HARTFORD, Conn. — 5G is here. The wireless carriers proudly proclaim it in their store fronts, and you can see the 5G transmitters on short towers, buildings, telephone poles and billboard platforms.
However, it may not be all you were expecting — at least not yet.
Experts agree 5G is a significant improvement over 4G, featuring increased bandwidth, low latency and larger network capacity.
They say it will eventually usher in a world of augmented and virtual reality, driverless cars, remote surgery and the so-called 'internet of things.' Emphasis on eventually.
"The big thing that we need before 5G becomes what everyone hopes it will be, is a very robust fiber optic network across the state and across the country," YouTube Tech reviewer, Lon Seidman said.
That's right, fiber optic cable.
Seidman, whose YouTube channel receives more than one-million views per month, said although 5G is a wireless technology, it will be serviced by thousands of micro-towers.
All micro-towers must be connected by fiber optic cable to a "backhaul," or a source of massive amounts of data. Building out that network will take time and regulatory red tape.
On top of that, we still need more user-friendly apps to put the "magic" of 5G in the hands of the masses, according to Quinnipiac University professor Rich Hanley.
"Technology is hard, and what app developers, in concert with phone manufacturers are doing is trying to come up with a new reality, a new world that this tech can provide, and there isn't an app for that yet," Hanley said.
He added that surveys have shown lots of unmet expectations in South Korea, which was the first nation in the world to launch 5G.
By late 2020, half a million 5G customers in South Korea switched back to 4G, according to Nikkei Asia. Experts say that's why American consumers should try to manage their own expectations.
"The stuff isn't here yet because it takes time to develop," Hanley said. "But when it does come, it will come really fast and people will be transported to a whole different way to interact with each other and with content of all different kinds."
All of that is not to say the average consumer will see no immediate benefit. Once you buy that 5G phone, you'll benefit from greatly increased capacity.
"I've been in many situations where I've been in a stadium and my phone has a great signal, but I couldn't even send a text because the data was over capacity," Seidman said. "Better capacity means more people can do more things at the same time."
James Smith, a tech company owner says download speeds will increase as well, whereas a movie might take a minute to download now.
"5G with speeds it's capable of, it'll probably be 5 to 15 seconds," Smith noted.
Reduced latency will provide immediate benefit for online gamers, and the increased capacity will allow doctors to communicate remotely with patients and their connected medical equipment at the same time.
"You'll get that throughput, as well as the ability for the patient and doctor to have a good video call and get all the data from the equipment," Smith added.
So, bottom line: Is 5G all it's cracked up to be? The experts say it will be. With time, it will likely be more than it's cracked up to be.
But, the 5G rollout is just beginning, and consumers should be prepared for incremental evolution, not overnight revolution.
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