Is 5G a total fraud?

Mobile phone service back in Maskachusetts was generally terrible, whether the iPhone 12 Pro Max indicated “LTE” or “5G” up at the top right. I attributed this to hills generating multipath and the righteous demanding that cell towers be built in someone else’s town.

We’re living in Florida, though, where a municipal landfill is the only hill, and the government encourages any kind of useful infrastructure. I think that all of the preconditions for awesome mobile data service have been fulfilled:

  • I’m fully vaccinated and so is our golden retriever, Mindy the Crippler
  • The Verizon bill is on autopay
  • the iPhone usually shows 3 or 4 bars of 5G
  • there are no tall buildings or hills around

Yet the service simply doesn’t work. It can take minutes to send a single photo via iMessage, for example. Looking up stuff on Google can be impossible. Navigating via Google Maps results in an “offline” display, even when the phone shows 3 bars of 5G.

Could it be that there is a working LTE service in most locations, but the phone sees 5G and latches onto it even when the 5G radios are simply broken? I’ve experimented with telling the phone to use LTE only, but that didn’t seem to help. Sometimes the Verizon network yields impressive numbers on a Speedtest, comparable to high quality home broadband circa 2010, but for any given request it is unpredictable whether it will take a fraction of a second or minutes.

Is this issue unique to my iPhone 12 and it will be #ProblemSolved when I upgrade to the glorious world of iPhone 13? Or are other folks having similar issues (3 or 4 bars of coverage yet it is tough to download an ordinary web page)?

Waiting for a page to load on 5G:


13 thoughts on “Is 5G a total fraud?

  1. The funny answer would be that the telcos are ripping out Huawei 5G equipment! But if LTE does not work either, it’s likely an overloaded cell tower.

  2. The directional antennas are aimed at people under 6ft tall. Like the last 4 G’s, the signal strength would be based on a carrier level rather than the number of packets received or usage of the network.

  3. If you have a pre-12 iPhone still lying around, try that to see if LTE really makes a difference. I suspect poor cell engineering from Verizon.

    It’s conceivable that for some reason it is trying to use mmWave, which literally cannot punch its way out of a soggy paper bag.

    Typing *3001#12345# in the phone dialer will give you access to a semi-secret field service tool that has all the info on your cell connection you could possibly want and then some.

  4. Back in June, Tom’s Guide (formerly known as Tom’s Hardware from the halcyon days) wrote a fairly good article on the state of 5G. It’s not a “total fraud” but it greatly depends on 1) Where you are and 2) How much of the time your phone can find a good 5G signal, which varies widely from place to place depending on your provider.

    My middling Samsung A42 5G was tested by PC Magazine using mmWave in CHICAGO and averaged 240Mbps down and 71Mbps up. Tom’s Guide notes the caveat of mmWave:

    “What’s not so good is that mmWave signals don’t carry very far, and they can’t penetrate physical barriers. To enjoy high-speeds, you’ve got to be in sight of a mmWave module, which means being outdoors in one of the 71 cities where Verizon has deployed high-speed 5G. ”

    As @Fazal Majid says, that’s really not very good at all, is it? My A42 also offers “mid band” 5G and LTE.

    I haven’t tried them recently because I usually keep all my roaming data OFF and turn all my app. data OFF to the greatest extent possible, as I am comparatively poor. I use WiFi whenever possible.

    Verizon gives me the phone for $5 a month but seems to want to get back all the rest of the $399 in a couple of months with data charges, and then keep going, so you wind up paying a few thousand dollars extra for the phone if you’re not careful.

    So it’s not technically a “fraud” I guess, kinda sorta, but it’s definitely a “haves and have nots” kind of thing.

    • I turned off my WiFi, switched on Roaming Data and ran a speed test and the Ookla 5G location map. There are no 5G signals within a 10 mile radius of my location. Using 4G LTE on the Samsung Galaxy A425G I got 8-10 Mbps down and 8-10 Mbps up, which was interesting because of the parity.

      Halfway through the 2nd test I got a message from Verizon noting that I was being charged $15 extra this month for the data. I suspect my father (who has the same phone) accidentally left his roaming data ON for the past two days and his phone gobbled up all the free data in the plan for this month. It’s the 3rd!

  5. Since it is Florida after all, why not just get out a gun and shoot at the cell tower? Maybe that’ll get it working better. Guns! Freedom! MAGA!

    I guess this proves it wasn’t the mask on your face in Massachusetts that was causing cell reception interference. Maybe your Florida problem is some fancy government RF weapon meant to defend the nearby Dear Leader’s home.

  6. Verizon is dead to me after Hurricane Michael. Now they are defacing the whole small town with mmWave 5G antennae as “make up” for their total failure. I’ll never know if it’s a fraud, but it is a failure. We used our TMobile LTE midrange Motorolas as hotspots for several weeks – no problems streaming, and they waived the data charges.
    Lets go, Veronica!

  7. I think for high speed mobile Internet you need at least 300 social credit points awarded by The Party. Being vaccinated only yields 115 for humans, 40 for dogs. Transitioning however would yield 200 for dogs, so if Mindy has any plans in that direction, buy him/her/zir/them a #Pride collar and enjoy privileged Internet!

  8. As far as I can tell, any discussion of 5G is completely hamstrung by the fact that no one can agree on what “5G” means. How can you have a discussion when everyone has their own definition of the term?

    As for the version that only works outside, whose idea was this? I have no use for this. Maybe people at a ballpark?

    • I already didn’t need LTE. 3G was enough even for videos. I think LTE is more bandwidth efficient for the carriers, so they forced it on everyone but maintained 3G speeds. I suspect 5G is a similar scam.

    • 4G also has greater overall network capacity than 3G, and 5G has greater still (e.g., due to blanketing the area with antennas).

      In a previous life, we were connected to the net with a microwave antenna. As I recall, the connection got spotty when it rained. So we might have that to look forward to.

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