Cellular 5G service promises everything short of a cure for cancer. Mea culpa, I spread that hype in a couple of previous columns. Then again, every print publication, website and news broadcast proclaims the coming of 5G with its Star Trek promises.
Sometime in the relatively near future, 5G cellular will change communications, but it won’t be in 2020 or even 2021. Numerous issues preclude the rapid rollout of 5G, no matter what your cellular provider claims or what smartphone marketers advertise.
Earlier this month, Verizon admitted that initially 5G will provide service comparable to good 4G. The truth is that the potential of first-rate 4G LTE remains unfulfilled. It took a decade to fully roll out 4G. LTE stands for long term evolution. That’s evolution, not revolution.
One of 5G’s initial problems concerns the radio frequencies it uses. The higher the frequency, the more necessary bandwidth available for all of the miracles promised by 5G.
The current 5G spectrum falls above 20GHz or even 30GHz, known as millimeter wavelengths. For reference, the center of the FM broadcast band is about 3 meters. Unlike the radio spectrum used by 4G, as well as radio and television, these teeny-tiny radio waves don’t penetrate walls, trees or even heavy precipitation. They also may not even penetrate your hand, so new 5G phones will require multiple internal antennas.
The cell providers will need to install far more antennas than with current cellular installations. Thus, you’d have great 5G reception on the University of Illinois Quad, but not in campus buildings. The 5G millimeter signals also travel fairly short distances, so they fall short in serving rural areas.
Ultimately, 5G also will use lower, wall-penetrating frequencies at the expense of 4G. Meanwhile, TV broadcasters continue squatting on free, unused channels they were given by the FCC to spur the transition to digital TV. The government now is pressuring broadcasters to sell that bandwidth to cell providers.
The phone itself is the other component of 5G. The first and possibly second generations of 5G smartphones cobble a kludge of chips that generate a lot of heat while reducing performance and battery life. The companies that design and manufacture the chips continue working overtime to develop high-performing, energy-efficient chips. Thus, sit out the first couple of generations of 5G phones.
Meanwhile, we turn to Apple, which decided to punish its customers. Punish is a kind word, but this is a family friendly newspaper. Until recently, if your iPhone battery went south, you could visit Campus Mobile Solutions or Office Depot for a low-cost replacement. Generally, these shops replace iPhone batteries for 30 to 50 percent less than Apple.
Recently, Apple announced it planned to equip iPhone batteries with a special chip that would tell the phone it was authentic. Without that chip, the phone would cease functioning.
Currently, this policy only extends to the newest models, the XR, XS and XS Max and the models being introduced Sept. 10.
Apple may not be alone for long. Other manufacturers track Apple’s actions, and if successful, implement the same policies.
According to the website Axios, Apple stated: “We want to make sure our customers always have confidence their products will be repaired safely and correctly, and in a way that supports recycling.” Since this is a family newspaper, I can’t write my response to that.
When it comes to choosing a cell phone provider, read the fine print. All make it exceedingly difficult to cancel, even when you don’t have a contract. Some dangle low rates for seemingly full service.
Over the past few years, my AT&T service began creeping up a few pennies a month. So I went to the AT&T store to complain. The salesperson said if I pre-paid, rather than post-paid, I would save about $12 for two-lines. Then I noticed the new “free” AT&T spam call blocking app only works if you post-pay. Gotcha!