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Tuesday Tip: What is 5G? (and why you don’t need it, for now)

Illustration of a cell phone with a wireless signal and 5G written over it

There is a lot of talk in the mobile world about 5G. You may have heard it. And if you haven’t yet, you soon will, because the telecom giants are preparing their 5G rollout – and with it will come their usual blizzard of hype. At this point, you’ll naturally be asking yourself “What is 5G?” and “Do I need to go out and buy a 5G phone?”

Good questions. We have answers.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology and successor to 4G LTE. It promises a higher speed and capacity with less latency. When it arrives, you’ll be able to browse the internet way faster, upload and download videos much quicker, and use data-intensive apps like video calling with virtually no lag.

To do all this, you’ll need to get yourself a new 5G phone. So should you? Right now, no.

Why you don’t need a 5G phone – yet

Yes, they’re coming. Samsung, Huawei, and others have announced they will launch 5G handsets in 2019. But buying a 5G phone now is like buying a shiny new saddle without a horse – because true 5G is still years away.

This, of course, has slowed the marketing blitz not at all. Among the telecoms, AT&T fired the first shot in early January when it began promoting its mobile network as “5GE” on some of its smartphones. It replaced that little LTE icon you see in the top right corner of your screen with a 5GE icon, which AT&T said stands for “5G Evolution.”

Not so fast said Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, all of which jumped to point out that 5GE is not true 5G. What it is, really, is AT&T marketing-speak for a tech upgrade to its existing LTE cell towers. AT&T describes it this way: “These technologies serve as the runway to 5G by boosting the existing LTE network and priming it for the future of connectivity.”

5GE does provide an increase in speed for AT&T customers in the markets where it’s available. But the upgrade isn’t anything that other carriers aren’t doing themselves. 5GE is just a label that AT&T has stuck on its new, slightly improved LTE network.

So for now, AT&T is pretty much the same old AT&T: a middle-of-the-road carrier that does a lot of stuff you probably don’t agree with if you’re a progressive person, like helping the NSA spy on Americans’ internet activity and donating money to elect racist, white supremacist Steve King to Congress.

So when will true 5G arrive?

It will be at least several years. To function properly, a 5G network will need vastly more antennas and towers and a lot of other new technology, which means mobile carriers will have to invest in an entirely new infrastructure before they can offer their customers true 5G.

In other words, hold off on that expensive new 5G phone. Computerworld says that even though most or all high-end smartphones will likely support 5G by 2022, 5G’s technology challenges are so great that “five years from now your smartphone will be using 4G almost all the time, even when you’ve got a 5G phone in a 5G city.”

56 Comments on “Tuesday Tip: What is 5G? (and why you don’t need it, for now)

  1. Thanks for the info. Definitely, my next contract will be with you guys!!
    Keep up with such a good and honest approach to do business.

  2. apparently you haven’t read the science behind 5G and the dangers. That is why scientists all over the world have signed a petition to stop it because of the damage the field does to humans. Severe damage-I would hope you would warn your customers about those dangers before it is too late-severe health issues have happened in test areas.

  3. This explanation make sense to me. Now I am aware what the hype is all about and I am not going to be hoodwinked. I hope others will as well.

  4. Why you don’t talk about the risk on your heath, on this new technology.
    The microwaves and radiation that this new technology is going to use is not save for no body!

  5. What about health hazards….with this increase of waves? No mention of Thur..lots of articles about the dangers?

  6. Will there be any increase in the electromagnetic field once AT&T upgrades its cell towers?
    Have there been any studies done to show that this increase won’t have any effect on the health of the human population or other life forms?

  7. Thank you so much for this information! I truly love the true story.

  8. Thanks for this information. After reading the bit about AT&T’s political contributions I’m wondering if you can point me to a listing of the most socially and politically conscientious phone companies.
    Thanks for all you do.

  9. Really appreciate the info on the 5G technology and what it means in real terms for average consumers.

  10. The 5G paradigm will require lots more towers because of the ability of almost everything to block this set of frequencies. There are many real World issues that need to be avoided before the true 5G can be rolled out most anywhere, but especially in rural and suburban areas.

  11. It is a pure danger to man kind. Why do we want to trade our health for speed. Faster to the grave in addition to cell tech speed.

  12. Look out everyone. 5G is to be avoided now and in the future. The electro-smog we are blasted with day and night will become exponentially more dangerous to living things that it is now! For our bodies and brains and long healthy lives we are advised time and again to turn it off as often as is possible and still function under the present-day communication needs.

  13. Best not to ever go to 5G! We are warned often of the dangers of electronic communications to living things. Yet we humans need to use it to function in our daily lives. We are advised to keep it to the minimum possible if we want to live long and healthy lives and save nature. This electro-smog from 5G is going to bring us exponentially greater danger that the system does at present. Stay away.

  14. I am very concerned about the health and safety effects of 5G technology. More and more information is coming out about the effects of this increased EMF on our environment including plants, wildlife, and us as well. Do you have any information on that?

  15. All the new towers that are being erected are 5g upgrades. There have been many reports of ill effects expecting mothers and it isn’t pretty. We don’t need anymore harmful things in the air or airwaves!

  16. There have been concerns about the safety of 5G. The Nation magazine ran an article about the industry history on this new technology several months back. And yet, it mostly goes unmentioned. Does it pose health risks?

  17. Thank you for the information and for debunking another profit-driven promotion.

  18. I am reading that there may be human health consequences to 5G and that, in the U. S. it is illegal for any local jurisdiction to deny the installation of 5G equipment. What is CREDO”s stance on this?

  19. Health dangers are not being reported at all–the public deserves full disclosure re : possible “side effects” of a 5g “world”. citizens are concerned.

