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Madden: None of These Gripes Will be Solved by 5G

By Alex Braelow


The most common gripes with smartphone speed will not be solved by 5G. At least, this is the conclusion to which Joe Madden, a principal analyst and founder over at Mobile Experts, came.

Writing for FierceWireless, Madden recounts an informal survey that he took of his son and his son’s friends. Unanimously, they agreed that they would like a faster phone. However, when pressed to answer which aspects specifically were not fast enough, Madden came to the realization that their frustrations would not be solved by 5G.

Indeed, most of their complaints were about the speed of a computing platform, not the speed of their data. According to Madden, they complained about the long time to launch a new application, the delay in Google Maps providing directions, and the time it takes to reconnect after being on “airplane mode.”

Madden then adds some color: “In launching a new application, loading the process on Android (or iOS) routinely requires 2-3 seconds from a cold start. Then, the application can request an update from the cloud. For an application like Instagram, the total time can be more than 4 seconds, with only about 180 ms related to the actual data transfer time.”

This means that launching a new application from a “cold start” (basically, the unplug-it-and-plug-it-back-in-again approach) is often much slower than doing so from a “warm start” (where the system has already preloaded some files in active memory).

“We tested Android and Apple phones to see the typical time required for launching various applications, and our conclusion is that 5G simply won’t help anybody that is impatiently waiting for their apps to launch,” said Madden.

In addition, he cited another example from video streaming: “If a 4K video stream requires 25 Mbps (or less with some forms of compression), then do we really need gigabit speed? Video quality and buffering issues are related to the consistency and capacity of the network, not the peak speed. People experience buffering problems at the NFL stadium because they are trying to share capacity with thousands of other people.”

Put plainly, 5G will help in that case, not because it provides high peak speeds but because it provides capacity. Madden notes further that an expanded LTE network could accomplish the same goal.

This is where Madden offers some words of caution to the mobile operators who are beginning to invest increasingly large sums of cash in hyping 5G services via TV commercials and other forms of advertisement.

“DON’T DO IT.” warns Madden, “If we present 5G as a ‘faster’ technology, people will be disappointed and they won’t get in line to buy 5G phones.”

Indeed, while there is a major benefit to operators – since 5G will give them a cheaper way to deliver large buckets of data – end users will not see much benefit in buying a 5G phone if speed is the primary selling point. This must therefore be rectified in a different manner.

Madden closes with this: “(operators) will need to give the consumer an incentive to use a 5G device. Give away hotspots. Subsidize phones. But don’t expect people to buy the new phone simply because it has a ‘5G’ logo.”