(Photos: Nick Wass/AP/Shutterstock, Verizon)
One of the biggest struggles in proving the value of 5G is demonstrating, two years in, anything it can do in the real world that’s different from 4G. At the Super Bowl this year, Verizon has one solution—letting you switch between seven high-def camera views from the field. This requires so much bandwidth, to so many people, that it wouldn’t be possible with 4G. They could be doing a lot more, too. Broadcast cameras should be connected by 5G streams rather than fiber, for instance. (They’re waiting for network slicing, an upcoming 5G feature, to do this.) Facial-recognition systems can verify large crowds of ticket-holders with 5G, as long as you’re okay with the privacy implications of that. And so forth.
Millimeter-wave 5G shines in controlled areas with large numbers of people or devices. Stadiums. Concerts. Theme parks. Wedding venues. Malls. If you look at the typical clock of install-to-solution, it’s been about two years since we had our first Verizon sales pitches of what to do with mmWave, so right about now, we should see it happening in real life. Watching these solutions bloom could really take the disappointing sting out of the poor performance of “nationwide” 5G and really get people excited.
At a Qualcomm conference in the Before Times, Verizon CTO Nicki Palmer told me about how excited she was to install mmWave at Disney World. The Florida theme park is the perfect use-case for mmWave: no pesky real estate negotiation problems, huge crowds, lots of selfies, and a need for things like augmented-reality wayfinding and AR Donald Duck experiences. I think it was at the same conference when Benihana heir and surfer-dude DJ Steve Aoki showed how he wanted to use 5G to fill his arenas with AR dinosaurs. Japan spent all of 2019 saying how it wanted to festoon the 2020 Olympics with 5G experiences.
(Tangent: I went to a concert in Japan and was shocked when the guy next to me told me to put down my phone and not take photos. “In the US, if you don’t take a photo at a concert, you weren’t there,” I said. Alas, I did put down my phone.)
So here’s what we don’t currently have in our dystopian hellscape. (Or if we do, we shouldn’t. Please don’t kill our grandparents.): Sports games. Concerts. Olympics. Disney World.
Few people, in 2019, seriously predicted how badly the US would be hit by, and bungle, a pandemic. (Okay, some people did, but we didn’t listen.) I wrote a cringingly bad take (content warning: Very bad take!) in early 2020 because I thought our basically competent society would dispatch this bug the way we did H1N1, or the way Asian countries did with SARS. A year later, we’re all reeling from the epochal failure.
Millimeter-wave 5G applications may just be another casualty of the pandemic. Will they bloom when this is all over? Will this be all over? I know nothing about football. Enjoy Tom Brady. Talk to me about this stuff in the comments section below the article here, please. I will respond.
Whoo! That was a fun one. What else have I been thinking about this week?
- T-Mobile 5G users are consuming only 15% more data than 4G users, according to Light Reading. Perhaps that’s because “nationwide 5G” is only, like, 15% faster.
- Starlink, the false-messiah ISP, has more than 10,000 subscribers. The problem is, more than 50 million households want it, and it has nowhere near the capacity to serve the demand. A lot of people are going to be disappointed.
- The Pixel 5 and LG Wing get their C-band…wings. This will set them up for better 5G performance in 2022. I also like to think this is a tacit sign from LG that it is not quitting the US phone market, at least.
- Huawei’s “HarmonyOS” is just Android in a cheongsam. But we could have predicted that, right?
- This week’s worst 5G take comes from the Financial Times, which swallows whole a report commissioned by European mobile-phone carriers complaining that the US has “more 5G coverage” than Europe does. This is true, of course, only if you count AT&T and Verizon’s relatively pointless “nationwide 5G,” which delivers 4G performance. The real agenda of the report is for the operators to complain that there’s too much regulation and that consumer prices are too low in Europe (!)
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Source by in.pcmag.com