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Don’t Buy a 5G Phone Yet

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Don’t Buy a 5G Phone Yet


Wireless carriers will begin bombarding you with ads in the coming months, telling you about how great their new 5G networks will be. And they might be great someday, but for now it’s just marketing fluff. Carriers will happily sell you an expensive 5G phone in 2019, but you shouldn’t take them up on that.

There’s a lot of confusion over what 5G is and what it can do, and AT&T isn’t helping when it rebrands its sluggish 4G as “5G E.” Real 5G technology requires new mobile networks and new phones. It took a couple of years before the 4G LTE technology in your current phone offered a better experience than 3G, and the move to 5G will take even longer.

When 5G networks become widely available, they’ll deliver faster data speeds. Michael Thelander, president of Signals Research, said 5G would also allow carriers to customize the network for new applications.

“Some applications may require ultralow latency, other applications may require very high reliability, and 5G will allow you to do that in the coming years,” said Mr. Thelander. That could make real-time applications such as mobile V.R., augmented reality, and self-driving cars a reality, he explained. Faster data also means your device’s modem doesn’t need to be awake as long when you need to download large files — when 5G is mature, you could see battery-life benefits.

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