From the onset I have been rather cold to the idea of 5G, and I think this sets me into the minority. But my view just hasn’t changed.
I keep hearing about how fast 5G is and how you can download your entire movie collection in a mili-moment. With a zigabit of data capacity 5G promises to connect my toilet, refrigerator, night-lite, cat-box, and hummingbird feeder all together because they could all be Internet of Things (IOT).
But here’s the problem:
I don’t need a zigabit of speed. I would be thrilled if my cell phone carrier would just give me 2 megabits of capacity…enough to watch a YouTube video without it halting and jerking. The problem here isn’t that LTE isn’t fast enough…it is that my carrier’s towers are too dang far apart and are serving too many people. They can solve the problem by not spacing their towers 1 to 5 miles apart.
And this brings me squarely to the problem with 5G: It operates strictly line-of-sight. Signal strength is measured in hundreds of feet, not thousands of feet. 5G doesn’t penetrate walls…heck it doesn’t even penetrate glass very well!
So you need 5G towers everywhere.
And, if carriers were willing to build towers everywhere we would have enough bandwidth under LTE. The problem is that US carriers build these super big super expensive cell phone towers and because they are so costly they must space them out every mile or three. 5G isn’t going to change this thinking at all. 5G is useless with this tower mentality.
In Asia your cell phone will often be within range of a hundred or more towers, sometimes many hundreds of towers. They build really cheap towers and put them everywhere. In Thailand they give little shops free internet and then stick a micro-tower on the shop’s window. The cost is small and towers are everywhere.
So let’s think this 5G thing through before getting too excited… How can US carriers really use 5G when it is line-of-sight with a range of a few hundred feet and their towers are spaces 1 to 5 miles apart?
5G strikes me more as glorified WiFi. It seems we could get there faster with a good implementation of Hotspot 2.0.