Qualcomm 8cx benchmarked: Faster than Intel’s i5 8250U?

Qualcomm first announced its 8cx laptop processor back in December of 2018. The chip promised to bring two times the performance of its previous chip, the Snapdragon 850, while at the same time bringing 60 percent better battery life and new features like H.265 and dual 4K monitor support.

Today, we got our first look at PCs running the new Qualcomm 8cx chipset. Qualcomm has partnered with PCMark and 3DMark to produce ARM 64-native benchmarking apps for the platform and pitted the chip against Intel’s most comparable laptop CPU, the i5 8250U.

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As a recap, the Qualcomm 8cx is a 7nm chip with a TDP of 7 watts, while Intel’s i5 8250U is based on a 10nm process and has a TDP of 15 watts. Based on these specs alone, it’s no surprise that Qualcomm is achieving about two times better battery life. The real surprise here is application benchmarks and graphics performance.

Qualcomm 8cx - Application Benchmark test

In a standard application benchmark test, the 8cx was neck-and-neck with Intel’s offering. The 8cx beat the i5 8250U in some tests and fell slightly behind in others. This is fairly massive because it shows that a chip with half the power consumption of an Intel CPU can deliver just as good day-to-day performance.

In graphics benchmarks, Qualcomm’s 8cx beat Intel by a good amount. The graphics score in 3DMark’s Night Raid was between 6138 and 6266, while Intel measured between 5172 and 5174. Take this with a grain of salt though, because the display on Intel’s model was a 2k panel, while Qualcomm used an FHD panel.

Qualcomm 8cx - Graphics test

The benchmarking session showed just how competitive Qualcomm has gotten already. Its Always Connected PCs (ACPCs) allow users to pull down data extremely quickly wherever they are, especially with the new 5G modem Qualcomm is offering to laptop OEMs. With graphics performance on par with Intel’s equivalent offerings, it shouldn’t be long before these laptops start flying off store shelves.

Qualcomm 8cx PC - Lenovo Project Infinite head on
Qualcomm 8cx PC - Lenovo Project Infinite top down on keyboard
Qualcomm 8cx PC - Lenovo Project Infinite Lenovo logo

Alongside the benchmarking session, Qualcomm announced a partnership with Lenovo for the development of the first 5G Always Connected PC. Lenovo is calling this laptop Project Limitless for now, but we didn’t get much more detail than that. Qualcomm told us that this laptop will be running on a 45 watt-hour battery and will use the Qualcomm 8cx SoC and 5G modem, but until we hear more details that’s all we have to go on.

Another interesting thing to note is the total lack of 5G modem competition. With Intel pulling out of the market completely and Huawei currently in disarray, it’s likely that Qualcomm will own this market for a good while.

What do you think about 5G Always Connected PCs? Are you looking to pick one up once they start shipping next year? Let us know in the comments section below.

City council of Portland, OR, will vote on 5G ban due to ‘health risks’

Green 5G logo taken at MWC 2019

Tomorrow, members of the city council in Portland, OR, will vote on whether or not to oppose the rollout of 5G wireless networks in the area. According to a proposal endorsed by Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, the basis for the dispute over 5G is possible “adverse health conditions such as cancer.”

The proposal is up for a vote despite there being no verifiable scientific proof that LTE, 5G mmWave, or even Wi-Fi signals have any lasting harmful effect on people.

The proposal cites a 10-years-long study by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This study is frequently cited by conspiracy theorists and sensational journalists as proving that radiation emitted by cell phones could potentially cause cancer.

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However, there are numerous flaws in the study’s methodology. There’s also the fact that the study was conducted on mice (a poor substitute for humans) and that it was based on 2G and 3G technology, not 5G.

Our own Robert Triggs breaks down the study and its flaws in his terrific article, “5G is not going to microwave your brain.”

Despite the lack of science to back up the Portland city council’s desire to block 5G networks, there is actually an important aspect of this proposal that requires some discussion. In the proposal, the city council laments that individual states and townships don’t have the ability to choose whether or not to roll out new technologies approved federally by the FCC. In other words, although the proposal does make some bogus claims about “health risks” related to 5G, it does have some merit in that it illuminates just how much power the FCC has when it comes to local decisionmaking.

You can read the full proposal here.

NEXT: What is 5G and what can we expect from it?

Not all 5G smartphones are created equal

Green 5G logo taken at MWC 2019

If you’ve been following MWC 2019, you’ll know that 5G (over)hype has arrived in earnest. We now know what the first wave of 5G handsets is shaping up to look like, what their specs are, and even which carriers intend to sell some of them. However, there are still plenty of unknowns about how 5G devices will perform and whether or not they’ll be worth the premium.

