October 2021, and more companies followed.
So far, the metaverse limits to visual experiences only. But with 5G, you’ll be able to immerse yourself into the metaverse not only visually but physically as well. CNET calls it the “touchy-feely internet”.
5G will allow tech companies to manufacture and run devices that can transmit the tactile sensation of a certain experience. And this isn’t just a concept. Tech like this is already in testing.
In 2021, researchers from Italy wrote a paper describing the “design and preliminary test of a virtual reality driving simulator capable of conveying haptic and visual messages to promote eco-sustainable driving behavior.”
The simulator they used had a gaming driving seat, a steering wheel, and pedals. They displayed the virtual scenarios using the Oculus Rift headset.
Once the subjects sat on the chairs and the simulations began, the drivers could experience vibrations and sensory feedback as they drove in different conditions.
This is a promising tech that can further the vision of the metaverse—to reduce the difference between real and virtual worlds. And to ensure this happens, we need a faster internet connection. As Sprint Chief Technology Officer John Saw said in an interview, “In order to touch and feel things miles away, you need low latency.” And 5G provides that.
These are just three of the many ways in which 5G can make modern technology better. There are concepts like remote surgery, self-driving cars (which are already a reality), and advanced societies—all soon to be real because of the 5th generation of wireless technology.
But, Why is 5G Failing?
So, as you see, 5G is an incredible advancement, and it has the potential to make our lives more convenient. But, if that’s the case, why isn’t 5G more widespread. And why are many experts saying that 5G is failing?
Before understanding the infrastructural challenge that 5G is facing, you have to first know how 5G works.
The fifth generation of the internet operates in the 30-300 GHz frequency range, which is significantly higher than 4G, which operates on frequencies below 6 GHz.
So, because of the higher frequencies, it can’t cover long distances. The efficient travel distance of 5G is so short that you’d need to have a cell tower every 200 meters (650 feet) to ensure optimal connection.
But luckily, 5G mostly uses small cells, which is a cell tower the size of your WiFi router box.
So, there are two pieces that, when put together, make 5G work—macro cells and small cells. Macro cells are enormous and need to be set up in one location, like a cell tower. They transfer signals to small cells located near your house, and the small cells then transfer those signals to your devices.
Installing small cells on this level is a huge money drainer. So, naturally, many telecom companies are struggling to meet the conditions for mass 5G deployment.
But this is just part of the problem.
Because 5G is different from any wireless technology we had before, our current network infrastructure consisting of copper wires isn’t sufficient to support its demands. It needs fiber optic cables.
4G also needed new fiber optic cables to be installed, but we could still transfer a huge load through those old copper wires. But that isn’t the case with 5G.
Network companies will have to replace the wires that support 3G and 4G with fiber optic cables. And that costs a lot of money, as well as being time-consuming.
The Pandemic Stress on Companies
Because most people were at home during the pandemic, working on or using the internet for other purposes, it put a huge strain on companies to maintain a stable connection.
For two years, these companies had to divert their focus toward maintaining a stable network rather than deploying 5G.
When the United States imposed sanctions on Huawei because of the 2017 Chinese law, which forced Chinese companies to help their intelligence services on demand, it also made a huge dent in the 5G rollout.
Huawei was one of the most important players in the 5G market. And because of their ability to build infrastructure much more cost-effectively than the competitors, they were on the verge of dominating the 5G market worldwide.
When the US considered Huawei a national security risk, it caused many 5G projects to cease. Because of this, many operators had to choose other vendors and redraw and renegotiate everything they had before.
Internet-Beaming Satellite Startups and Organizations
Besides the struggles in the 5G market, the technology is also being threatened by internet-beaming satellites.
Since 2018, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched more than 2,000 Starlink satellites. They plan to launch a total of 12,000 satellites, allowing them to cover every inch of the globe with a high-speed internet connection.
Starlink’s internet connection is currently available in 32 countries. And nearly the entire South America, parts of Asia, and Africa are currently marked as “coming soon.” SpaceX says that by 2023, internet service will also be available in these parts of the world.
And it’s not just SpaceX. Amazon and many other players in the market are also racing with each other to grab this tempting opportunity.
These companies are deploying their equipment rapidly, and with some claiming to provide speeds of up to 100 Mbps, internet-beaming satellites make an up-and-coming alternative to 5G.
WiFi 6: A New WiFi Standard
5G’s primary appeal to the consumers is its speed. But, today, it’s not the only network type promising magnificent internet speeds. In 2020, a new WiFi standard was finalized and ratified by the WiFi Alliance.
They’re calling it WiFi 6, and it’s said to reach speeds of up to 9.6 Gbps in a controlled laboratory environment.
And experts are saying that, just like 5G, WiFi 6 will also gel well with the IoT. And we can expect to see it hitting the market in the next year or so.
Did 5G Carriers Exaggerate its Capabilities?
To put it bluntly— 5G isn’t fully ready to replace our current network infrastructure.
But because companies have put billions of dollars into 5G’s development, they can’t afford for the public to have this perception.
This could also be why AT&T introduced 5GE (5G Evolution).
To separate themselves from their competitors, in 2018, AT&T introduced 5GE as an upgrade to the 4G network. Though it could only reach theoretical speeds of up to 400 Mbps, many consumers were led to believe that they were getting an upgrade from 4G to 5G without buying a new 5G phone and without paying extra bills.
Besides that, carriers also severely exaggerated 5G’s capabilities saying that it will revolutionize the medical industry through VR and AR tools and remote consultation.
But experts later pointed out that many US medical institutions already have the internet speed that 5G is promising— with WiFi or Ethernet.
According to Data Center Dynamics:
“5G is not fully polished, and devices which support it are more expensive, and also demand a higher power draw compared to 4G. For the end consumer, it’s a minimal benefit.”
It’s a Long Way to the Top
Although 2022 was supposed to be the year when we’d see 5G at its full effect, based on the progress we’ve made so far, many experts are saying that 5G will not be our standard network until 2025.
But, even after this, is it really justified to say that 5G is failing?
Indeed, the progress has halted or at least slowed down, but in my opinion, 5G hasn’t failed. It’s just hit some major road bumps and will be our standard network sooner than we realize.
So, we certainly can’t afford to shift our focus from the fact that 5G is untested for its biological effects on humans.
Concerns About 5G
So far, there has been absolutely no testing into the long-term health effects of prolonged 5G exposure. And since we have plenty of research demonstrating biological effects from 5G’s predecessors, we have strong reasons to believe that the consequences of prolonged 5G exposure on our health will be much worse.
Although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 5G technology and radiation exposures are “safe,” the guidelines their conclusion is based on were formulated in the late 1990s, based on research from the 1980s. And we certainly didn’t know much about the bioeffects of EMF exposure then.
Visit my post “5G Health Risks” to learn more about the potential effects 5G can have on your health.
5G is here. And by the early 2030s, we’ll have 6G. Modern technology will keep advancing, and so will the biological effects that tag along with it.
But we’re not helpless. There is a way you can keep enjoying the advancements in modern technology for years to come without being subjected to the negative health effects.
You just have to build a healthier relationship with your devices.
And how do you do that?
Well, learn from the experts. The Healthier Tech Podcast by SYB has an amazing panel of experts from different industries teaching you how to make your tech use a safer, healthier experience. We’re available on all major platforms, so give it a listen.