Smartphone manufacturers will multiply ads and 5G-compatible smartphone launches in 2019. Before making an investment in a new smartphone, it seems legitimate for us to ask the question of 5G. Should I buy a 5G smartphone in 2019? In reality, the answer to this question is not so simple to give.
Different steps needed
The deployment of 5G will indeed start in 2019 in France, but this is only the first step of a long road that will last several years. Currently, mobile operators are still waiting for the allocation of new frequencies in the 3.4-3.8 GHz, 26 GHz and 1.4 GHz bands. The call for applications will be launched from mid-2019.
Once the allocation is complete, the first step will be to deploy 5G in the 3.5 GHz bands of the 5G Non-Standalone that operates the 4G network.
Read on FrAndroid: Up to 2 Gbps and 10 ms, how Orange intends to deploy its 5G in 2019
The various experiments of Orange in France in Marseille, Nantes, Lille and Paris have already begun, they consist of the deployment of a few dozen antennas for a few hundred lucky handpicked. Unfortunately, as long as the frequency bands are not allocated, there is no question for operators to launch commercial offers.
This 5G is called Sub-6 because it uses high frequencies. For operators, this is the simplest step because they can replace the antennas currently used for the 2G-3G-4G. This deployment should therefore be fairly rapid in 2020, but it will not be expected to significantly improve network performance. Early users will be able to expect rates of 200 Mbit to 1 Gbit in downstream rate and 20 to 60 Mbit in upstream rate for a latency of about 10 to 15 ms.
And again, experiments are necessary because the configuration of the wave spectrum is different depending on the country. In Spain, for example, the band of 3.5 GHz Orange is broken down into several blocks of bands (20 – 40 – 20), and these blocks are not equidistant between them which is complicated to exploit for the operator .
The second step will be to deploy new antennas that will exploit the frequency bands beyond 24 GHz in the millimeter wave (almost). This is called 5GmmWAVE. At this time, we will be able to achieve bit rates similar to what we are used to obtain with optical fiber: 1 to 10 Gbits for the downstream rate and a latency of 2 to 5 ms.
On the other hand, the 5G mmWAVE requires smaller antennas. An Orange official told us that antennas should almost be installed on all bus shelters and on all street corners. There are not hundreds of antennas that will be deployed, but thousands. Moreover, the experiments continue, because the performances are still very sensitive to the environment. Between the seasons and the weather, when the leaves of the trees appear or when it rains, the impact is enormous on the performances obtained with the millimeter waves.
Already compatible devices soon on the market
Smartphone manufacturers responded quickly to the call of 5G. Local specialists such as Qualcomm, Intel, Huawei and MediaTek have already made 5G modems available. There are SoC variants equipped with 5G modems, such as the Snapdragon 855 with the X50 modem.
Xiaomi announced the marketing of a Mi Mix 3 5G to 599 euros, Samsung announced the Galaxy S10 5G (below), Huawei also added the 5G to Mate X, Orange also developed its own smartphone with the help a partner, Oppo is also ready … All these devices are compatible with the 5G Sub-6, this 5G will be deployed from the start. They are also compatible with 4G ++, like other high-end 4G smartphones.
Sony, for its part, is the only one to have announced a 5G smartphone (the Sony AG1) compatible with both the 5G Sub-6 and 5GmmWAVE, which is an achievement. Many media have made fun of the Sony prototype with these large screen borders, but Sony has managed to integrate antennas compatible with many frequency bands.
The first 5G smartphones seem to be very similar to 4G smartphones, but there are some elements that differ. First, antennas take up more space than 4G smartphones. Fortunately, these are versatile antennas that use a low-pass filter to use low and high frequencies. Unfortunately, these integrations have an impact on the weight of the device, its size and its autonomy. That's why Xiaomi or Samsung 5G smartphones, for example, are bigger, bigger and heavier. For autonomy, manufacturers have also made the choice to use larger batteries.
Should I buy a 5G smartphone in 2019?
The question is legitimate because investing in a smartphone with several hundred euros is not anecdotal.
To answer simply: we advise you to avoid 5G smartphones in 2019. Although the 5G finally arrives in 2020, the deployment will be progressive and it is not said that the current 5G smartphones are fully compatible with the 5G network deployed in La France.
The case of Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G (599 euros) remains interesting, because only 100 to 150 euros separates it from the classic Mi Mix 3 (about 450 euros). Especially since the Mi Mix 3 5G benefits from the Snapdragon 855, Qualcomm's latest chip. For this specific case, without having tested the Mi Mix 3 5G, it could be interesting to invest directly in the Mi Mix 3 5G (attention, also look at the Xiaomi Mi 9, alternative to Mi Mix 3). This question will surely arise with future announcements at OnePlus, Huawei, Honor … but we will update this article at that time.
We also recommend this reading if the subject interests you.
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