The term 5G has become synonymous with the telecom industry battle of the century. The first to cross the 5G finish line wears the crown, and the pace of new announcements is outdone only by cryptocurrency news at this point.
It’s a finish line that could rewrite the telecoms balance of power: Soon enough, a carrier will be nothing without 5G—fifth-generation wireless broadband tech that promises wildly better speeds and coverage that 4G.
Every day, another carrier is coming out with new 5G announcements—and they’re all claiming the throne.
The latest in the 5G media bombing came on Wednesday, when T-Mobile said it planned to be the first US operator to deliver 5G nationwide, targeting 30 cities this year.
That announcement was meant to one-up rival Sprint, which earlier said it was targeting 6 cities, but wouldn’t actually go live until next year.
Giants Verizon and AT&T have also unveiled their 5G plans, and both say they’ll be first.
But it’s not just about who’s first—it’s about how wide a net they can cast, and going on PR alone, T-Mobile just outdid them.
Not all 5G is equal, though, and that’s where determining the real winner of this race gets tricky. And the carriers are all starting from the same position.
So, by playing around a bit with language, each carrier can claim to be first—in a different way.
Take AT&T for instance: It’s planning new “puck” devices, which will work as 5G hotspots that are compatible with the devices we’re using today. Verizon’s plans are much different, though: It’s planning to create an entire 5G mobile network, so that will take longer. Related: The $1 Trillion Wealth Fund Defying Markets
T-Mobile has certainly upped the ante in terms of press coverage:
"By 2020 we will build a fully nationwide 5G coverage layer," T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told a press conference Wednesday. "I challenge my competition today: match what I'm saying, tell me that you're going to deliver 5G in a comprehensive national way in these timeframes."
But, as PCMag notes, T-Mobile’s 5G coverage might not be as “spectacular” as the 5G notions everyone’s thinking when it listens to Verizon. T-Mobile’s coverage will rely on its 600MHz spectrum, which acts as a “base layer that’s somewhat faster than equivalent 4G”.
Still, T-Mobile is insistent on taking on rivals that are twice its size, and its CEO has been highly critical of the giants’ 5G plans.
“Dumb and Dumber are in a meaningless race to be first. Their so-called 5G isn’t mobile, and it’s not even on a smartphone. It’s a puck?! You gotta be pucking kidding me!” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said.
“While the Duopoly focus on bragging rights, we focus on customers. T-Mobile has massively bigger plans for a truly transformative 5G experience on your smartphone nationwide. We’re playing the long game ... the only game that matters.”
The gloves are off now, clearly, and it’s 5G or bust for every carrier, but the hype is more about crossing than finish line than it is about what 5G gives us. Don’t expect a sudden, explosive revolutionary change in speed and the instant death of 4G.
By Fred Dunkley for Safehaven.com
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