Are current 4G mobile phones really outdated?

In the latest "Three Bases" Rare in Scotland special, the "gorilla" Clarkson, who has gone through untold hardships, drove a trembling Lincoln and finally arrived at the "American Community" on the Scottish Islands.

▲ Driving the Lincoln Continental to find Jeremy Clarkson in Scotland looking for the American community.

Facing the desolate and desolate street, he hesitated a bit. However, when he saw the 5G icon on the iPhone 8, he firmly stated "Yes it is".

▲ The "Great Tour" that is more ignited than Su Ji 9. Picture from: Amazon

If you haven't watched the early Top Gear of "San Bian" and the current The Grand Tour, you may not understand the ubiquitous stalks of these three "British Gentlemen" in the show (mostly spoofs, but also the highlight of the show).

The 5G that appeared on the iPhone 8 should be 5G E more accurately. In fact, it is referring to the fact that in the early days of the American operator AT&T, in order to compete for the "5G No. 1", it directly replaced the 4G LTE icon with 5G E, a real "routine".

▲ You are not a real 5G.

For this, AT&T explained that 5G E is the abbreviation of 5G Evolution, which aims to show that the network services provided are faster than traditional 4G.

In this way, in the face of network upgrades, it seems that the most intuitive experience for users is network speed.

Theoretically speaking, the rate of 4G is 100Mbps, while 5G is soaring to 1Gbps, which is 10 times that of 4G. But in reality, it is difficult for 4G and 5G to reach the nominal rate.

Since the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the launch of 5G commercial networks in October 2019, the three major operators have launched 5G trial packages one after another, opening up competition in the 5G market.

Facing the general trend of 5G, domestic mobile phone manufacturers began to launch 5G terminals as early as October 2019. Up to now, almost (should be all) flagship products support dual 5G networks.

As a consumer who has personally experienced network changes, now facing 5G, there is no such "novelty" as in the early days, but has become "indifferent." The main reason is that there are no killer applications and scenarios in 5G networks.

The 4G era has triggered a wave of short videos on the Internet. However, when upgrading to a 5G network, the scenarios, requirements, and terminals are still the same. At best, the theoretical network speed is 10 times faster.

Reflecting in the actual scenario, the 5G network speed advantage is not as large as 10 times, which can be regarded as the gap between 80 points and 90 points. In the two years of commercial use, 5G mobile phones, 5G users, and 5G base stations have all reached new highs, but we are becoming more and more indifferent to 5G.

When Yu Chengdong reluctantly stated at the P50 series conference that “Huawei’s 5G chips can only be used as 4G”, but the conversation changed and emphasized that “Through 4G + Wi-Fi 6, in most user scenarios, it can also be used. Come and have a great communication experience."

Subsequently, Huawei launched a function called "AI Heterogeneous Communication Technology" for the P50 series, which is essentially pre-loaded according to the network situation to make up for the problem that the 4G network is not as fast as 5G.

Even with 4G + WIFi 6 and AI heterogeneous communication technologies, the issue of "4G or 5G" has once again become a hot topic nowadays.

Buying a 4G mobile phone now means falling behind?

Let's look at a few data first.

According to the analysis report of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, the shipment of 5G mobile phones in May was 16.739 million units, accounting for 72.9% of the mobile phone shipments in the same period.

And the total number of 5G package users of the three major operators has exceeded 500 million, with a penetration rate of over 30%.

Whether it is from the perspective of terminals (mobile phones) or operators, 5G is an out-and-out and irreversible trend. From this point of view, going to the car "4G" is indeed standing at the other end of the trend.

In practice, to use 5G, you have to pay so many points.

The first is the "old talk" 5G network coverage problem. For first-tier cities, 5G coverage is very high, but for second- and third-tier cities, there is still room for improvement.

▲ The 5G signal of Guangdong Province on the eastern coast is not fully covered, and most of them are concentrated in the core urban area of ​​the Pearl River Delta.

The second is the heat and power consumption of the 5G baseband, especially in areas with poor 5G signals. Frequent RF signal operation will bring higher energy consumption.

The third is the high tariff of 5G. In the 4G era, operators (especially China Unicom) have launched many Internet packages with a large amount of money in order to grab users, and you can enjoy one month of web surfing for a dozen or twenty yuan.

On the other hand, 5G tariffs, with several times the monthly fee, the traffic has not risen accordingly. After trying the 5G package for free in the early stage, many of my friends have returned to the 4G network.