The price tags, tariff costs, and battery life are all unknown quantities at this point. But perhaps a bigger issue is just how good a 5G experience these phones will offer. Companies are quick to hype the theoretical download speeds, but the real world will be quite different. In fact, some phones may offer a far superior 5G experience compared to others.

mmWave in a phone isn’t easy

mmWave antenna blocking remains a real problem, even though workarounds have been developed. During MWC, Motorola showed us a live demo of its 5G Moto Mod being used for low latency gaming. Rotating the handset away from the transmitter caused speeds to drop from a steady 2.5Gbps down to as low as 0Gbps, interrupting the low latency streaming being showcased. Speeds almost instantaneously bounded back up and down while the antennas switch on and off to find the optimal one for a connection.

mmWave line-of-sight issues require intelligent use of multiple antennas to solve.

In the real world, this is all done very quickly – in a matter of milliseconds. However, if you’re watching a high throughput live stream – one of the big benefits being touted about 5G – even a short connection drop can be noticeable. The key to mitigating connection problems is to include enough antennas to choose from if one or more of them is blocked — whether it’s by your hand or when you move between cell coverage.

To its credit, Motorola’s implementation is one of the better ideas. The 5G Mod features four antennas. There are two in the top, one forward and one rear facing. There are two more on the sides of the mod, making it virtually impossible to block all four at once.

mmWave antenna crammed inside Qualcomm demo phone

A mmWave antenna can be seen crammed into the top of this Qualcomm demo phone.

Qualcomm recommends that smartphones make use of three or four of its mmWave antennas placed around the device for this exact reason. However, I have been informed that different 5G smartphones are using very different numbers of antennas.

Unofficial information passed to me indicates that the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G uses four antennas. When asked, Samsung wouldn’t confirm the exact number, instead stating that it has “multiple” antennas inside. The Sony 5G prototype on display at the event apparently features six antennas, one on each edge and two additional modules in the corners. The LG V50 ThinQ 5G, allegedly, only features two – both at the sides.

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LG refused to confirm or deny the report. The company did mention that the V50’s antenna arrangement depends on a mmWave or sub-6GHz implementation and is also carrier dependent. LG said it couldn’t provide further comment without knowing the model in question. This raises the worrying prospect of multiple 5G models sporting different networking technologies. If true, this could reduce 5G performance when roaming or importing phones to work with different network designs and carriers.

This isn’t a new concern of mine, I raised this potential issue to Qualcomm ahead of MWC. The company expects to see OEMs broadly support sub-6GHz and mmWave technologies because it is more cost effective and simplifies development for global smartphone launches. However, this doesn’t appear to be the case where carrier and region-specific 5G launches are concerned.

Qualcomm mmWave antenna on display at MWC 2019

More antennas equal worse battery life

With that in mind, the six antennae Sony 5G prototype sounds like a much better solution. However, that’s not strictly the case either. Larger antenna counts consume more power. First by virtue of potentially having more antennas to power at once. Secondly, switching and settling on the best antenna requires additional time and processing when network conditions change, which also consumes more power. In reality, Sony’s final 5G phone could well use fewer antennas to improve battery life.

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While the reported configuration inside the LG V50 ThinQ 5G might seem suboptimal in terms of performance, it is more optimal in terms of battery life. Those worried about the phone’s modest boost to battery capacity perhaps shouldn’t be so concerned. The biggest question yet to be answered is whether the phone’s 5G experience matches what consumers would expect.

There’s a balancing act to be found between power consumption and ensuring a reliable mmWave connection. Although smartphone vendors will have undertaken plenty of research and testing while developing their first products, the sweet spot might take a while to perfect.

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

Early adopters beware

There’s a very good case for 5G technology, but, despite the hype, its still in its infancy. Early adopters are often willing to accept the growing pains of any new technology, but ensuring a consistent, predictable user experience is important, even in these early stages.

Just like Bluetooth, 5G performance could vary a lot from phone to phone.

During MWC I spent some time talking to Samsung about 5G, and the company is keenly aware of consumer expectations and some of the nuances that go into providing the right kind of user experience. For example, the company has gone to pains to ensure that not only does its antenna switching technology looks for the best connection, but also avoids radio transmissions to the human body for a low SAR. The company is also actively engaged with carriers about when 5G logos should be displayed on early 5G Non-Standalone networks. That might seem trivial, but it’s an important detail if your phone isn’t actually downloading over 5G all the time.

