This week Apple released its iPhone 12 5G. It is not the first 5G smartphone, but it is the one that comes at the right time to drive the development and deployment of fifth-generation wireless networks in the world, particularly in North America, despite its high launch price.
According to the GSA association, there are already 444 5G devices in October, including 148 phones. Why is it important that premium phones emerge and be sold? So that the first adopters of the technology develop a market that allows to reduce the initial costs and to massify the technology so that it reaches the sectors of lower income and the business grows. Qualcomm already announced chips for low-end phones for 2021 to make 5G connectivity accessible to all smartphone users.
As of September, 101 5G networks had already been launched in the world in 44 countries. And a total of 397 operators from 129 territories were already investing in 5G (GSA). The pandemic has delayed tenders and commercial launches of 5G, including Latin America. However, Europe identified digital development as one of the priorities of the European Union Recovery Fund to boost connectivity, digital sovereignty and the competitiveness of the European single market. The European Union will allocate 150 million euros (20% of the fund) to digital projects, 5G, fiber optics and cloud.
Until September four Latin American countries They had reported an equal number of commercial 5G launches, in addition to 21 operator tests and several tenders at the door. Why is Mexico still not featured in 5G launches despite its neighborhood with the United States, one of the leaders in technology?
Mexico presents several challenges. 4G is not yet fully expanded and adopted and 5G will require that infrastructure for its initial deployment. There are regulatory obstacles for the investment and deployment of fiber optics in the country, both the mandatory sharing of that network and the municipal barriers for its laying.
Although the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) identified spectrum in different bands for the new wireless technology, it delayed the tender for the 600 MHz band by 2021 and has not yet envisaged releasing spectrum in the so-called middle bands (3.5 GHz) and in the so-called millimeter. As if that were not enough, the Ministry of Finance plans to charge high costs for the use of the radioelectric spectrum, which will further delay investments and deployments.
The United States put forward a comprehensive plan called 5G Fast to auction spectrum in all identified bands, including spectrum without a license for Wi-Fi. The US regulator adopted new rules to reduce federal and state regulatory impediments to implementing the necessary infrastructure for 5G. It also modernized outdated regulations to promote the wired backbone of 5G networks, incentivize investment in fiber optics and next-generation networks. It also had a $ 9 billion 5G Fund for universal service in rural areas.
The technical specifications of the iPhone 12 are perfectly in line with 5G Fast and US regulatory policies. The device is touted as “super mega fast” because it has a new generation 5G chip. What the advertising does not reveal is that all models are equipped to operate in the released 5G bands (sub 6 GHz), with the most advanced wireless technologies, for ultra-wideband, Gigabit LTE, data calls and Wi-Fi 6.
Today, October 16, the pre-sale of the Apple smartphone began in Mexico. Its sale is possible because there are 4G LTE bands and networks, but the device will not develop its full potential because 5G technology is not yet deployed in the country. Buyers of the iPhone 12 in the country will have a very fast team, but not “super mega fast”.
Although Apple’s new gadget comes at a time of economic contraction caused by the health emergency, the California company expects Christmas sales to meet its expectations. Speedtest ensures that “iPhone users are ready for a huge jump in speed with 5G.” In Mexico, 79% of mobile data traffic occurs on 4G networks (IFT).
The consultancy predicts that the arrival of the iPhone 5G “should boost overall US mobile speeds,” because nearly half (46%, according to Counterpoint) of smartphone users in that country own Apple’s phone, the best-selling one. A report from Speedtest revealed an average 5G actual download speed of 494.7 Mbps on Verizon’s network, 10 times higher than 4G speed.
This fabulous speed depends not only on the devices and their processors but mainly on the combination of frequencies used, hence the importance of freeing up spectrum for 5G in all available bands. The speed increase is achieved through the use of various frequencies. 5G devices connect to the network via the highest speed antenna within range at your location.
Before the launch of the iPhone 12, 5G smartphone sales accounted for 14% of total sales in the United States through August. Counterpoint explains that despite the impact of Covid-19, “consumers have shown increased interest in 5G devices as price levels continue to drop. 5G sales will likely increase further in the fourth quarter of 2020 when Apple launches its latest line of iPhone 12 with 5G. “
It is desirable that users with high purchasing power in Mexico renew their device so that operators see mobile data traffic grow, invest and accelerate the launches and deployments of 5G networks in major cities, as is always the case with new technologies. The first generations of iPhones were revolutionary because they detonated mobile data traffic on operators’ networks; that same phenomenon will be repeated with 5G. In Mexico the iPhone 5G is a Ferrari stuck in an alley.
President of the Mexican Association for the Right to Information (Amedi)
Media and telecommunications analyst and academic at UNAM. Study the media, new technologies, telecommunications, political communication and journalism. He is the author of the book The media presidentialism. Media and power during the government of Vicente Fox.