  20. Are reports of dangers of 5G in Switzerland and Holland exaggerated, erroneous, or a matter of substance, and real concern? Mi rowave radiation has always had detractors, warning of health risks. What do you think?

  21. I believe that 5G is dangerous. For further information on why look up Arthur Firstenberg and the Cellular Phone Taskforce. He has a great number of scientists who support him in this view.

  22. With respect you’re underplaying the clear and imminent danger of 5G and the totally undemocratic manner in which it is rapidly being deployed. Apart from the microwave dangers it is also a ‘kill machine’ ready to be used to subjugate the general population. It should be stopped in its tracks now!

  23. This does not answer the question, but it does define the difference between the horse and the cart.

  24. Thank you for the information. It helps a lot to know that AT&T and the rest a selling mostly hype, not any great advance in technology. Keep up the good work!

  25. I am very surprised your article on 5G didn’t contain a single mention of the truly deleterious effects research has said 5G may have on people’s health!

    This is an area of “unintended and largely unforeseen consequences” that must be explored before the hype inundates the market with a potentially health-damaging product.

  26. You do not list all the side effects and health risks of 5G and the dangers of certain type of frequencies to our brain, our emotions and our organs ect Please use you power to stop this from happening. It is bad news for our humans and for our planet. How will everyone recycle all the devices that cannot be powered any more? Can become a global nightmare.

  27. Thank You!! I came home one afternoon around the first of October, 2018, to find PG&E guys up my street pole, they know me by now and I asked what was up. With big smiles they said they were installing 5G. I flipped, 5G is listed as a weapon of war. It can heat fluid in trees, kill birds and such flying through a beam, is a huge health hazard and fire hazard. I am very glad to hear it is years away, but my city, Berkeley, CA. claims to have it, trying to use it, running into a few problems. Comcast is my provider and touts 5G as if it was in fact here now. What gives?

  28. Has anyone looked into the EMF radiation that is going to be produced by these antennas on every corner and building in cities?

  29. Please reveal the enormous amount of micro-radiation the 5-G telecommunications network will release into the communities using that system! 5-G has only been used by the military in the past as a so-called “non-lethal” weapons system being able to produce extreme discomfort including nausea, severs headache’s, confusion, hearing disorders and on and on. By exposing communities to this high-frequency micro-wave technology, the telecommunications companies are placing profit before the welfare of the citizens, wildlife, insect and other components of the Natural World! There is serious concerns among experts in the field of micro-wave energy that 5-G is a much too powerful radio-wave energy to be readily available in everyone’s home, business and neighborhood! Time to Wake-Up!

  30. 5G has great health hazard. Experiments show that it dose immediate damage to our blood cells. Watch you tube videos about 5G .health risks.

  31. While I appreciate you exposing the usual AT&T misleading promotion, I beg you to also examine and help educate your customers (and indeed all cell-phone users) about the serious health hazards of the encroaching upgrades to cell-phone towers of the coming 5G network. Plenty of documentation by scientists exists and there is a groundswell of public concern being expressed about health hazards not only to humans but birds and other animals. Please do your best to not be hoodwinked about the supposed need for this new technology. Thank you in advance for your attention to this valid concern.

  32. Thank you for providing an honest and straight forward explanation of the 5G technology.

  33. I heard that 5G is bad for your brain. Can citizens “get away” from the 5G towers that are being installed all around their cities/neighborhoods?

  34. This continued increase in electric current used for cell phone has been deemed by the World Health Organization as dangerous to ALL living creatures. Neurological, cancer, heart, and brain disorders. …and why…for a little faster??

  35. Thank you for this honest assessment of the upcoming future.
    We thought, that the 5G implementation is an attempt of industry and government to replace all phones with ones they can better control.

  36. I’ve read that the 5G towers, relays, etc will be about every 2 blocks in cities but they emit significant levels of cell radiation like cell phones. So basically in a few years within completed network construction, something around 80% of Americans will live within 100 yards of these, with no way to block them or opt out of the exposure. I am NOT liking what I’m reading & find this technology dangerous, intrusive, unwelcome & resent it’s being foisted on us.

  37. Not a word about the huge safety issues of 5G antennas (not to mention the already existing problems with 4G antennas)? Please read some of the tens of thousands of published scientific studies finding serious adverse human health effects (also for the natural environment) of exposure to low-frequency wireless electromagnetic radiation.

  38. How about the health issues with all that radiation emanating from innumerable, closely-spaced towers?

  39. Thanks for the information. I understand so little and appreciate the help.

  40. From what the expert scientific community and studies are saying about the negative health consequences of 5G, I do not want it ever.

  41. Even though at this point I don’t even own a smartphone, I accept that the day is coming soon when I will have to upgrade. Thanks to you, when the time comes for that upgrade, I will be able to invest in phone that will do what I want it to do without having to spend more than necessary. Also, I’ve been wondering what “5G” was and if it was something I should worry about when I do decide to invest in a new phone. Thanks for demystifying what the “G” thing is all about.

  42. If the FCC were working on behalf of the American public instead of major internet carriers, ATT would not get away with claiming they offer a product which they clearly do not have. As an ATT client, I can vouch for their terrible internet speed and service, but frankly, I don’t see that Verizon or Comcast are any better. As long as the FCC is works to promote business ahead of the consumer, it doesn’t carry out its mandate as a federal agency paid for by the public which should act in the public’s interest. Until the current administration is shown the door, I can’t see anything changing for the American consumer.

  43. Credo,
    You did not mention anything about the highly studied negative aspects of 5G. It would be appreciated if you could offer an opinion on this aspect.

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