We need to get 3G everywhere before we start looking at 5G

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North America is a big place and much of it has no service at all. How will 5G in New York or Chicago help?

I played a delivery boy this past weekend. A friend had an accident that left his foot in a big clunky cast and he needed some of his produce delivered to Winchester, Kentucky. Life can be hard if you’re running a small farm. Since I’ve never been one to shy away from a road trip, I happily volunteered to play truck driver for a day.

There will never be a 5G connection for much of America no matter what carriers and government officials try to tell you.

It’s a lovely drive through some rugged mountains and small-town America, but two things about the drive stood out — people do live in rural areas, and cell phone service sucks in a lot of places. Not just one carrier, either. There are plenty of spots where T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon all have no data service. Forget panicking when you see that dreaded 3G symbol; I literally mean no data connection at all.

I’ll probably stop complaining about waiting an extra minute because my LTE connection is under 5Mbps and "slow" out in the far west D.C. suburbs after eating lunch at a great little BBQ shack in east Kentucky and having no connection at all.

More: Explaining 5G: Millimeter wave, sub-6, low-band and other terms you need to know

Supposedly, this is where 5G is going to help. Guess what? It’s not. At least in any meaningful way. For 5G to bring service to places like this there needs to be profit in it, and if it was profitable there would already be LTE service there. Millimeter wave isn’t going to happen because no company is going to spend millions putting small cells every 2,500 feet along interstate 79, and low-band service requires the same service footprint LTE does so that’s out, too. Mark my words — there will never be a 5G connection for much of America no matter what carriers and government officials try to tell you.

I’m big on 5G tech. It’s going to solve a lot of LTE’s problems — where we already have service. Speeds aren’t one of them, but congestion and dropped connections are and 5G will help me and you hold a better signal in a bigger area once it’s up and running in places like Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles. It will take a few years but it is coming. But that doesn’t help if you live outside of the population belts and I know this because I live on the fringe of one. I get the great outdoors and nature and all that jazz along with coverage that drops off a cliff as soon as I drive 30 miles west.

There has to be a solution where everyone — and every post office and every school and every business — in North America can have high-speed wireless broadband unless they choose to live in a dedicated radio-quiet zone. I don’t know what that solution might be, but I do know it’s not installing half-assed 5G service in Chicago or New York just so it can be talked about in a press release or commercial. The FCC allowed carriers to gobble up spectrum and looks to allow Sprint and T-Mobile to merge so rural America can have high-speed wireless. Will someone hold a fire under some feet to make that happen?

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September 10, 2019 at 04:28AM