Help Me 5G You’re My Only Hope

I live with modern technology and with the bleeding edge of technology in my home. But I don’t live with the modern Internet. What I mean by that is I don’t live with modern Internet speeds. Brace yourself when I tell you this, but my average broadband speed at home is 3.5mbps. Yes, megabits per second. My home broadband speed is not that different than the average speeds of third world countries. In fact, several third world countries have better broadband than I do.

I fall into the last mile problem we have here in the United States where estimates indicate approximately 15-20% of America lives in rural areas where broadband infrastructure is lacking. I live in a rural part of Silicon Valley that happens to be one of the last few unincorporated counties in the state of California. The price I pay for peace, quiet, land, and space is crap broadband.

For me, satellite Internet is not an option due to the latency problem that comes with satellite Internet. Some folks in our neighborhood can tolerate satellite latency but I can’t. Instead, a local internet company provides ISDN line of sight Internet access, but speeds go no faster than 10mbs per second. A double whammy of my predicament is the cost of our Internet. For that 5mbs speed, I pay 135 dollars a month. It’s a wonder anyone out here in the sticks has Internet at all between the price gouging and slow speeds. My neighbor works for Cisco and works from home and lives on video conferences all day. I don’t know how she does it with 10mbs and doesn’t go insane.

I’ve looked at every option, including the wireless home broadband offerings from carriers which still aren’t too much better. See this price to MBPS ratio from Verizon’s home LTE broadband service.

At some point, 5G will be my only hope. I’m just afraid it is still a long way off. The hope is 5G will expand the existing broadband infrastructure to allow more people to be connected to each access point and support higher speeds per connection that exist today. The other hope is the way new network technology for 5G can be developed is that it will not cost as much as past next-generation networks meaning costs will hopefully not increase but instead decrease. I have no idea if it will happen this way, but from discussions, I’ve had with the networks on this issue is conceptually I should be able to get 5G speeds at home within the same price range I pay today for 5mbps. Fingers crossed!

I bring this up to make a broader point about what the carriers goals with 5G will be and how that fits into the increasing connected device landscape. At some point you the consumer may have upward for five connected devices just to yourself. For example, your smartphone, smartwatch, PC or tablet, automobile, earphones, smart glasses (someday), may all have modems built into them. The barrier to connecting these devices to the Internet will be the additional cost per device. If we have to pay $10-$20 per month per connection consumers simply will not do it.

Instead, carriers will move to *unlimited plans. I add the asterisk because while these plans will be unlimited from a data perspective, they will not be unlimited from a speed standpoint. You will pay a set price for a tier of data. For example, $100 per month for 30gbs of data usage at peak speeds. Once you use up that 30gbs of data you don’t pay any more money, but your speeds slow down to 3-5mbps. In this scenario, carriers will want you to bring all your connected devices into this plan. So if you have a connected car, watch, earphones, PC/tablet, etc., you can bundle them into this plan meaning you still pay only one price total per month.

In this scenario, which is the one I’m told is most likely, the pain you will incur as a customer is not massively increasing prices when you go over your allotted amount of data. Instead, the pain will be that of slow Internet speeds. Honestly, I’m not sure which is worse.

The more I think about the connected device landscape trends, and how user behavior seems to consistently outpace innovation in broadband, I’m convinced we are decades away from having enough broadband for every person on the planet. 5G will hopefully bring us one step closer to consolidating all our connected devices at a reasonable price/bundle for consumers AND bring rural customers modern day broadband speeds. We expect 5G around the 2020 timeframe and hopefully carriers will stay on track.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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