5G, much like 4G, will undergo its own pain points and improvements. 5G modems and other technologies will certainly improve over the next two years and manufacturers will get a better handle on their designs and trade-offs. Some differences between devices are inevitable, but I certainly hope we don’t see early 5G smartphones charging a premium for a second-rate experience.

All of the above being said, we’ll reserve judgment until these 5G smartphones are in our hands.

U.S. Cellular will begin 5G support in the second half of 2019

US Cellular best prepaid plans in the US

U.S. Cellular officially threw its hat into the ring and will roll out its 5G network in the second half of 2019.

According to a press release published yesterday, U.S. Cellular will partner with Ericsson as part of a multi-year agreement. Ericsson will provide the regional carrier with 3GPP standards-based 5G network equipment and software.

U.S. Cellular didn’t say which cities would get first dibs on its 5G network. However, the carrier did announce that it tested its 5G network in rural and suburban environments in Madison, Wisconsin. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and other use-cases were tested under several “real-world conditions.”

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Even with its status as a regional carrier and the fifth-largest U.S. carrier, U.S. Cellular’s timeline for its 5G network rollout doesn’t put it too far away from the major players. Verizon plans to launch its mobile 5G network this spring, while Sprint is eyeing a May launch. Meanwhile, T-Mobile delayed its 5G network rollout to the second half of 2019 and AT&T already started its 5G rollout.

The interesting bit is that U.S. Cellular will not use Huawei-made 5G network equipment. That’s likely a deliberate move on the carrier’s part to avoid any conflict with the government since the U.S. is currently at odds with Huawei.

It’ll be interesting to see what U.S. Cellular’s 5G network looks like in the real world and what the carrier’s first 5G smartphone will be. We’ll make sure to keep you updated once we get more information.

Banning Huawei’s 5G equipment in Europe wouldn’t be good, says Vodafone CEO

The Huawei logo at CES 2019.

With the European Commission thinking about a potential ban on Huawei’s 5G equipment, Vodafone CEO Nick Read warned that a ban would lead to repercussions for Europe.

Speaking at a press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Read said a ban on Huawei’s 5G network equipment would curtail competition. Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson reportedly account for over half of revenues in the telecommunications equipment market, with Huawei being the largest telecommunications equipment provider in the world.

“If we concentrate it down to two players, I think that’s an unhealthy position not just for us as an industry, but also for national infrastructure in the country,” said Read.

According to CNBC, Read also said that forcing companies to swap out Huawei equipment in favor of competitors’ would be costly for operators and consumers. The added cost, said Read, would delay Europe’s 5G rollout by “probably two years.”

“It structurally disadvantages Europe. Of course, the U.S. doesn’t have that problem because they don’t put Huawei equipment in.”

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Read’s not wrong. A ban on Huawei’s network equipment wouldn’t be a problem in the U.S., which cites security concerns with the company. Namely, the U.S. is concerned that the Chinese government is spying on consumers through Huawei and its network equipment.

That concern is what led Australia to bar Huawei from providing its 5G network equipment to local carriers and might lead the European Commission to do the same. The GSM Association (GSMA) will reportedly hold a board meeting during MWC 2019 to discuss the possible ban.

The U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reportedly concluded that any security concerns with Huawei can be mitigated. The official report, which has not yet been made public, could derail U.S. initiatives to persuade other countries to block Huawei.

NEXT: Foldable Huawei Mate X proves Samsung’s market lead is not assured

LG V50 ThinQ 5G: Price, release date, and availability

The newly announced LG V50 ThinQ 5G is basically a souped-up version of last fall’s LG V40, complete with the same design and much of the same hardware. However, the LG V50 adds the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and, more importantly, it will be LG’s first 5G phone.

Don’t miss: LG V50 hands-on | LG’s V-series will be exclusively 5G going forward

What’s the LG V50’s price, when will it be released, and when can you buy it? We’ve rounded up all the LG V50 availability details we could find.

LG V50 price

Unfortunately, we don’t have a specific price tag for the LG V50 at this time. The phone’s predecessor, the LG V40, launched last fall for the price of $899, but that also wasn’t a 5G-compatible phone. The price of the LG V50 could be well north of $1,000, but that’s just speculation for now.

That north-of-$1,000 price point may only be for the unlocked model though, if an unlocked model is even available for purchase. It’s also possible carriers will set their own price points for the LG V50.

LG V50 release date and availability

The LG V50 might be here before the end of June 2019, though we don’t have an exact date. It all depends on when 5G networks actually start rolling out.

