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A 5G reality check

Data: Strategy Analytics; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

There seems to be a new 5G announcement every week — the latest being Verizon’s first 5G commercial launch on Monday in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, L.A. and Sacramento. But roll-outs are limited in scope.

Why it matters: Despite the hype about the first 5G-capable devices hitting the market next year, it will be years before average consumers experience the new networks.

  • Even after 5G is more widely available, many devices will still rely on 4G for roaming outside of 5G coverage areas.
  • By 2023, research firm Strategy Analytics projects only 6.5% of global wireless subscriptions will be 5G, while 70% will be 4G.

The other side: Some experts predict early uses of 5G will consist of fixed wireless and industrial “internet of things” applications, rather than consumer-facing subscriptions. The key to driving consumer adoption is developing compelling uses for the networks — such as new ways to deliver content or interactive entertainment — to give consumers a reason to upgrade from 4G technologies. 

The bottom line: We’ll be in a 4G world for the foreseeable future.

Go Deeper: Special report: The next tech wave rides on 5G

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