An all–new network
The hype starts now, but don’t hold your breath for 5G
When can we likely expect 5G to hit iOS devices?
Apple hasn‘t generally been in any rush to implement new mobile data technology. In 2007, the first iPhone shipped without 3G, which already had 200 million users worldwide. It arrived in the following year’s iPhone 3G.
So it’s not surprising that while the iPhone XS and XR have very fast 4G chipsets, they’re not ready for 5G, which will be rolling out across the US and many other parts of the world starting in 2019. Like 3G and 4G, 5G is an umbrella term that refers to various faster wireless networks, and it‘s still very much a work in progress.
The International Telecommunication Union‘s program for next–generation cellular, IMT–2020, calls for a first phase of 5G in March 2019, so vendors can start rolling out services and see how they perform in real life, and a final specification a year later. As seen with Wi–Fi standards, waiting for it to get signed off won’t stop products coming out in the meantime.
Besides increasing data transfer speed, 5G development is focusing on reducing latency, or lag. If a web page or video loads smoothly, the fact that it started after a tiny delay won‘t bother you much. But for real–time tasks like controlling robots and ‘internet of things’ devices — whether outdoors, at home, or inside factories and warehouses — low latency may be crucial. For iOS users, it’ll also expand the possibilities for online gaming and augmented reality (AR).
Initially, some carriers will piggyback 5G on 4G infrastructure using ‘non–standalone’ (NSA) deployment, before moving to full 5G. That process not only means upgrading existing cell towers but installing more access points, a process that could be held up by zoning permissions as well as tech.
In short, expect 5G to be big in 2020, but we may not see it in fall 2019’s iPhone hardware. Any chance of Apple turning early adopter could rest on how quickly rollout progresses in urban China.