The LG V50 will be available first in the U.S. on Sprint, where the phone will use the carrier’s 2.5GHz spectrum. In addition, Verizon has confirmed that it will also sell a version of the LG V50, which will work on its Ultra Wideband network. Verizon will launch its mobile 5G network in as many as 30 U.S. cities later this summer.

Have any other LG V50 price or availability details? Send us a tip! And be sure to check out more LG V50 coverage below:

No Intel 5G modems until 2020, so iPhone might be a year behind Android

According to a new report from Reuters, chipmaker Intel will not release a 5G smartphone modem in a consumer-level device until 2020. This information comes directly from Intel, via a recent media event in California.

Apple uses Intel modems exclusively in the most recent crop of iPhones — the iPhone XS, XS Max, and iPhone XR. If Apple is planning to use an Intel modem in its eventual 5G iPhone, that means we won’t see that device until 2020.

This would put Apple at least a year behind Android when it comes to 5G smartphones. If the 5G iPhone launches in September next year — the usual month of new iPhone launches — it would be close to 18 months behind.

Granted, there are multiple ways Apple could avoid this. The most obvious is for the company to not use an Intel modem in a 5G iPhone. However, since Qualcomm refused to provide chips for the latest round of iPhones due to the ongoing legal battles between the two companies, that doesn’t leave Apple many viable options of where to turn.

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There is also the possibility that Apple could create its own 5G modem. However, that seems unlikely because we only just recently heard rumors about Apple taking in-house modem development more seriously.

Whatever the case, 5G Android phones are going to start coming at a relentless pace, starting in only a few days at Mobile World Congress. By the middle of this year, almost every major device manufacturer will have released or revealed its 5G smartphone.

It would be very strange if Apple didn’t release its own 5G iPhone until a year after this Android deluge.

Intel did clarify that it will have commercial-grade 5G products deployed before the end of this year, but no consumer-level products.

NEXT: Want an Apple laptop? These are the best and cheapest you can buy

Google is trying to stop a private sale of 5G spectrum

  • An alliance of satellite companies wants to conduct a private sale of 5G spectrum.
  • However, Google and a few other organizations don’t want to see important 5G spectrum auctioned privately.
  • The matter will likely end up in court.

The C-Band Alliance — a collective made up of four satellite companies — is trying to sell some of its wireless spectrum, which could be used for 5G connections. However, the C-Band Alliance is looking to make the sale private, something other organizations — including Google — don’t want to happen (via The Information)

Traditionally, spectrum sales like this are performed by the Federal Communications Commission, with part of the profits from the sale going to the U.S. Treasury. Thus, the C-Band Alliance knows it could potentially make more money from making the sale private.

However, an unregulated private spectrum sale could result in one company buying up all the spectrum which could tip the market into the favor of that one company. Google, Charter Communications, and other telecommunications groups oppose the private sale — and are ready to go to court over the opposition.

With the importance of 5G spectrum becoming ever more apparent as we get closer to its eventual rollout, Google and the other opposers believe a private spectrum sale puts too much power into unregulated hands.

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Companies that license spectrum shouldn’t have “the ability to hold the FCC hostage essentially in order reallocate spectrum for a higher and better use,” said Staci Pies, a senior policy counsel at Google.

“We think that an FCC auction is really the fastest, fairest, most efficient way to get spectrum out and make it available to all different kinds of players, including Charter,” said Colleen King, vice president of regulatory affairs for Charter Communications, adding, “We don’t think backroom deals by four private companies allows that.”

Meanwhile, a lobbyist for the C-Band Alliance brushes the oppositions aside, proclaiming that companies like Charter don’t want to see the private sale happen because it knows 5G service is a threat to its cable business.

Analysts expect the matter to go to court eventually. It’s likely that the courts would side with the opinion of the FCC, which would likely fall on the side of having a traditional, government-regulated auction for the spectrum.

NEXT: Why I hope AT&T loses the 5G E lawsuit

What is 5G, and what can we expect from it?

The world’s first 5G networks switch on this year, promising faster data speeds and lower latency to consumers. In addition, 5G opens up avenues to new industrial applications and is a critical element to build widely connected “smart cities.” 5G is the next step to provide better networking in our increasingly technological world.

Read Next: Forget mmWave, Wi-Fi is the real 5G

Around the world, companies and governments are ironing out the finer points of how to bring 5G mobile communication to the masses. If you’ve been wondering what is 5G, this is the current state of the industry and what to expect.

