(Reuters) – 5G will finally achieve its US closeup on Tuesday with the expected debut of Apple Inc.’s next iPhone. But the promised blazing speed will not happen for most people.
The device, dubbed the iPhone 12 by analysts, could turn into 5G, or fifth-generation wireless technology, which theoretically operates 10 to 20 times faster than current 4G wireless networks. [nL1N2H0004]
Using the next iPhone or any 5G capable device on today’s network, however, would be like “being a Ferrari … but using it in your local village and you can’t just drive at 200 mph, just because Those speeds were not maintained by Boris Metodiev, associate director of roads research firm Strategy Analytics.
Apple, which is expected to unveil the new phone in a virtual event on Tuesday, will need to walk a tightrope amid enticing consumers to upgrade their phones, while what 5G cannot do today.
Current 5G US networks mostly use low-band wireless spectrum, or airspace, which is slower than high-band spectrum, but is more reliable for longer distances. Chances are that it will take years to deliver on the promise of mass-speed-boosting phone carriers, making augmented reality and real-time cloud gaming seamless.
Many US telecom operators have deployed networks based on low spectrum bands, with slightly higher speeds than 4G. The rapid version of the supposedly “mid-band” 5G has also rolled out, but it is unlikely to reach three-quarters of Americans by 2025, longtime Apple analyst Jean Munster of the presumed capitalist firm Lupp Ventures.
The fastest speed carried by carriers is a type of 5G known as millimeter wave, or mmwave, which operate over short distances. Verizon Communications Inc has the largest current mmWave network, available only in limited areas.
According to the mobile signal experience report from research firm OpenSignal in June, Verizon 5G users could connect nearly 10 times faster than Sprint and T-Mobile, with the actual average speed being much lower.
AT&T Inc. and Verizon customers with 5G phones saw only a small jump from 4G speeds, according to an average study.
In South Korea and China, increasingly 5G networks are more widespread. But Apple will compete with local brands in South Korea, including Samsung, which is already in its second line of 5G phones, and Technology Technologies Ltd. of China. [HWT.UL], Whose sales soared after the telecommunications giant was banned in the United States.
The other major flaw is that applications that use high speeds to deliver something new are yet to be built. This is a chicken and egg problem in this part of the tech cycle, with officials saying interest in 4G was fueled by Facebook Inc.’s mobile apps and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube.
“The applications we will be surprised by will actually take advantage of the network, only to be developed once the network and device are available,” said Morgan Kurk, chief technology officer at ComScope, a telecom equipment manufacturer.
The most motivated American consumers to buy 5G phones will be those who need a new smartphone right now and want to protect their investment.
“If you’re buying a phone that’s going to be for three years, you want to make sure it’s going to support the latest network,” said Geoff Blauber, vice president of research at CCS Insight.
Just know what to expect, Blaber added. “There is relatively little that you can do on a 5G iPhone. You can’t do it on a 4G iPhone today.”
Reporting by Kenneth Lee in New York and Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; Editing by Richard Chang