Your Smartphone’s 5G Icon Might be Bogus

Your Smartphone’s 5G Icon Might be Bogus

If you’re among the first early adopters of 5G smartphones, we’ve got some bad news for you: That 5G icon displayed next to your network signal might be lying to you, but it’s hard to say just how dishonest it’s being at any given time.

As with most things in life, it’s all a matter of definition. As it stands, there are two versions of 5G as defined by the GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications). The first, 5G NR, is akin to 4G LTE in that it is the true 5G standard that operates on its own network. 5G NSA, on the other hand, uses a different section of the 5G signal spectrum and requires an LTE network to piggyback off of—in other words, it’s not really 5G. Because of this, your phone may not be connected to a true 5G NR signal, even if it’s sporting the 5G icon. As long as your device is connected to a 4G LTE tower that at least supports 5G NSA, or is connected to 4G LTE and can detect 5G NR signals nearby (but is not necessarily using 5G NR), the 5G icon can be displayed.

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Now, to be fair, those instances are only what the GSMA has recommended manufacturers use as guidelines for when to display the 5G network icon, so it’s possible some devices will be more conservative about when to indicate that 5G is active. However, as the 5G Editorial Director at Light Reading, Mike Dano, points out, the only instance in which the GSMA prohibits the 5G icon from being displayed is when the phone is only connected to a 4G LTE tower that does not support 5G, and no 5G signal can be detected otherwise. In that case, the phone will display a 4G network icon instead. Unfortunately, things get worse when you fold proprietary network terms into the mix, such as AT&T changing the LTE icon on its phones to “5G E” instead.

All these overlapping terms are confusing and potentially disingenuous. For example, your phone may be claiming you’re using 5G, but instead of 5G NR, you’re merely connected to an LTE tower that supports a lesser version of “5G” at best. This might be because you’re out of 5G NR range, or it could be that your provider doesn’t even offer 5G NR in the first place. No matter how you spin it, if it’s not 5G NR, then you won’t get the larger boost in speed or other benefits true 5G touts over NSA. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to tell which 5G scenario you’re currently in unless you’re acquainted with the technical specifications of the cell towers you connect to.

Despite the potential confusion here, this isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, either. It’s a bummer for those who are under the impression their device is consistently connected to true 5G, but technological growing pains like this are par for the course with early adopters. As we’ve discussed before, the early days of 5G are going to be inconsistent at best—service providers have to build out their 5G networks, and smartphone manufacturers will likely need a few hardware iterations before they can build devices that can match the form factor, battery life, and efficiency of contemporary 4G LTE handsets. That 5G icon will probably become more trustworthy as 5G NR support expands, but for now, it’s little more than window dressing.

Source:- lifehacker

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