What is 5G? It’s all in the details

5G, just like 4G technology, is an evolving standard, which is planned for and created by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The ITU’s IMT-2020 preparations and 3GPP Release 15 specification lay the foundations for early 5G technology and rollouts.

The specification outlines 5G technology required to build these futuristic networks. High-frequency mmWave base stations, sub-6GHz WiFi-esque small and medium cells, beamforming, and massive multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) are just some of the more common technologies talked about. But there are also major changes to data encoding and infrastructure network slicing that are seldom talked about. These are all new technological introductions compared to today’s 4G LTE networks.

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The 5G standard is split into two key parts – Non-Standalone (NSA) and New Radio (NR). Today’s first 5G networks will be based on NSA, and are planned to eventually transition over to SA once that part of the specification is finalized in the coming years. Complicating the situation further, U.S. carrier Verizon has its own version of 5G to accelerate its rollout. However, Verizon plans to adopt the mainstream 5G later.

5G networks are built from a wide range of technologies

5G technology explained

The most commonly talked 5G technology is mmWave, but carriers will also be utilizing new spectrum in the sub-6GHz WiFi region, low bands below 1GHz, and existing 4G LTE bands too. There is currently lots of unused high-frequency spectrum, known as millimeter wave. The higher the frequency the more bandwidth is available, but the trade-off is that this technology has a shorter range than lower frequencies used in 4G LTE.

The overall idea is to greatly increase the amount of spectrum available by combining the pros and cons of all these different frequencies. Combining more spectrum with carrier aggregation (sending data over multiple pieces of spectrum) allows for more bandwidth and much faster speeds for consumers.

5G spectrum and technologies, mmWave, sub-6GHz, and LTE

5G greatly increases the amount of spectrum used to send and receive data.

Here’s a breakdown of the key 5G technology terms that you need to know.

  • mmWave – very high frequency between 17 and 100GHz and high bandwidth for fast data. Most carriers are targeting use in the 18-24GHz range. Reasonably short-range technology that will be used in densely populated areas.
  • Sub-6GHz – operates in WiFi-like frequencies between 3 and 6GHz. Can be deployed in small cell hubs for indoor use or more powerful outdoor base stations to cover medium range much like existing 4G LTE. Most 5G spectrum will be found here.
  • Low-band – very low frequencies below 800MHz. Covers very long distances and is omnidirectional to provide blanket backbone coverage.
  • Beamforming – used in mmWave and sub-6GHz base stations to direct waveforms towards consumer devices, such as bouncing waves off buildings. A key technology in overcoming the range and direction limitations of high-frequency waveforms.
  • Massive MIMO – multiple antennas on base stations serve multiple end-user devices at once. Designed to make high-frequency networks much more efficient and can be combined with beamforming.

Although lots of carriers like to talk up fancy advancements in mmWave technology, 5G networks will actually be a combination of everything. The various technologies can be thought of in three tiers, which Huawei explains neatly in many of its papers.

Low bands that can be repurposed from radio and TV make up the “coverage layer” at sub 2GHz. This provides wide-area and deep indoor coverage and forms the backbone of the network. There’s the “Super Data Layer” made up of high-frequency spectrum known as mmWave that suits areas requiring extremely high data rates or population coverage. Then the “coverage and capacity layer” sits between 2 and 6 GHz, which offers a good balance between both.

In a nutshell, 5G allows consumers to connect to and leverage the benefits of this wide range of spectrum for faster, and more reliable coverage.

Combination of 5G networking technologies will provide comprehensive coverage.

5G Non-standalone vs standalone

The key to understanding the differences between 5G NSA and SA lies in the network backend. The first 5G networks based on the NSA standard use existing 4G LTE infrastructure to handle the Control Plane. The Control Plane handles the signal traffic, managing how user devices connect to base stations, checking subscriptions, etc. Meanwhile, the data plane is what you and I actually use to send and receive data.

In a sense, 5G NSA can be thought of as just having an extra fast data pipe attached to existing 4G LTE infrastructure. The adoption of the 5G Standalone (SA) specification sees the control plane transition over to the 5G Core and marks much bigger changes for the way that networks operate.

Diagram of differences between 5G NSA and SA

TVS 5G Standalone implements the 5G Core and Control Plane.

In addition to introducing the Control Plane over 5G radio technologies, Standalone supports more flexible Network Slicing and subcarrier encoding.

Network Slicing is a form of virtual networking architecture enabling greater flexibility to partition, share, and link parts of the back-end network together. This will allow network operators to offer more flexible traffic, applications, and services to their customers. This idea is seen as key to realizing ideas such as autonomous vehicles and smart cities.

