5G is almost here: So much speed, but you won’t need it

December 17, 2018 10:00 am


As we approach the end of the year, and with 5G technology right around the corner, we take a look at the countries with the fastest mobile internet speeds. Norway has taken the lead, and a certain GCC country has made it into the upper ranks.

Yet, with limited data plans, do mobile speeds matter in the grand picture?

The countries with the fastest mobile internet

This week, Statista created a chart based on mobile internet research results conducted by online speed test company Ookla back in July for the Q1-Q2 period.

(Chart by Statista)

As depicted above, Norway lead the pack, with a mean of 67.17 megabits per second (Mbps), followed by Iceland, Singapore and Canada.

Sneaking its way into the top 10 was the UAE, which ranked 7th with an average speed of 52.9 Mbps. This put it leagues above countries like the US, Germany and France, who scored averages around the 30 Mbps mark.

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How much data is needed to stream your favorite apps?

To put things in perspective, Statista noted that an internet speed of 25 Mbps is required to stream Netflix videos in Ultra HD. Netflix recommends a 3.0 Mbps speed for streaming in SD, and 5 Mbps for regular HD. So, in Netflix’s home country, users with an average speed mobile connection can get by streaming Ultra HD content, while customers in Norway, Canada and the UAE do it effortlessly.

Yet, Ultra HD is still a luxury, and episodes of such quality require massive amounts of data. Given a 2 Gb or 5 Gb data plan, you’re hardly inclined to burn through your 20 or 30$ monthly plan to get your Ultra HD fix of a Netflix movie.

But there’s no need to make such a leap. Circle back to less data-hungry services, like YouTube, or Skype.

The following speeds are required to run Skype:

(Official numbers provided by Skype)

For a regular voice call, a mere 100 kbps speed is needed. As for a video call, a speed of 500kbps is required, or 1.5 Mbps for HD calls.

As for YouTube, a meager 500kbps is needed to stream at the lowest quality.

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You don’t need 5G

So, where’s the massive data requirement here? Current operator estimates claim that 5G will deliver a service 1000 times faster than 4G, potentially exceeding 10 Gbps in download speed. According to this estimate, you’d be able to download an HD film in less than a second.

These same companies are touting this network technology as the enabler of cutting-edge innovations.

“[5G] will ultimately deliver and enhance experiences like virtual reality, future driverless cars, immersive 4K video and more,” Melissa Arnoldi, president of AT&T Technology and Operations, said in a statement this year.

But, why does the average consumer care about all this? What would a middle-class consumer realistically care about a novelty tech such as driverless cars within the next 5 years? This is pure marketing talk.

As for the groundbreaking download speeds, no person in their right mind would use this super-fast service and exhaust their data plan. At home with an unlimited 5G Wi-Fi connection? Sure. On a data plan? Absolutely not.

In world-leading Norway, for example, data plans are as standard as anything you’d find in lower ranked countries. You have 1 Gb data packages, as well as 2 Gb, 5 Gb, and others. The reason for that is that Norway is littered with free Wi-Fi hotspots, which really eliminates the need for heavy mobile internet usage.

As cities in Norway and across the world become smarter, the proliferation of free Wi-Fi hotspots will progress onwards, decreasing the importance of mobile internet on the go. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, is hoping to provide the entire world with free Wi-Fi, unrestrained by individual routers and cell towers. It’s a fantasy at this point, but this is the world we are steering towards.

So will 5G find a place in our life in the coming years? Definitely, but it won’t have the grand impact that telecom companies would have you believe – at least not on your average consumer, and not in the immediate future.

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Mark Anthony Karam
By Mark Anthony Karam
Journalist
Mark Anthony Karam has 3 years of experience in the field of visual and written media, having earned his Masters degree from the UK. You can get in touch with him here: [email protected]



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