Should you buy a 5G smartphone today?

The first devices hit the market at high prices. How to manage the implementation of the technology? And what to expect in terms of performance?

There aren’t many revolutions in telephony, and the epoch revolutions that have just come out confront us with the eternal question: do we really need them? The 5G is no exception. She also appeared on the peninsula a few months ago and promises to revolutionize our lives.

There are characteristics to be successful, but it is necessary to understand whether this moment, which is the launch phase, is the right one to embrace technology.

Speed ​​and latency

On paper, as mentioned, the 5G is truly revolutionary and the arrows in its bow are numerous. The first and most intuitive is speed, which ranges 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 achieved within the next few years, because by 2025 we plan to reach 100 gigabits. Wonderful data, but one that should be contextualized, as we will see shortly.

Another cause for joy is the latency, which seems to be very low compared to the technical specifications. We’re talking about less than a millisecond, a value that arouses the greed of fans of digital entertainment, such as online video games and streaming.

In reality, it is necessary, as usual, to distinguish between marketing claims with real characteristics, which can be disappointing.

In addition, that of the 5G is a young technology and it must for the moment take care of new generation devices, obsolete infrastructures and in any case not quite 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 latency discourse.

Latency, in the telephone domain, is the delay with which a signal sent by a device arrives at its destination and is a concept quite separate from the classic speed that we hear about.

Basically, it’s the same difference between the maximum speed reached by the car and its acceleration.

As important as the speed a vehicle achieves, 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, let’s say less than 4 milliseconds, we consider “air latency”, that is to say the time of use of the telephone signal. device (smartphone, for example) to the antenna. With 4G, it takes at least 10 milliseconds. In theory, 4 milliseconds would already be a big leap forward.

However, here we come up against another sad reality: 5G is beautiful, but alas, it does not go beyond the laws of physics. As in the case of 4G, the 5G is also the basis of parameters such as the distance between the device and the antenna, the number of devices connected to this antenna, the signal strength, etc.

To be clear, if a piece of data passes through a firewall, for simple verification, it is slowed down. Little, very little, because firewalls are now very effective, but it is still a step that invalidates the performance of the technology.

And this is just one of many passages to consider because even then there are hundreds of other parameters that 5G, like 4G, cannot escape.

Right now, 4G suffers from a total mobile latency of around 30-40 milliseconds, while 5G aims to increase it to 5 milliseconds.

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

Buying a 5G smartphone: yes or no?

The question is complex and to answer even more. In short: it is 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 limitations outlined, is obvious.

Think electric cars: if you were asked to choose the most eco-friendly way of driving, it would be clear that you would go for a splendid Tesla, even if that means planning your next trip according to the charging stations. recharge available in the region of your choice. to visit.

If, instead, you should consider costs and convenience, it is clear that now a lot of doubts would arise.

In the field of 5G, the same thing is happening somewhat: we enter the realm of doubt when we assess how much the gain is in the face of rising costs. If you are interested in “real 5G”, you need to be patient.

The first tests show performances of the order of 400 Mbit per second (which however go down to 100 in closed environments …), which is also excellent compared to those that can be obtained on average with a 4G, but this is not 5G.

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

But it is the future prospects, even difficult to sketch out today, that make this period of transition less painful. Telemedicine, with remote robot interventions and high definition filming available to surgeons, for example.

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

Without considering integration into the next sector of self-driving passenger cars, where wireless data management will become essential.

The 5G is the ideal infrastructure to support these and other services. In that sense, we live along the same lines as those who cursed 14kbps analog modems (yes, in kbps) who didn’t want to know to let us connect to the internet or it was hurting it, hitting our finances anyway.

And yet, today, we benefit from (rather) fast connections thanks to this period of experimentation and adjustment.

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

Just realize that, for the moment, complaining about the current state of the 5G , in terms performance, cost and coverage is unnecessary.