Many discussions of the value of 5G, and of 5G bandwidth are a matter of rhetorical overkill. Observers complain about “fake 5G” that really is 4G Advanced, fixed wireless using 5G or non-standard deployments. Pundits might care about that sort of thing; consumers do not.
In the U.S. market, for example, AT&T markets what it calls “5G Evolution,” which is properly described as LTE-Advanced. Offered without extra charge, consumers will experience faster speeds, compared to earlier versions of 4G. And for many consumers, that might well be enough.
Performance will improve again once standards-based mobile 5G rolls out on a wider basis, starting in early 2019, in the U.S. market. Pundits might decry “fake 5G” (either mobile or fixed services), as if faster speeds, with no increase in cost, are a problem. Consumers will not care.
The difference in experience between advanced forms of 4G and 5G networks, with the possible exceptions of big downloads and experience compared to public Wi-Fi, might not be so visible to most users, most of the time. There will be significant speed advantages, to be sure.
Compared to standard 4G, there will be significant 5G speed differences for browsing, some simulations by Qualcomm suggest.
Browsing download speeds increasing from 56 Mbps for the median 4G user to more than 490 Mbps for the median 5G user, a gain of approximately 900 percent, Qualcomm says.
The good news:if download speed is a constraint, it will not be, in the 5G context.
The bad news: beyond a fairly-low limit–perhaps 10 Mbps to 20 Mbps–any single user will not experience noticeable better experience, on either latency or bandwidth dimensions.
Latency also decreased about seven times, with median browsing download latency reduced from 116ms to 17ms.
A study by Signals Research Group, intended to show the benefits of gigabit 4G, suggests that gigabit 4G, similar in many ways to 5G, will tend to show benefits for downloading of big files, especially compared to public Wi-Fi.
The issue is that once access speed (the 4G or 5G connection) is improved, experience issue elsewhere in the value chain will be highlighted. Even if the local connection on both ends of any server interaction are very fast, eliminated latency or bandwidth as constraints on experience, server latency on the far end will still exist, and will become the likely experience bottleneck.
To be sure, mobile device latency lags that of fixed networks, generally speaking. But 4G was better than 3G, and 5G will be substantially better than 4G on that score.