How fast is 5G? This speed demo gives us an idea

It’s un­likely you’ll see these same amaz­ing speeds when 5G even­tu­ally rolls out, though you’ll hope­fully see a dra­matic speed boost, re­gard­less.

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So how fast is 5G, any­way? About as fast as a pre­mium-tier ca­ble mo­dem, ac­cord­ing to a live test per­formed by Qual­comm, Mo­torola, and Ver­i­zon.

All three com­pa­nies showed off the tech­nol­ogy at the Snap­dragon Tech­nol­ogy Sum­mit in Maui, demo­ing a pro­to­type 5G de­vice on a pro­to­type 5G net­work. (The en­tire first day of the sum­mit was de­voted to 5G [].) Ac­cord­ing to the test, the mo­dem trans­ferred a gi­ga­byte’s worth of data in 17 sec­onds. That’s 0.0588 Gbps, or about 470 Mbps. That’s pretty damn fast.

Want to see it for your­self? Watch the demo at

Un­for­tu­nately, you have to take this demo with a fairly large grain of salt. And you have to ask some im­por­tant ques­tions: Who owns the net­work? What de­vice are you us­ing for down­loads? How far is that de­vice from the

net­work an­tenna? Is there net­work con­ges­tion? All of these fac­tors will af­fect wire­less speeds. While the In­ter­na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Union draft spec ( go. calls for 5G to de­liver a whop­ping 20Gbps down­load speed, such band­width will be shared with thou­sands to mil­lions of de­vices, all con­nect­ing and dis­con­nect­ing, and that af­fects per­for­mance.

Sharp-eyed view­ers will no­tice that the 1GB file in the demo down­loaded in 34 sec­onds in a sub­se­quent test, as the im­age at the top of this ar­ti­cle in­di­cates. In­ter­est­ingly, that’s much more in line with what net­work provider Ericsson told The Verge was the ac­tual speed of the back­haul net­work ( go.— about 140 Mbps. It seems that the com­pany used some com­pres­sion hanky-panky to game the re­sults, though the net­work was func­tional.

In fact, once we were able to find a sec­ond Moto Z3 and run a speed test on it, we recorded far lower through­put. Ver­i­zon ex­ec­u­tives man­ning the demo booth told us they were show­ing off the tech­nol­ogy merely to prove that it works.

The net­work in the demo used back-end equip­ment from Ericsson, and tapped into Ver­i­zon’s net­work, which we can as­sume was tuned for the ex­pe­ri­ence. But the phone it­self was in­ter­est­ing: a Moto Z3 with a ded­i­cated 5G Mo­to­mod that snapped into the back of the hand­set.

While we crit­i­cized the 5G Mo­to­mod ( as gim­micky, it’s the un­der­ly­ing tech­nol­ogy that made this 5G ex­pe­ri­ence work. And, yes, it’s kind of crazy—in­side the Mo­to­mod (not the phone!) there’s a Snap­dragon 855, Qual­comm’s ded­i­cated X50 mo­dem chip, and a 2,000 mil­liamp-hour bat­tery. It con­tains 10 sep­a­rate an­ten­nas in­side, and is op­ti­mized for the high-speed mil­lime­ter wave por­tion of the 5G spec. Ex­ec­u­tives said they didn’t plan to up­date the Mo­to­mod with sub-6ghz tech­nol­ogy, as that por­tion of the spec­trum is de­signed for slower speeds and a broader cov­er­age area.

The 5G Mo­to­mod will all ship in early 2019, though Mo­torola isn’t say­ing ex­actly when or for how much.

Carolina Mi­lanesi, a con­sumer tech­nol­ogy an­a­lyst for Creative Strate­gies, thinks that wor­ry­ing about 5G’s ac­tual speed is a red her­ring. In­stead, she said, 5G will do for the phone what the home gate­way did for the home—con­nect all of your de­vices, as well as pro­vide a speed bump. “But con­sumers aren’t think­ing of it that way yet,” she said. “They don’t have an ex­ist­ing frame of ref­er­ence.”

We now know that 5G will roll out slowly, though hand­set man­u­fac­tur­ers and Ver­i­zon are try­ing to buck the trend and push it out faster. So will you get crazy-fast 58.8 Mbps down­loads when 5G fi­nally ar­rives? Prob­a­bly not—though you’ll hope­fully get a siz­able speed boost none­the­less.

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