Australia is a technology backwater, so we are no strangers to being left behind when it comes to the latest in wireless standards and internet speeds. Specifically, 5G promises to be bigger and better than 4G and the other protocols that came before it. I don’t know about you and whether disappointment is a global phenomenon, but I have found 5G quite disappointing.
With 5G, we’re talking about potential speeds of up to 10 Gbps, compared to 4G’s maximum theoretical download speed of 100 Mbps in the real world. That’s a significant improvement, but real-world speeds will vary based on several factors. The reality is nobody is getting anywhere near 10 Gbps outside of a lab.
One of the main advantages of 5G is its low latency. Latency is the delay between when you request data and when it’s actually delivered. With 5G, latency is expected to be as low as one millisecond, significantly faster than 4G’s latency of around 30-50 milliseconds. But if you’re uploading photos to Instagram or watching cat videos on YouTube, you probably don’t notice the latency on 4G anyway.
Another issue with 5G is its coverage. 5G relies on high-frequency millimetre waves, which have a shorter range and can’t penetrate obstacles like buildings and trees as easily as 4G’s lower-frequency waves. This means you must be close to a 5G transmitter to get a good connection, and obstacles can affect the signal. In contrast, 4G uses lower-frequency waves that can penetrate obstacles better, making it more reliable in some cases.
The reality is the only time I have noticed things being faster while on 5G is when I am in the CBD of a major city or, strangely enough, inside a large shopping centre. It seems major shopping centres mostly have good 5G in Australia (probably so the telco stores can sell you a 5G device). However, don’t be surprised once you leave the CBD’s tiny permitter, walk between skyscrapers or walk through the shopping centre doors to your car to see your phone go back to 4G or worse.
There are several reasons for the lacklustre performance of 5G. First, 5G requires more infrastructure than 4G, so telcos must invest in more antennas and base stations to provide widespread coverage. This can be costly and time-consuming, and it’s one of the reasons why 5G coverage is currently limited to certain areas.
Another reason is that the technology is still relatively new, and some teething issues still need to be ironed out. For example, 5G technology is still evolving, and different countries use different frequencies and network technologies, which can cause compatibility issues.
5G is not the game-changer it was hyped up to be, at least not yet. While 5G promises faster speeds and lower latency than 4G, its performance can be affected by several factors, including distance from the transmitter, obstacles, and infrastructure. In contrast, 4G is a reliable and fast option with widespread coverage and better signal penetration in areas with obstacles.
I still encounter numerous dead spots in Australia where I can’t even get 4G. I am not talking about remote regional places without water or electricity. I am talking about suburbs 10-20 kilometres from the CBD. So, even if 5G is improved in the next few years, there will still be parts where you can’t even get 4G.
As much as I would love faster speeds (because faster is always better), I haven’t felt that 4G is not enough. For most uses on your phone or tablet, 4G is plenty fast. You’re not downloading torrents or hosting a web server on your phone, and you’re also not playing competitive games like Dota 2 that require minuscule latency either.
I see 5G playing a significant part in future IOT, virtual and mixed reality applications. We will probably see connected cars that can talk to each other (similar to protocols planes use to notify other planes of their presence.) and other cool things. But, for now, 4G is still the king in my eyes.