Why you don’t need 5G – 3G works just fine for most

Why you don't need 5G

There is major hype about 5G coverage and 5G phones from <$500, but what are the average consumer’s benefits? Let me explain why you don’t need 5G today.

First, a little credibility. I am Angus Jones, Editor of GadgetGuy’s sister publication Small Business Answers. This article is how I discovered ‘Why you don’t need 5G’. Well, at least not today and probably not for many years to come.

Why you don't need 5G
Angus Jones

In the late 90’s I was the Mobile Data product manager at Optus. My job was to monetise the newly available mobile data. This was way before smartphones. At the time, we were trying to get Joe Average just to use SMS.  Fast forward to about 2.5 years ago when I was in a senior marketing role at LG. It launched one of the first 5G phones available in Australia. I have been using a 5G capable phone ever since.

Now, jump forward to today (or at least three months ago). My phone started to have problems using LTE (Long Term Evolution), a fancy technology that carries a voice call over a data connection (VoLTE).  That data connection can be mobile or Wi-Fi.  Mobile carriers love it as it is a more efficient means of using their available spectrum or carrying more traffic on their network.

My problem was that whenever I received a call, the phone rang once and then dropped out.  Most annoying to my callers and me.  This occurred either because of issues on my phone or at the carrier. Indeed GadgetGuy wrote last December that if you have LTE issues just switch back to 3G, so let’s blame the carrier.

Now who or what was at fault is irrelevant – the key is what I did next.

I went into settings, connections, mobile networks (Android) and selected 3G (the settings shown below may vary)

G stands for Generation, and phone makers want us to buy 5th Generation (5G) capable phones vs 4G (Australian launch 2011). By switching to 3G (launch 2003), my phone started to work as intended. 

I am now using 17-year-old mobile phone technology. What has my experience been like?  I have not noticed any difference.

I proved that at least for Joe Average at least why you don’t need 5G.

GadgetGuy came to the same conclusion in its opinion recent piece ‘Desperately seeking 5G.

Faster internet download data speeds are the most significant difference from 3G to 4G to 5G. Voice still largely uses 3G and VoLTE equipped 4G and 5G when convenient.

I use my phone with data switched on all the time.  I send/receive email, use Google maps, trawl social media, do online banking, etc. The Xmas holiday house had no Wi-Fi, so I just streamed video over 3G mobile data. I did not see any difference over those three months.

I am a techie, so I have not forgotten them! In suburban Sydney, a speed test gives me a 3G average download/upload speed of 24/2.5Mbp.  Anyone who still has not moved to the NBN would be delighted with that.  No, I am not getting real-life 4G or 5G speeds of 50MBs to 100MBs plus but then I do not need it.

Why you don't need 5G
4G speeds will hit 150Mbps

But wait there is more.  3G phone coverage is better – 100% of Australians as against 9.2% for 5G, and being lower frequency travels through obstacles and buildings better. Best of all, it uses less power, so I am getting better battery life.

If it’s a carrier issue, then they need to fix it. If it’s a phone issue (I doubt that), I am not sure of the need to go back to 4G if not 5G.

GadgetGuy’s take

Angus is talking about Joe Average, not the power users who chew up 50 Gigabytes or more data a month.

Let me be clear – Telco’s and smartphone makers are hyping the hell out of 5G to make more money from you. New phone sales in a stagnant market, new expensive data plans and feeding the data addiction where, by design, 5G users consume 1.7 times more data than 4G users.

One of GadgetGuys most popular articles ‘Save money on mobile data – you could get it for free‘ shows the folly of blindly accepting the 5G marketing hype.

  1. If you’re someone who only uses a mobile phone occasionally perhaps. But that would apply to a very small percentage of users out there.

    Firstly, 3G coverage is not better as it’s being gradually shutdown right now – that’s right 3G is on its way out and by December 2024 will be switched off. Secondly, call quality over the 4G network is significantly better than 3G. Thirdly, with 5G devices it’s not just about massive speed. The new devices bring far more data security capabilities than previous generations of phones. Already over 3 million Australians are connective to 5G and the number is increasing rapidly. Telstra has over half the Aussie population covered with 5G and by end of 2022 this will be over 90%.

    Saying 5G is hype dislike saying the Internet is hype. 5G is completely new architecture than previous generations and will drastically transform the way we live, work and play.

    1. All your points are valid, and the author would not argue any of your points. But his point was that 3G uses lower frequencies and has a far wider coverage and in-building penetration. The fact is that the majority of voice traffic is over 3G anyway – VoLTE depends on the carrier and if bandwidth is available at that time. And as for the word HYPE – Telstra et al., are all over hyping 5G to a) charge higher prices for data and b) to drive flagging phone sales. Did you know that when 3G is turned off and repurposed to 5G, there are currently only 2 phones that can use it – OPPO Find X3 Pro and Samsung S21 Ultra 5G. Every poor sod relying on 3G for voice and pitiful but adequate data speeds for email (rural and blackspots) will have to buy a new phone.

  2. 3G? Come on. Obviously Angus only makes phone calls and never uses data to any extent. And he doesn’t mind that the phone calls often sound awful on 3G, even with so-called HD voice. Does he still use dial up with his business?

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