Hype or Hope? 5G Sounds Promising, But For Consumers, Details On Value Proposition and Timing Remain Murky

CoBank report says urban consumers will see more choices and lower prices, but rural America shouldn’t hold its breath on benefiting from 5G anytime soon

As the wireless industry moves closer to deploying 5G service, marketing hype is reaching a fever pitch with carriers touting a quantum leap in speeds, less lag when connecting to the network and the ability to connect many devices to the internet without bogging down the network.

However, exactly what one more “G” really means raises many questions, especially around how, when and where U.S. consumers will reap 5G’s rewards. According to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange division, to the extent that 5G fixed wireless becomes a legitimate alternative to fixed broadband, consumers should ultimately benefit from having more choices and reduced prices, but don’t expect too much too soon.

“In theory, the promise of 5G sounds great for consumers,” said Jeff Johnston, lead economist at CoBank. “But the reality is the type of spectrum being used in these initial network builds present significant challenges that cannot be easily overcome. Our key takeaway is that 5G is an exciting evolution in wireless, but the value proposition over the near-term remains murky.”

On the mobile 5G front, consumers should witness a faster connection, which will help usher in a new era of applications such as next-generation mobile augmented reality, virtual reality and self-driving cars. 5G will also allow mobile phone users to download videos more quickly and stream video at a higher resolution with less buffering.

Mobile 5G will first be deployed in urban and suburban markets, with rollouts starting this year. For rural America, however, 5G will start with low-band spectrum, limiting the upside in speed, and it will take at least five years before most rural areas realize the benefits of stand-alone 5G.

The enterprise market appears to be the one with the most revenue upside potential, even in the near-term, as 5G will deliver operational efficiencies above and beyond what is being realized today.

Watch a video summary and read the full report: 5G: What Does One More G Mean to You? 

About CoBank

CoBank is a $139 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 70,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.