In this post, you will find reasons not to need a 5G phone at least in 2022, and its inevitability later down the years.
Mega popular Apple has launched an affordable 5G-capable iPhone SE 3 5G which again brings to light the fifth-generation connectivity, a selling point of a phone these days. It is the status marker. It’s the next-gen mobile broadband network capable of bringing multi gigabits of speed to your smartphone. But as the 5G ecosystem continues to proliferate, users also grapple with the bafflingly low coverage or none at all scenarios. So, instead of merely reveling in a phone’s ‘5G’ specs, convincing you that you don’t need a 5G phone yet would make a lot of sense.
And it shouldn’t be too difficult either. 5G compatible phones are still relatively expensive and offer less value for the price. If you compare to its speed capacity, it’s still underwhelming. Plus, lots of users will struggle to find consistent coverage to connect to its network. And that’s another downer. While you can conjure one too many, I have compiled my own lists to reason that you may still keep off a 5G phone for your own good. The reasons are below:
Availability and coverage
It’s the most immediate concern before deciding on purchasing a 5G phone. Nepal doesn’t yet have a 5G network. Ntc, the state-backed operator is doing the trial of the latest cellular standard, perhaps in late 2022. But first, there would be trials for months before its commercial release. Private telco Ncell is unlikely to make any movement for it in absence of no response from the regulator to its 5G proposal. So even if one company does launch 5G in Nepal, there won’t be enough coverage.
So from the standpoint of its usability, I don’t see any viability of carrying a 5G phone with no substantial coverage. And for limited coverage, it even needs to launch first and we are not 100 percent sure whether it is happening this year.
The much-hyped 5G speeds is not really there
When the 5G discourse began, everyone was buoyed at 5G’s potential broadband speed. Multi gigabits of download speed to a smartphone. Besides, it also triggered the talk of automated cars, telehealth, and all. Everything seemed possible with its Gigabits of speeds and slim-to-none latency. But they are still in R & D and have been elusive so far.
To bring it into perspective, The world’s 5G average download speed was just 166.12 Mbps in Q3 2021. More strikingly, it was 13 percent lower than the 206.22 Mbps recorded in Q3 2020. Meanwhile, the drop also translated to upload speeds down to 21.08 Mbps from 29.52 Mbps during the same time. This is down to more users getting their phones connected to 5G but also reflects that by the account of technology, not a lot has improved. Most countries are yet to optimize their proper 5G bands to stand up to speeds expectations. In the US, the operators are using C-band that is finally bringing better speeds. Meanwhile, South Korea, the pioneer and the leader in the 5G race averages around 400 Mbps. This is encouraging but so far available to a limited populace.
The inverse connection between frequency and coverage
Like with any cellular standard, frequency determines the data rate capacity of 5G. The issue is the higher the frequency the faster its data rate capacity. But unfortunately, it offers very limited coverage. This is why the high-band 5G aka mmWave (above 24 GHz) is not ideal for operators and mass consumers. It is only suitable for airports, or stadiums.
The low-band 5G (below 1 GHz) offers good coverage but is not ideal for its speed performance. It offers no better download speed than 4G.
The mid-band is the sweet spot frequency (1 GHz – 6 GHz) for 5G. It offers a good combination of speed and coverage. Currently, the US is exploring its speed with a promise. But still, 400 Mbps is the average download speed users can expect and that in ideal conditions. So, even from the perspective of large-scale deployment, operators are yet to figure out which frequency band they should employ for an optimum 5G experience. So, before they do, we can wait a bit and ensure that when we purchase a phone, we get a satisfying experience of the next-gen broadband on it.
In addition, there is no confirmation on which band Nepali telcos will use for 5G. While Ntc is going to use mid-band spectrum (2600 MHz band) for its trials, there is no assurance that will stay for commercial purpose. And if you hurry into buying a5G phone, the chances qre that the bands it comes witu may not support the band telcos would use later. If this happens, it could render your premium 5G phone “useless” if for not corresponding with the band. So, for me that’s another concern to hold onto my existing phone.
The cost of 5G phones is coming down. Once only a luxury to premium handsets, these days upper mid-range phones also come with fifth-gen network support. But for mere mortals, they are still a little too high. Realme GT Neo 2, OnePlus Nord 2 5G, Poco F3 are some of the mid-rangers that come with 5G connectivity. But the average 50 thousand in cost. For many, they are not even budget phones. They are almost premium devices from today’s standards in disguise with just a little price drop against high-end devices.
5G phones require a supporting modem and that contributes to its high cost. But if you are on a 4G phone, it is capable of pulling off most things you want on the internet. You can download large files, stream 4K video, do plenty of multitasking on a flagship phone, or anything else. The mere absence of 5G won’t drag you down. And instead of spending 10s of thousands on a phone for 5G, you can better utilize it with a 4G phone and save some cash.
4G can do all that you need
Since 2017 Nepali mobile users have been able to test the next-gen speed of 4G on their smartphones. Although the network started with limited coverage, it has reached almost the entire country with few local areas left. And most smartphones entering today have 4G compatibility. So, no users have to fret over having no support for high-speed broadband. Read Ntc 4G Coverage Reaches 95% Local Levels, With 91% Sites On-aired
As I am writing this, I get the speed of 48 Mbps on my Ntc network even at a rather busy hour of 7 pm. The 48 Mbps download and 28 Mbps upload speed is blisteringly fast and efficient for our most needs. With it, you can stream 4K videos, download large-size files, play online games, and browse the internet across multiple devices on a hotspot. In fact, most normal users don’t abuse bandwidth with ultra-heavy usage and hence won’t need the hyper-fast 5G network even if it could deliver right away.
And for voice calls, I can use VoLTE that allows simultaneous data and phone calls. So it will serve another reason to be content with it.
Need a 5G phone? It will be Inevitable Anyway
Do you remember a few years ago, the same handset in a foreign country would come with 4G capability but it won’t arrive in Nepal. The reason? Because the 4th-generation cellular standard was not yet launched in Nepal. It was just five years ago. But after 2017, 4G-enabled handsets did start to arrive. By that, I am mean to establish that the same will happen when 5G starts to roll out in Nepal.
In fact, you won’t even have an option not to buy a phone without 5G connectivity. As it becomes widespread, phone makers will only build phones with the 5G and will contribute to its growing eco-system. Already we have smartphones such as Poco M3 Pro 5G that comes at below NPR. 25K. With multiple smartphone OEMs pricing down their 5 phones or releasing cheaper 5G phones, 5G devices could become ubiquitous in the next 3 years. It is your subject choice whether you already want an upgrade to a 5G phone for future proof, or save some cash and make do with a 4G device before 5G sweeps us off.
Check out: Best 5G Phones in Nepal | Price and Specs
Verdict: You can wait
It is obvious that the 5G compatibility feature of any phone is appealing. It brings to you an upgraded mobile broadband possibility with 100s of Megabits in speed. But, the 5G network is not yet available in the country and the operators have not found a convincing justification for it as 4G still handles everything pretty well. And again, 5G will take some years to be optimized with speed and coverage and hit the mainstream in markets across the world. Therefore, I believe that the 5G phone is a luxury you can afford to miss, at least for 2022.
Has 5G phones already become a necessity or remains far-fetched for their use cases? You can share your opinions in the comments below.
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