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The Exaggerated Confusion around 5G and iPhone 12 is the beginning of a new era for internet access

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Above: Photo Collage / Lynxotic / Apple

Most articles on 5G since the Apple iPhone 12 launch event on October 13th have been looking in the rearview mirror to predict the future: 5G will “disappoint” due to the slow buildout, technical limitations of the format, and various issues with all the competing systems and carriers, and these arguments are casting doubt on the much touted potential. 

This perspective misses the point on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin to unpack the myriad of misunderstandings.

Read More: The Real Meaning of 5G, iPhone 12 Pro and the SpaceX Race to build Satellite Broadband

Much of the technical discussion has been focused on the various flavors of 5G and the associated limitations and advantages of each. The fact that the fastest 5G, which goes by the sub-category moniker millimeter wave, is not instantly available everywhere for the 5G capable iPhones, and that they will not be in the hands of most consumers before next year, has been met with feigned shock and bewilderment.

And further, they highlight the confusion mounting over the various providers and the various flavors: 5G, 5G E, 5G UW or 5G+ as they are designated by “service indicators” on the iPhone 12 itself.  Verizon Communications Inc., T-Mobile US Inc. and AT&T Inc. each have their own systems they have developed and are building out – looking for a piece of the 5G market, expected to be around $1.15 trillion by 2025.

Read More: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Models are Coming Immediately and There’s More

First and foremost – since Apple and iPhone are the leader of all innovations in the marketplace – not necessarily by the sheer number of handsets sold, but by the focus on increasing technical and aesthetic quality and appealing to the top demographic,  not to mention the majority of early adopters, it is precisely the fact that, until now, the iPhone 5G handset did not yet exist, and for that reason the buildout is not further along. 

The fact that in real-world tests it is already performing at up to 7 times the fastest previously available connections, was coupled inevitably with the caveat; physical locations where these speeds can be accomplished are currently hard to find. 

Due to the technical issues with this ultra-high speed version of 5G, the inability to travel more than very short distances and the lack of ability to penetrate obstacles or walls, the possibility to get these amazing speeds are, at present, more likely to be found in outdoor locations. 

This is, admittedly, an odd conundrum, but you can be sure, with the upcoming massive increase in competition for ISP customers, it is one that will find at least some viable solutions very soon. There are many billions at stake for those that can find ways to improve this issue. 

“Standing in front of a camera store in South of Market, I got 5G speeds reaching 2,160 megabits a second, which was 2,900 percent faster than 4G. Even where it was a tad slower — behind the Safeway parking lot in the Marina district — the 5G iPhone drew speeds of 668 megabits a second, which was 1,052 percent faster than 4G.”

 – Brian X. Chen for the New York Times

The carriers have not had the market to build for and needed to be pushed by a huge influx of iPhone 12 owners. Then, meaning now, they will begin to compete with one another for that extremely lucrative group of users. And that rising competitive battle is not the only one looming on the horizon. 

Regardless of the ultimate time frame of the build-out, there is an obvious and very meaningful conclusion that we can reach here: 1 year from now things will look very different in the options available for those who want to work and play with the help of a faster internet connection (meaning, obviously, everybody).

RankCountryDownload Speed (Mbps)Upload Speed (Mbps)# Download Tests# Upload TestsNo. IPs
1Liechtenstein199.2839.78969810
2Hong Kong112.3291.4047825589933
3Denmark107.7866.022149522217912
4Switzerland93.6041.4465614743501907
5Netherlands93.4827.5889478939709044
6Sweden91.3686.0420812238752071
7Iceland80.1924.3031443555
8Finland79.4018.39948710395526
9Andorra76.6756.2015917633
10Bermuda74.2119.2758963146
11San Marino61.899.76433
12Norway58.9549.7313841142982083
13United States54.9910.4519723352126398364898
SOURCE / fastmetrics

As can be seen from the chart above (source: fastmetrics) in early 2020 the US ranked 13th in desktop download speed while mobile speeds ranked even worse coming in at #33 (various sources have US at #10 for fixed broadband). Liechtenstein is nearly 4x faster, on average, than the US. Also note that the highest average is one-tenth to one-twentieth of the eventual “ideal conditions” speeds of 5G.

The future of connectivity can only get better and faster from here. And with the power of Apple, the iPhone 12 and that huge affluent user base the improvements will begin soon and quickly accelerate to a fever-pitch by next year’s iPhone launch. (Will they call it the iPhone 13?)..


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