The changes to subcarriers are a little harder to explain. Technologies encompassed by this include scalable OFDM and sub-carrier spacing, windowed OFDM, flexible numerology, and scalable Transmission Time Intervals. Put simply, frames that carry data can be bigger and faster when higher throughput at high efficiency is required. Alternatively, these frames can be made smaller in order to achieve much lower latency for real-time applications.

The first 5G networks will be based on the non-standalone specification, before bigger changes with the full standalone specification after 2021.

Network slicing can already be done with 4G networks, but 5G aims to improve on the range of flexibility and standardize support. The yet to be finalized 5G Standalone (SA) specification (3GPP Release 16) will divulge more detail on the back-end technologies which will power next-gen networks.

Read Next: Don’t believe the carriers, the 5G revolution is still years away (SA vs NSA)

KT Telecom 5G radio equipment

What does 5G mean for consumers?

More important than the question “what is 5G”, is how it will actually affect consumers. Bottom-line, if you have a need for speed, 5G will help open up new doors.

IMT-2020 5G radio base stations will have to offer at least 20Gbps download and 10Gbps upload speeds to consumers. This refers to a shared link, so actual speeds will be lower. The specification states individual users should see a minimum download speed of 100Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps. Some of you might be lucky enough to see these speeds on your LTE-Advanced network already, but this will become a baseline level for all consumers on 5G networks.

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5G base stations will have to cover stationary users all the way up to vehicles traveling up to 500km/h (310~ miles), so your data connection hopefully won’t drop out on the train in the future. Fifth generation networks should offer consumers a maximum latency of just 4ms. There’s mention of a 1ms latency for ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) too. For comparison, my 4G LTE connection in London has a questionable 82ms latency, while the U.S. average is around 61 ms.

5G also wants to enable simultaneous connectivity to thousands of low power internet of things (IoT) devices and support device-to-device (D2D) connectivity for low latency connections between nearby devices.

5G vs 4G – key differences

Compared to 4G LTE, 5G networks will be consistently faster. Minimum user rate speeds increase from just 10Mbps to 100Mbps, a 10x increase. Latency is set to fall by a similar amount, from 10ms to just 1ms when compared to LTE-Advanced. The big increase in bandwidth also means that 5G will be able to handle up to one million devices per square kilometer, another 10 fold increase over LTE-A, all with a 10x boost to network energy efficiency.

5G vs 4G LTE speeds

  5G New Radio
(Release 15)
LTE-Advanced Pro
(Release 13 & 14)
(Release 10 to 12)
User Data Rate > 10 Gbps > 3 Gbps > 1 Gbps
Latency > 1ms > 2ms ~10 ms
Frequency Support Up to 40 GHz Up to 6 GHz Up to 6 GHz
Channel Bandwidth Up to 500 MHz Up to 20 MHz Up to 20 MHz
Max carriers 16 (LTE + NR) 32 5
Max Bandwidth 1000 MHz 640 MHz 100 MHz
MIMO antennas 64 to 256 32 8
Spectrum Sharing mmWave & NR
Dual Connectivity
NR-based LAA+
NR MulteFire
LTE-U (Rel. 12)

As we have covered previously, the range of networking technologies greatly increases too. LTE has undergone many improvements over the years. From the introduction of 256QAM and carrier aggregation with LTE-A to support for wider use of unlicensed spectrum through LAA, LWA, and Multefire with LTE-A Pro. This is why today’s 4G network is much faster than those built during the initial rollout all those years ago.

5G advances another step further, mandating the use of 256QAM and improving carrier aggregation technology to support more flexible carrier bands across unlicensed spectrum, sub-6GHz, and mmWave frequencies. The image below from Arm all the way back in 2016 explains this core difference rather succinctly.

5G networks around the world

The world is gearing up for the launch of 5G, both network operators and device manufacturers. As with the adoption of 4G LTE networks, 5G will be a staged process and some countries will launch their networks well ahead of others.

Mid-2019 is the date to keep an eye on, as both 5G smartphones and networks will be available to the first wave of consumers. However, deployment is not expected to ramp up on a more global scale until 2020 and 2021. Even by 2023, it’s anticipated that just 50 percent of consumers will have a 5G smartphone and network connection.

U.S. 5G rollout

The U.S. will be the first country to flick on its 5G networks across a number of carriers and in a decent selection of cities in the first half of 2019. U.S. carriers have been some of the biggest advocates of millimeter wave technology. Verizon is already the first with consumer 5G via its fixed wireless access service, but Sprint and T-Mobile are close behind with rollouts planned for mid-2019.  We’re actually waiting for 5G smartphones to arrive so that consumers can start using these networks on the go.