Finally, the 5G killer application mentioned above has not yet appeared, and there is no motivation to upgrade. Imagine that if you switch back to 3G to experience the Internet for a day, it is estimated that you will be tortured to madness by the speed of the Internet.

▲ iPhone 11 Pro series that only support 4G network.

For now, buying a 4G mobile phone is not lagging behind in terms of experience. As for the estimation of the future 5G, no one can say for sure.

However, Zhang Yunyong, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and general manager of China Unicom's Product Center, said, "It will take about 5 to 8 years before the 5G network is fully covered."

Perhaps in these 5 to 8 years, the 5G landscape will be opened.

Where is the current 4G network experience bad?

According to the above, buying a 5G mobile phone now is just a "betting on the future"? This is the case, but not all.

I remember that when 5G was just promoted, many 4G users said that they were being "speeded down", and they rushed to the hot search for a while. In response to this situation, the Director of the Development Department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has made several explanations. The overall rate has not been reduced, but 5G and 4G share a core network. If 4G is not expanded, the activation of the 5G network will indeed affect the 4G network. rate.

In fact, there is another situation, which is the limitation of the "dual carrier aggregation" function, which is simply the speed limit for 4G+.

▲ Picture from: itmedia

4G+ usually refers to LTE carrier aggregation (CA, full name Carrier Aggregation), a technology that increases transmission bandwidth.

To put it loosely, the rate of 4G network is 100Mbps, and 4G+ can use several frequency bands according to different network environments and different mobile phone network support capabilities, so the maximum rate can reach 300Mbps.

▲ Picture from: Getty Images

However, 4G and 5G share the same core network, and the capacity resources are too tight. In order to relieve the pressure on the frequency band of the line network, the dual carrier is cancelled. Therefore, the peak rate of 4G mobile phone + 4G network is limited to 100Mbps, while the 5G mobile phone + 4G package will only Up to 300Mbps.

▲ Left: 4G package + 5G mobile phone, middle: 4G package + 4G mobile phone, right: 4G package + 4G mobile phone (poor signal).

This situation has continued to the present. The same mobile phone, the same location, the same card, after switching 5G, there is a significant gap in network speed.

But it also depends on the location. When I tested on the hellish Line 3, whether I turned on or turned off 5G, the rate was hovering between 60 and 70 Mbps. This is also an extreme situation.

There are two ways to solve the problem. One is to expand the 4G network, and the other is to vigorously build 5G. When the traffic migrates to 5G, the pressure on the 4G network will be much reduced.

But this will lead to another question.

What are the limitations of 4G networks in the next few years?

The rapid commercialization of our 5G network is not unrelated to the continuous infrastructure construction of operators.

According to data released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the number of 4G base stations in 2019 was 5.44 million, an increase of 1.72 million, while 5G base stations exceeded 130,000.

At that time, the crazy growth of 4G base stations was first to expand capacity to make up for the blind spots of the network, and second, to lay a solid foundation for the construction of 5G networks.

By the end of March 2021, there were 819,000 5G base stations, accounting for more than 70% of the total number of 5G base stations in the world, at an alarming rate. However, under the light of the rapid increase in the number of 5G base stations, the number of 4G base stations is 5.82 million, which is a bit of a drop in the bucket.

▲ Picture from: nikkei

"2020-2023 will be the main investment period for 5G networks", and "the density of 5G base stations will be 2 to 3 times that of 4G", according to a research report of the Foresight Industry Research Institute.

In other words, the number and density of 5G base stations are far from enough, and the construction of 5G base stations will be a key strategic deployment for operators in the next few years, while 4G base stations will no longer be the focus, or just to make up for network blind spots.

Gradually stagnating, this is the limitation faced by 4G networks.

▲ Picture from: bloomberg

Before operators have launched a 5G package price war and no killer applications, it is difficult for the network traffic to flow to the 5G network on a large scale. Most of it stays at 4G, but the stagnant development of 4G networks has restricted it. The 4G network speed is a bit unsolvable.

Looking back, are 4G mobile phones outdated? No, it still has a certain scope for it. If the operators do not maliciously behave, it will be enough to use the full coverage of the 5G network in a few years.

However, the 4G network, which may not be able to expand on a large scale, is a variable in the lifespan of 4G mobile phones and is difficult to predict. You can only bet on the late arrival of 5G killer apps, and the early start of operators' price cuts on 5G packages, thereby extending the value of 4G mobile phones and gradually reducing the pressure on 4G networks, but this is unlikely.

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