5G does not deserve a headline7/1/2015
When cell phone technology first made its public debut in the early 1980s, the technology was revolutionary. Sure, there had been mobile two-way radios, but nothing like the ability to walk down the street with a cordless phone in your hand and make a cross-planet call. But as with all technology, consumers became jaded. Calls sounded like garbage, the service was pricey, and when mobile data debuted, the complaining rose to a whole new volume. Such is the nature of human existence, and even though we’re on the verge of a mobile data breakthrough with 5G data connections, it, too, is destined to let us down.
If you have ever seen a cell phone carrier commercial, you’ve heard of 4G. Like most technological jargon, 4G probably means nothing to you, but it actually represents years of communications research and development — the fourth generation of mobile data-optimization. Streaming high-definition Netflix, Hulu or YouTube on your phone is dependent on this technology. Sure, you might occasionally run into buffering, but 4G speed is 10 times faster than 3G.
I’m betting you, right now, you’re expecting me to break down all the differences between the generations of cell phone technology — but that is a waste of your brain cells. In all actuality, the history of cellular phone connections is the dividing line before 2G and 3G. 2G cellular users and before lived uncomplicated lives where they could make calls and check text messages, text emails, and pretty much anything text. Then 3G hit, and suddenly things got visual. Suddenly people started looking at their phones non-stop, complaining about their signal being horrible and crashing their cars because they had to check Facebook notifications or play Angry Birds while driving.
5G is another 10-fold data speed jump over 4G. What does that mean? Nothing revolutionary, but you will be able to download full-length HD films in seconds and get virtually perfect fidelity video calls. As cool as that is, the main issue 5G represents is a huge jump in cellular service costs. 5G will be the premium octane mobile data fuel that your carrier will sell you for a stupid upscale cost. This will sucker a great deal of smartphone owners. But if you are truly smart, you should realize 5G is not something to pay a premium for.
Thankfully, 5G won’t make its pricey debut until 2020, but as it stands, the world is already becoming littered with point premium technology. Oculus Rifts, 4K televisions and smart watches are all examples of gadgets you don’t need that will absolutely pilfer your checkbook. Remember 3-D films? For six years, 3-D has been sold as the best option, and yet audiences have rebuffed it as second-rate to classic 2-D cinema projects. Virtual reality has been waving its arm as the next big thing in experience immersive content since the 1990s. Even though Facebook made a billion dollar bet on Oculus Rift, the air has long since drained out of its balloon.
5G fits this picture to a T. However, there is one serious exception — home Internet connection. While I won’t be pushing my cellular plan to 5G on day one, I will be dumping my current service on day one. 5G promises baseline speeds comparable to a basic cable connection. As we all know, the only thing we complain about more than our cell phone data speed is our home Internet speed. So as pointless as a 5G smartphone sounds, a 5G smart TV sounds like the cure for all our non-wireless Internet woes. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.