However, one of the country’s carriers has already been caught out playing fast and loose with the 5G term. AT&T’s “5G Evolution” is not a 5G network in any sense of the word, it’s simply an evolution of today’s LTE-Advanced networks.

If you want to keep up with all the latest deployment details as each U.S. carrier carries out their 5G rollout, check out the links below.

Europe trails the leaders

Europe is trailing behind the U.S. and the continent’s first 5G networks aren’t expected to switch on until late 2019 at the earliest. Although wider deployments aren’t scheduled until 2020 or later.

The UK is likely to be first with 5G available in major cities. EE is planning to launch its service in 16 cities this year. Meanwhile, O2, Vodafone, and Three still look set for a 2020 5G launch date. On the continent, operators have brought forward some of their plans, but major players Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefonica have only committed to a 2020 launch timeframe.

Part of this delay is that the European telecommunications ministers only unveiled their 5G roadmap for the block at the end of 2017.

Technical harmonization across spectrum bands isn’t scheduled to begin until 2019, with low-frequency 700MHz assignment scheduled for 2020 and availability expected even later in 2022.

Ambitious Asia

Japan and South Korea have been leading infrastructure tests throughout the 5G development cycle and will be right up there with the U.S. when they deploy.

In South Korea, major carriers are expecting commercial 5G deployment in the first half, if not the first quarter of 2019. A nationwide rollout is expected to be complete by 2022. In Japan, the 2020 Olympics are the next target for 5G millimeter wave trials in dense urban areas, and an agreement between Nokia and NTT DoCoMo will see commercial services begin later that year.

China is quickly becoming a major 5G player, tipped to accelerate past its Asian rivals and compete with the U.S. for deployment time. The country is home to major telecom infrastructure companies like Huawei and ZTE, which will provide equipment to carriers around the world. China has also invested $180 billion into mainland infrastructure, four times Japan’s investment. China Mobile is trialing its services in major cities this year and plans a full commercial launch in 2020.

5G signal on Galaxy Note 8

What about 5G smartphones?

There currently aren’t any smartphones built for 5G networks on the market. Unless you count the 5G Moto Mod available for Motorola’s Moto Z3. Still, a number of smartphone manufacturers are talking up 5G smartphone releases for 2019. Most of which will likely appear around the halfway point of the year.

There currently aren’t any smartphone processor chips with integrated 5G modems inside them. Instead, phone manufacturers have to pair up existing processors with external 5G modems, along with the required radio antenna modules. So we shouldn’t expect the first 5G phones to be any more powerful than their 4G LTE rivals. In fact, they may require bigger batteries to cope with the extra 5G power drain.

The first Samsung 5G smartphone is likely to be a dedicated variant of the Galaxy S10. The expected release date is presumed to be Spring 2019. Likewise, Huawei is expected to have its first 5G phone ready for the second half of 2019, but recently that estimate moved to Q1 2019. OnePluswill  launch a 5G phone in 2019. And of course a number of other major manufacturers, including LG, HTC, and Oppo, are all confirmed to be working with Qualcomm’s X50 modem for upcoming phones.

5G frequency bands

Just like with 4G, networks and smartphones will support different frequency bands for data transfer. In addition to the existing LTE bands, 5G New Radio standardizes a number of new ones for upcoming networks. 5G is split into two ranges, the first for frequencies between 400MHz and 6GHz. Range 2 accounts for mmWave bands between 24 and 53GHz.

