Cell phone companies are battling it out again. First, they fought over which one had the best coverage and the best prices. Now AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are racing to roll out 5G technology across the US.
You’re not alone if you think 5G is just another marketing ploy. But the truth is, 5G will likely make a resounding impact on the future of IoT. This impact has the potential to change almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives—from the way our cities operate all the way down to our Fitbit or Apple Watch.
Should you spring for 5G home internet as soon as it hits your city? Let’s find out if you should hustle up and buy or press pause when it comes to this game-changing tech.
What Is 5G Home Internet?
In a nutshell, 5G is the term for the newest generation of technology that connects your wireless devices to the internet. While 5G often refers to cell phone tech, companies like Verizon are also busy deploying 5G home internet, which turns homes into mind-bogglingly fast internet hubs.
With 5G, internet download speeds have the potential to reach up to 10 Gbps or faster.
For comparison, the maximum advertised residential internet speed is Xfinity’s Gigabit Pro plan at 2 Gbps. And most of our cell phones still use 4G LTE, which maxes out at about 100 Mbps (0.1 Gbps).
With 4G LTE, or today’s typical Wi-Fi connection, we also compete for bandwidth. If you ask any conference attendee to check the event schedule while they’re out on the floor, it’s likely their connection—and everyone else’s—will be as slow as snails.
Superior bandwidth is another 5G perk, thanks to its ability to use more frequencies at a higher range. (Higher range frequencies support faster speeds, so that’s a win-win.)
That means more wireless connections at faster speeds around town and in your own home.
5 Reasons 5G Home Internet Is Great for IoT
Faster speeds and better bandwidth are two huge selling points for 5G internet when it comes to IoT. To top it off, this new tech comes with a few more advantages that will give your smart home an IQ boost.
- Your connected devices experience less lag.
Gartner estimates there will be 20 billion connected devices by 2020. Today’s tech would struggle to support that many devices, but 5G home internet has the capacity to support more devices with reduced latency, or lag, as well as reduced signal interference.
This means smart homes can get even smarter with connected security systems, smart TVs, smart appliances, IFTTT lighting, smart thermostats, baby monitors, Alexa or Google Home, and so much more.
- Areas without high-speed internet could get a boost in connection speeds.
Because 5G doesn’t require cable or fiber-optics to be installed, it could give rural areas with few or no internet options a much-needed fast connection to the internet, especially if existing towers can be retrofitted with 5G hardware and software.
Because 5G is required to have ultra-low latency, this makes it a huge step up from the other rural internet alternative: satellite. This is critical for the future of large farms, which will rely on 5G technology to power IoT sensors and real-time crop analysis.
- Your smart home devices won’t compete for an internet connection.
You won’t need to worry if your home security system has a priority connection over your smart TV. With 5G’s multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology, multiple devices can connect at the same time without a step down in speed or performance.
- 5G companies may be forced to charge less.
No one likes a price hike, and 5G companies know this. Spiking your monthly cell phone bill by $50 or more is a great way to lose business—whether that higher price gets you 5G or not.
Those familiar with the wireless industry, like Val Elbert of the Boston Consulting Group, agree. Although, he does point out that companies may offer 5G only to customers willing to pay more for higher tiers of unlimited data plans.
(But, on the other hand, as 5G companies figure out how much they need to invest for the future, we could see bills go up over time.)
- You’ll access files instantly.
Imagine downloading a 4K movie in a snap or opening a presentation in a pinch. If you feel spoiled by how quickly files download now, just wait till 5G.
When you look at the bigger picture, 5G will continue to impact us, even as we pull out of our driveways.
Accenture’s 2017 study on smart cities notes that 5G could be used to “reduce commute times, improve public safety, and generate significant smart grid efficiencies.” Who could argue with a quicker drive to work, a safer place to live, and lower utility costs?
5 Downsides to 5G Home Internet
We’ve sung all the praises of 5G home internet, but it also has its share of problems. Here are some of the challenges early 5G users might experience.
- The availability of 5G is still limited.
Living in a big city ups your chances of hopping onto a 5G network sooner rather than later. But at the same time, we’re all waiting while 5G-supported hardware plays catch-up.
Aside from a few startups like C Spire and Common Networks, you’re looking at AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint + T-Mobile (the New T-Mobile) for 5G coverage.
- Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Washington DC, and more.
- Verizon 5G Home Internet: Limited areas of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.
- AT&T 5G+: Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and more.
- New T-Mobile: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York City.
- 5G may face serious security and privacy issues.
It seems like not a day goes by without news of yet another hack or online invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, 5G won’t be immune to these modern-day problems. As 5G becomes more prevalent and the number of connected devices increases, our personal information may be more at risk. SecurityRoundTable.org notes that 5G networks will give hackers billions more targets and calls on 5G service providers as well as government regulators to begin establishing security measures now.
- 5G speeds don’t measure up . . . yet.
Promises of speeds ranging from 10 Gbps all the way up to 20 Gbps make 5G seem like a dream. The reality is, its speeds fall short of those markers, at least for now.
OpenSignal’s real-world 5G speed test found that the average US user got speeds of about 1.8 Gbps, and Qualcomm’s 5G modem is designed to achieve peak speeds of 5 Gbps. By contrast, Ookla found that the average fixed broadband download speed in the US is 120 Mbps (0.12 Gbps), while the average mobile download speed in the US is 36.2 Mbps (0.0362 Gbps).
- Dead zones are a challenge 5G needs to conquer.
When Verizon’s 5G network launched in Chicago, Gizmodo’s Sam Rutherford decided to test it out. He found that his 5G connection faded in and out as he walked around the city. Granted, the technology is still fairly new, but dead zones are not something anyone wants to deal with on WiFi, let alone a brand-new 5G connection.
- Higher frequencies mean poor indoor coverage.
Along with dead zones, 5G’s use of higher frequencies means you could get hit with a weak signal—or worse, no signal at all—while indoors. This means indoor hotspots and signal boosters are a must for your 5G home internet , and they’ll need to be compatible with 5G as well.
The Takeaway: Should You Spring for 5G Home Internet Now?
Unless you’re an early adopter or tech connoisseur with some cash to burn, consider waiting before you deck out your house with 5G home internet.
5G still has a few challenges to tackle before it becomes a viable option for home internet. But once 5G is tested and delivered to more cities across the US, it will be a promising—and hopefully cheaper—alternative to your traditional internet provider.