5G Need to Know: Sales exploding, performance poor, 0 new apps

147 million subs September 2020, 117 million in China. Yearend likely 230-250 million, including 30-50 million iPhone 12. Decent 5G phones cost US$200-250 in China, with 6.5″ screens and multiple cameras. As China prices move West, 2021 will blow out.

Forget gigabit speeds and 1 ms latency. Mid-band speeds mostly 100-400 Mbps. Low-band typically 50-100 Mbps, the same or less than 4G 50-150 Mbps. Low-band is really 4G + 5G NR software, which adds little. The Emperor Has No Clothes.

Verizon specifies latency of 25-40 ms, including mobile Edge. PCMAG had some tests at 10-15 ms on Verizon, which is what to expect with an Edge Network. Edge will deploy slowly outside of Asia. 4G latency had been 35-60 ms, but it is falling as well.

All major apps run about as well in 4G as in 5G. Telemedicine and IoT are fine in 4G. Tesla and Ford point out autonomous vehicles don’t need 5G or any connection. What would they do out of signal.

One major app coming: surveilling and killing people. US DoD awarded $600M in 5G contracts. Telcos tell me police and surveillance outfits are very interested.

Need to know: Real 5G speeds and spectrum (3 minute read)

Takeaway: 95+% of 5G is lowband (< 1800 MHz or mid-band (2500-4200 MHz.)
Asia, TMobile US, and much of Europe is mid-band.80-200 MHz of spectrum usually delivers 100-400 Mbps.
Low-band (AT&T, much of DT & other European, runs at 4G speeds and sometimes lower. See AT&T data below.
Millimeter wave often does 500 Mbps and a gigabit, but will be rare for years.

Gigabit and 10 gigabit 5G speeds are mostly a fantasy outside the lab. That will be true almost everywhere until 2022-2023, when large-scale millimeter wave deployments begin. Outside of Asia and possibly Verizon, gigabit speeds will be uncommon until late in the decade.


Spectrum and the number of cells/antennas mostly determine speed. Every engineer knows 5G is little faster than 4G. The 80-200 MHz of new mid-band spectrum is where the speeds come from, whether 4G or 5G.

Low: 50-125 Mbps Mid: 100-400 mmWave 500-1500