Should you buy a 5G smartphone today?

The first devices are coming to the market at high prices. How to deal with technology implementation? And what to expect in terms of performance?

 

There are not that many revolutions in telephony, and the epochal ones, which have just come out, confront us with the eternal question: do we really need it? The 5G is no exception, which has also appeared in the peninsula a few months ago and promises to revolutionize our lives.

There are characteristics to succeed, but it is necessary to understand if this moment, that is the launch phase, is the right one to embrace technology.

5G,to buy or not

Speed ​​and latency

On paper, as mentioned, the 5G is really revolutionary and the arrows in its bow are many. The first and most intuitive is the speed, which goes from the gigabit offered by 4G to at least 10 gigabits, with peaks of up to 50.

However, this is the speed that can be reached from here to the next few years, because by 2025 we expect to arrive at as many as 100 gigabits. Wonderful data, but that should be contextualized, as we will see shortly.

Another reason for joy is the latency, which appears to be very low from technical specifications. There is the talk of less than a millisecond, a value that tickles the greediness of digital entertainment fans, such as online video games and streaming.

In reality, it is necessary, as usual, to distinguish marketing proclamations with real characteristics, which can lead to some disappointment.

Moreover, that of 5G is a young technology and at the moment it has to make space between new-generation devices, old infrastructures and in any case not completely up-to-date, offering “hybrid” services between old and new.

And the result is that today, 5G suffers from an obvious technological bottleneck. Take, for example, the discourse on latency.

Latency, in the telephone field, is the delay with which a signal sent from a device arrives at its destination and is a concept well separated from the classic speed we are used to hearing about.

In broad terms, it is the same difference that passes between the maximum speed reached by car and its acceleration.

As important as the speed reached by a vehicle is, the time it will take to reach it becomes just as important. When, in the case of 5G, we speak of ” less than a millisecond “, or in any case of a low value, say less than 4 milliseconds, we consider the so-called air latency , ie the time that the telephone signal uses from the device (the smartphone, for example) to the antenna. With 4G it is at least 10 milliseconds, so in theory 4 milliseconds would already be a big leap forward.

However, here we clash against another sad reality: 5G is splendid, but alas, it does not exceed the laws of physics. And so, as with 4G, 5G also underlies parameters such as the distance between the device and the antenna, the number of devices connected to that antenna, the signal strength and so on.

To be clear, if a datum passes through a firewall, for a trivial check, it is slowed down. Little, very little, because firewalls are now very efficient, but it is nevertheless a step that invalidates the performance of the technology.

And it is only one of the many passages to consider since even in this case there are hundreds of other parameters from which the 5G, like the 4G, does not run away.

At the moment 4G suffers from an end-to-end mobile latency of around 30-40 milliseconds, while 5G aims to bring it to 5 milliseconds.

However, with 4G networks, those who have a 5G smartphone do not benefit from the higher speed, because of the latency ” from one to four milliseconds “, at least, doubles, but in reality, becomes ten times as much. It is a parameter that, you understand, has an important influence on the performance of a network.

Buy a 5G smartphone: yes or no?

The question is complex and to answer even more. In short: it’s a question of money. Not having to consider the performance/price ratio, the answer is yes, because the gain in terms of performance, with the current 5G, even with the limits highlighted, is obvious.

Think of electric cars: if you were asked to choose the most environmentally friendly way to drive it would be clear that you would opt for a splendid Tesla, even if it means planning your next trip based on the charging stations available in the area you want to visit.

If instead, you should consider costs and comfort, it is clear that, at present, many doubts would arise.

In the field of 5G, the same thing happens a little: one enters the domain of doubt when one assesses how much the gain is in the face of the increase in cost. If you are interested in the “real 5G”, then you need to be patient.

The first tests show performances from around 400 Mbit per second (which however go down to 100 in closed environments …) which, mind you, are excellent compared to those obtainable on average with a 4G, but this is not 5G.

At the very least, it is not at all. At its full potential, 5G will allow for streaming 4K and 8K content, without slowing down, as well as playing with upcoming cloud gaming services, such as Google Stadia.

But it is the future prospects, even difficult to outline today, that make this transition period less painful. The telemedicine, with interventions made by the robot from a distance and filming in high definition at the disposal of surgeons, for example.

Or smart cities, with traffic light systems, video surveillance and automatic driving of public transport, where the 5G will allow the perfect synchronization of all means and security controls, in real-time, by human operators.

Without considering the integration in the next sector of private cars with autonomous driving, where wireless data management will become essential.

The 5G is the ideal infrastructure to support these and other services and the times we live in this sense are comparable to those who have cursed 14kbps analog modems (yes, kbps) that didn’t want to know to let us connect to the internet or that hurt him, hitting our finances hard anyway.

And yet, today, we enjoy (rather) fast connections thanks to that period of experimentation and adjustment.

Should we, therefore, immolate our current account in the name of what 5G will be? Obviously not.

It is enough to be aware of the fact that, at this moment, to complain about the current status of 5G, for performance, costs, and coverage, is useless.

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