We need to talk. … There’s a ton of misinformation floating around out there with regard to 5G. The latest bit of 5G news, which we highlighted here just last week, is that Verizon flipped its magical switch and launched its 5G wireless network in two cities—Chicago and Minneapolis.
I’m not about to call what Verizon did fake news. This wasn’t some sort of 5G evolution kind of launch. (Sorry AT&T.) But the carrier is still only telling about half-truths when it comes to their take on 5G.
To understand why that is, we need to talk about this thing called the 3GPP—otherwise known as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project. This group, which is made up of wireless networking associations and alliances around the globe, is the standard setting body for the global mobile industry. And, to put it simply, the 3GPP hasn’t yet published its finalized standards for 5G.
For certain, the group has been hard at work preparing for the network’s imminent launch by laying the groundwork through several iterative specs. That includes their Non-Standalone and Standalone specs that were published in March and June of last year. In a statement published in December, the group said that it’s on track to release the finalized, fully complete and integrated 5G specifications by the end of this year.
So, another way to think about the current state of the 5G standard is like this: We’ve got a slice of bread with peanut butter on it in one hand, and a slice of bread with jelly in the other. We’re *this close* to having ourselves a fully constructed PB&J sandwich, but we haven’t yet put those two pieces together. That’s where we’re at with 5G right now.
Verizon’s network that just went live is based around those yet-to-be-completed standards, so we should look at it like a beta test—not a fully functioning 5G network. And the early returns are proving as much. Download speeds have lived up to expectations, ranging between 400 and 600 megabits per second, according to some reports. However, upload speeds have been lagging, with some reporting speeds as slow as 19 megabits per second, which would be nearly half the speed of our current 4G LTE network.
There are clearly going to be growing pains with the launch of a major new wireless network. But for carriers and manufacturers, and even retailers, what we can’t do is set unreasonably high expectations right now for consumers. With a truly global 5G network still at least a year away, all we’re doing is setting them up to be extremely frustrated, which isn’t good for anyone.
So let’s all agree to pump the brakes a little, get ourselves educated and up to speed on where we’re really at with 5G, and then try this again in a few months.