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5G networks. Theory and practice.

Updated: Nov 19, 2021



5G is probably one of the most overvalued and prohibitively expensive technologies, which has been promoted on laboratory tests alone and a huge mass of conspiracy theories about corona infections and chipping.

In reality, however, 5G is a huge meme.

The technology does not provide high speeds and you will not be able to download 30GB movies in 30 seconds, as the purchased bloggers say about it, but installing stations to provide speed only at the 4G level will require several times more money, the costs from which, of course, will be transferred to the payers.

Objectively speaking, 5G is worse than 4G.

Estimating network speed.

In 2020, the massive introduction of 5G began in the United States, and, accordingly, practical tests began, and the result was disastrous.

First, journalists started testing speeds: 4G from AT & T showed an average speed of 34 Mbps, while 5G turned out to be even slower - 32 Mbps.

5G operator T-Mobile turned out to be twice as bad - 15 Mbps.

Then, the RootMetrics company collected data on the combined median half-year speed of all networks and the conclusions of the journalists were confirmed:

AT&T showed 5G speeds only 3 Mbps higher than 4G - 46 Mbps versus 43 Mbps.

T-Mobile has a median half-year speed of only 25 Mbps, which cannot even

compete with 4G.

Half a year has passed since then, and at the beginning of 2021, the Speedcheck service also collected the relevant data immediately for 3 months.

Across the country, 5G was 2.7 times faster than 4G, 47 Mbps versus 18, up from a promised 100 times the speed from manufacturers.

31% of cities connected to 5G showed speeds at or even slower than 4G.

However, Speedcheck data may be false says

Joseph Marc Blumenthal - The most commonly used speed test service was used by people with poor connection quality [4G from poor coverage areas] and those who just connected to 5G to test high speeds, which creates a gap and underestimates the real 4G speed.

This is confirmed by RootMetrics analysis: Speedcheck, for example, stated that AT&T has an average speed of 53 Mbps for 5G versus 23 Mbps for 4G, although RootMetrics in a semi-annual analysis stated that AT&T's 4G speed was 43 Mbps.

That is, the real difference is not x2.7, but approximately x1.25.

Half a year has passed since then and 5G has shown an even greater increase in speeds, but not at the expense of quality, but due to an increase in coverage - a new October record for average speeds for 5G was 62.7 Mbit, as T-Mobile has set up thousands of towers and covered over 40% country.

This is stable, but still marginally higher than 4G speed and is mainly due to the huge investment in installing new 5G towers, when 4G towers for higher speeds may simply not be enough, which limits their speed.

And now the same trick in technology costs.

Internet coverage.

5G, for those unfamiliar with it, is not a familiar wide-coverage antenna, but millimeter waves that multiple antennas in phased arrays focus into beams [lasers].

The number of antennas for giving the laser sufficient power in such towers usually reaches several hundred. Some antennas track the location of phones, others transmit.

In comparison, 4G has only one or more powerful antennas that single-handedly cover a wide area.

And therein lies the catch: 4G simply spreads a stable signal over a wide area, while millimeter beams from 5G travel horribly through obstacles.

That is, if you have a 5G tower installed nearby, you will not have a stable signal at home, since millimeter rays cannot pass through the walls.

To cover this disadvantage, each operator needs to use more than one 4G tower, but to install a 5G tower every 100 meters.

Otherwise, you will be left without connection.

For another comparison, one 4G tower can stably cover an area with a radius of up to 100 kilometers, while a 5G tower, if there are obstacles in front of it and the device, stops working after 100 meters.

Which requires the installation of dozens and hundreds of 5G towers instead of one 4G.

If you update at least part of 4G towers from the number of 5G towers installed, then the 4G speed will easily exceed 70-100 Mbps without any significant costs and with much less effort, while simultaneously surpassing 5G in speed.

If you've been in the busy center of Moscow, running on 4G networks, you have hardly seen speeds below 60-90 Mbps, since 4G is much more efficient in practice than the clumsy mechanism of 5G.

5G can only show its effectiveness in completely empty spaces without any obstacles - that is, almost anywhere.

In all other cases, it loses to 4G in all respects.

Smart city and internet of things.

Many people note that 5G technology is used primarily not for the development of Internet speed, but for the use of “smart” systems, from “smart home” to “smart city”.

However, no such system actually requires the use of 5G.

For a few examples, take an article on the benefits of smart cities:

1. Traffic management.

The introduction of 5G, thanks to its low latency and high speeds, is expected to enable the city's intelligent traffic management systems to better identify patterns and reduce congestion on the roads.

However, if you look in more detail, the city traffic management systems are isolated from the general network and do not even use the air network.

All of them are connected to the Unified Data Center via faster isolated fiber and transmit images from city cameras in real-time, and they do not need 4G or 5G.

Other analyzing processes depend on the algorithms and capacities installed on servers and computers. They don't need 5G.

2. Internet of Things, a remote collection of information.

Almost every text about the Internet of Things uses 5G, but in fact, each Internet thing has its own autonomous working sensors that need access to the Internet to communicate with other things only at the moment of fixing a signal.

The difference in latency rate between 4G and 5G is the difference between 10-50ms and 1-10ms, that is, so small that it is not visible to the human eye. One software processing takes longer.

That is, switching from 4G to 5G will not improve the responsiveness of Internet of things, while the things themselves mostly use either fiber [for street systems] or Wi-Fi. They are already successfully working without using 5G.

3. Unmanned vehicles.

The publication reports that self-driving cars depend on sensor technology and onboard computers to keep in constant touch with GPS satellites.

However, to maintain constant communication with satellites, coverage plays a key role, not network speed, and 5G towers are losing out here.

They are limited to only 100 meters of robust connectivity, while 4G has robust connectivity within a radius of up to 30 kilometers and up to 100 kilometers of maximum coverage.

The speed of the Internet in real conditions also does not show the undisputed leadership of fifth-generation networks; in practice, at best, they are at the level of fourth-generation networks.

Which makes installing 5G networks completely pointless.

Presumably, 5G will do well as a distribution technology that connects 4G towers to smear traffic, but the obvious benefits of 5G on that note are coming to an end.


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