We’re going on 7 years since 5G was introduced back in 2016, and while I don’t expect grassroots tech companies like Purism to adopt new technologies like 5G overnight, I’m wondering if Purism has any plans to adopt 5G in the near future?
You see, I’m on the fence about purchasing a Purism L5 mainly because the reason for me being in the market for a new phone to begin with is that my current phone will stop working as of December 31, 2022 as the “great tower shutdown” of older generations of cellular networks will commence on that day. Clearly I’ll need a new phone by then, but I want one that will last me many years to come. As it stands, my current phone has outlasted the older generations of networks which shows you just how much life I got out of my old phone (10+ years).
I don’t want to spend money on a new Librem 5 only for another tower shutdown to cut short the life of my phone. I want that thing to last as long as humanly possible, so I would like the option to purchase a Librem 5 with 5G. That way, I can extend the life of my new phone for another 10 years.
It could be simple: get an L5 now and install a 5G modem later. But as has been mentioned elsewhere, there’s no guarantee that that would be sufficient (and someone smarter than me could point out why it wouldn’t, eg it would need a new antenna setup, modem’s too power hungry or hot, etc).
Wait, are these phone really that easy to take apart and install new hardware in? If so, I might buy one on that principle alone. In any case, you bring up a good point about needing a new antenna setup; and it certainly won’t be easy. I can’t even imagine the kind of equipment I would need to buy to set that up (my NanoVNA V2, for example, tops out at 4GHz while 5G tops out at 300GHz!). Is there even anything on the consumer market that reaches that sort of level? I can’t even imagine.
With that being said, you can see why I’d like Purism themselves to officially support 5G. Even if I can easily take apart and cold swap hardware, I wouldn’t have the equipment necessary to properly set it up.
The current modem is on an M.2 card. If you need to replace it, you unplug the antenna wires and swap the card out. Upgrading to 5G could be that easy, assuming firmware, drivers, power, antennae, etc can work with it.
Oh goodness no! I’m no expert in antenna theory, but my past experience with ham radio can tell you at least two things:
#1. At the very least, you’re going to need a new antenna. 4G LTE tops out at 3.8 GHz. 5G tops out at 300 GHz. As you can see, in no way are you going to be able to run 5G on a 4G antenna.
#2. After installation, you’re going to need something to measure your antenna’s performance; but at bare minimum SWR. A V2 NanoVNA could do this with a 4G LTE antenna (as its upper limit was 4 GHz), but as far as I’m aware, there is absolutely nothing on the consumer market that could measure the performance of a 5G antenna. That would be lab only kind of equipment, and good luck getting your hands on that.
So no, I don’t think that upgrading to 5G is something the consumer could do at home. At least not right now. That’s why we would need official manufacturer support.
It depends on whether you just want to use a phone with 5G (i.e. you don’t want the phone to stop working, you don’t want to have to bin the phone and buy another one) v. you want to fully utilise 5G (in which case no phones on the market today will be able utilise the full capability of 5G - and all current phones from all manufacturers will have to be thrown out).
As it stands today, “300 GHz” is marketing guff.
5G is available on frequencies that are quite mundane, and that could work with the current antenna. However right now you would be taking the integration risk and I would guess that there are priorities for Purism other than 5G support right now.
Most of the world is focusing on 5G for sub-6GHz frequencies, so their cell phones can use the same antennas as 4G. The problem with the mmWave frequencies is that they can be blocked by obstructions, so you need direct line of sight with the cellular tower. Phones designed for mmWave 5G need antennas along all 4 edges of the phone to deal with people’s hands blocking the signal when holding the phone, and many of them have 6 or 7 different antennas inside them.
Amother thing is that the frequencies over 95 GHz are basically useless for cellular communication because the signal is too short and too easily blocked. The US is only using 24 - 47 GHz for its mmWave 5G, and most carriers outside the US have decided that 5G over 6GHz is not worth it, so they aren’t bothering with mmWave 5G.
You have nothing to worry about. 5G is designed to share spectrum space with 4G, so it can be implemented without shutting down existing 4G networks. There is still massive investment in 4G and the amount of 4G coverage is actually expanding, because the cellular carriers know that it won’t be disappearing any time soon. Ericsson, which is the 2nd largest Telecom equipment maker in the world, says that 85% of the world’s population had 4G coverage at the end of 2021, and expects that percentage to grow to 95% in 2027.
According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), by the end of 2021, there were 906 carriers in 243 countries, which were investing in LTE (i.e. 4G), compared to 487 carriers in 145 countries, which were investing in 5G networks. Of those investing in 5G, only 99 carriers in 50 countries were investing in 5G standalone networks, meaning that the vast majority are planning to operate dual 4G and 5G networks.
I expect 4G to still be around for at least the next 15 years, and probably longer.