5G has failed to live up to the hype says Korean telco

  • A whitepaper published by SK Telecom highlights how 5G hasn’t lived up to the hype.
  • This is largely down to the infrastructure requirements which means coverage isn’t always ideal.
  • Coupled with a lack of compatible devices and applications, 5G simply hasn’t led to the innovations those pushing the tech promised.

Before it was being blamed for COVID-19, 5G grabbed headlines for the potential applications the technology might have.

The upgrade from LTE, 5G was promised to have lower latency and faster speeds but since its launch, the technology has become just another connectivity standard. Mind you that’s not to say that 5G has failed, but rather that the future we were sold regarding how 5G would improve things, hasn’t really happened.

Things like 5G’s low latency being used for dangerous jobs such as mining aren’t as common as we’d like and 1ms latency isn’t something that’s available for most consumers.

“Even at the time when preparing for 5G, services such as autonomous driving, UAM [Urban Air Mobility], XR, hologram, and digital twin had appeared and expected, but most of them did not live up to expectations. We should have taken a more objective perspective. For example, whether 5G technology alone could change the future, or whether the overall environment constituting the service was prepared together. If so, the gap between the public’s expectations for 5G and the reality would not have been large,” South Korean telecommunications firm SK Telecom wrote in a whitepaper.

The telco points out that while the promises made were quite ambitious, a number of factors have hamstrung those promises from being fulfilled. This includes immaturity of devices, low or non-existent demand and even regulation issues.

There’s also the matter of coverage. As SK Telecom points out, 5G needs more base stations than LTE. This means telcos need to invest significantly more in rolling out 5G all while trying to keep customers connected to a 5G network. We can see this here in South Africa where 5G coverage is spotty and even when one does connect to 5G, the difference in speeds isn’t something most folks would notice right away.

The one thing SK Telecom highlights as a win for 5G is the fact that data costs are cheaper compared to LTE. This means folks on 5G are using 50 percent more data as compared to those using LTE. This fact will differ from market to market.

Despite this showcase of 5G’s greatest problems, SK Telecom uses the rest of the white paper to discuss 6G and how that could be sold more effectively.

“All participants in the related ecosystem must think together to discover exclusive products and services that can only be experienced in 6G by seeking synergies and paradigm shifts in mobile communication services. In addition, since the emergence of new device types such as XR, UAM, self-driving cars, and holographic watches can cause the proliferation of 6G-only products and services, it is necessary to monitor the technology development trend in related industries and prepare network infrastructure to support them,” writes the telco.

Can 6G live up to the hype that 5G presented? We’re not sure and frankly, 5G hasn’t even reached mass adoption. Data from Statista highlights that only 13 percent of the global mobile market is using 5G.

While we could see networks shifting, we don’t foresee that shift happening anytime soon, especially considering the massive investments in deploying 5G.

You can read SK Telecom’s whitepaper in full here.


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