5G Band Uplink Frequency Downlink Frequency Bandwidth Channel Bandwidths Type
n1 1920 -1989 MHz 2110 – 2170 MHz 60 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n2 1850 – 1910 MHz 1930 – 1990 MHz 60 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n3 1710 – 1785 MHz 1805 – 1880 MHz 75 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 MHz FDD
n5 824 – 849 MHz 869 – 894 MHz 25 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n7 2500 – 2670 MHz 2620 – 2690 MHz 70 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n8 880 – 915 MHz 925 – 960 MHz 35 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n20 832 – 862 MHz 791 – 821 MHz 30 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n28 703 – 748 MHz 758 – 803 MHz 45 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n66 1710 – 1780 MHz 2110 – 2200 MHz 90 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 40 MHz FDD
n70 1695 – 1710 MHz 1995 – 2020 MHz 15/25 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 MHz FDD
n71 663 – 698 MHz 617 – 652 MHz 35 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n74 1427 – 1470 MHz 1475 – 1518 MHz 43 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz FDD
n38 2570 – 2620 MHz 2570 – 2620 MHz 50 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz TDD
n41 2469 – 2690 MHz 2496 – 2690 MHz 194 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 MHz TDD
n50 1431 – 1517 MHz 1432 – 1517 MHz 85 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 40, 50, 60, 80 MHz TDD
n51 1427 – 1432 MHz 1427 – 1432 MHz 5 MHz 5 MHz TDD
n77 3300 – 4200 MHz 3300 – 4200 MHz 900 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 MHz TDD
n78 3300 – 3800 MHz 3300 – 3800 MHz 500 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 MHz TDD
n79 4400 – 5000 MHz 4400 – 5000 MHz 600 MHz 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 MHz TDD
n75 1432 – 1517 MHz 85 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz SDL
n76 1427 – 1432 MHz 5 MHz 5 MHz SDL
n80 1710 – 1785 MHz 75 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 MHz SUL
n81 880 – 915 MHz 35 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz SUL
n82 832 – 862 MHz 30 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz SUL
n83 703 – 748 MHz 45 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz SUL
n84 1920 – 1980 MHz 60 MHz 5, 10, 15, 20 MHz SUL
n257 26.5 – 29.5 GHz 26.5 – 29.5 GHz 3 GHz 50, 100, 200, 400 MHz TDD
n258 24.250 – 27.5 GHz 24.250 – 27.5 GHz 3.250 GHz 50, 100, 200, 400 MHz TDD
n260 37 – 40 GHz 37 – 40 GHz 3 GHz 50, 100, 200, 400 MHz TDD


Hey AT&T, stop lying to your customers about 5G

AT&T is at it again. A generation ago, AT&T began marketing 3G technologies as 4G in order to make up for its initial lack of 4G coverage. Fast forward to 2019 and AT&T is doing the same thing. The company is marketing LTE 4G as “5G E” on select Android devices in order to fool customers into thinking they’ve received some sort of upgrade. They haven’t.

This is pathetic, AT&T, and you should be ashamed. And yet somehow, you’re not.

AT&T’s 5G Evolution is simply rebranded LTE-Advanced. It relies on 256QAM, 4×4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation to improve throughput and speeds on compatible devices. AT&T has increased the footprint of this LTE-A technology rapidly over the last year and it is now in more than 400 markets. That’s laudable, but 5G it ain’t.

AT&T coined the 5G Evolution marketing term in 2017. From Day One, the press has rightfully called out AT&T for its bogus and confusing nomenclature. This month AT&T took things to a new low: The company pushed a minor software update to nearly 20 different Android models. Those devices now show “5G E” in the status bar at the top of the screen instead of “4G LTE.”

Consumers who are paying attention know there is no technology improvement here, there’s no actual upgrade, they aren’t connecting to a real mobile 5G network. Not every consumer is as informed, and surely some believe their phones are magically faster. In other words, the change, which is a lie, may be confusing to some people.

AT&T doesn’t care.

Last week during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, AT&T executives doubled-down on the lie.

Igal Elbaz, AT&T senior vice president for wireless technology, told Tom’s Guide, “What we’re trying to do is two things. One is to let the customer know that they are in an enhanced experience market or area. So we’re letting them know this on the device.”

When pushed about the misleading marketing, Elbaz replied, “Our customers will love it.” (Psst, Elbaz, as an AT&T customer I can tell you I’m not lovin’ it. In fact, quite the opposite.)

John Donovan, AT&T Communications CEO, also defended the lie saying, “We felt we had to give [customers] an indicator of when they getting twice traditional 4G speeds.” While LTE-A does provide faster speeds than LTE, it’s still 4G. Calling it anything else is just plain wrong.

AT&T defended the lie.

Eric Zeman

Why is AT&T lying like this? Perhaps the answer is perception. All the major networks are scurrying to launch mobile 5G as rapidly as possible. Each wants to scream “First!” like a 12 year old YouTube commenter.

In October, Verizon launched a non-standard, fixed 5G network in a handful of markets. This is specifically an in-home broadband replacement service. In December, AT&T launched standards-based 5G in a handful of markets. A single device, a $499 mobile hotspot, can access that mobile 5G service. Sprint and T-Mobile are still working on their 5G plans and expect to get things up and running by mid-year.

AT&T’s competitors lashed the company for its approach. Verizon took out a full-page ad bashing AT&T, while Sprint, and T-Mobile also derided the company.

What bugs me most about this is AT&T’s complete and utter disregard for the truth. The company is intentionally misleading its own customers. It makes me sick.