Almost all smartphone manufacturers are advertising at the Mobile World Congress with models that support the 5G standard. TheMirk believes that there are still ways to go for 5G to be a permanent replacement to the existing 4G in it’s current state.

The 2019 Mobile World Congress is being held in Fira de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Whether Xiaomi or Huawei, HMD Global or LG: at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), almost all smartphone manufacturers will be presenting new models that have 5G capabilities. In the coming months, they will go on sale in stores and online shops.

The future of the smartphone that was unveiled at Barcelona with the latest 5G standard looks exactly like the present. Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi has invited to the press conference around 1000 visitors into a large hall when Donovan Sung announced the new technology. He wanted to demonstrate how the new Mi Mix3 5G model boasts the future 5G standard – with a video call.

On the screen behind him, the conversation partner standing on a beach appears. The images are crisp and sharp, but the voice sounds scuffed. The applause is limited, even among the company’s fans, who are sitting in the front rows: Services such as Skype or Facetime have long made this possible, even without the new technology.

But for many consumers at the event the devices are not yet worth a purchase: It will be some time before mobile operators equip their networks for the new technology. And sooner or later there will also be a lack of useful applications. The biggest beneficiaries will obviously be the network operators.

The commercial introduction of 5G will begin this year – which is why the new mobile communications standard at MWC is buzzing with the topic. However, the development of the infrastructure is complex and will probably take many years: Network operators will have to build or upgrade thousands of base stations.

“There are no 5G base stations outside test areas,” says Torsten Gerpott, Professor of Telecommunications Economics at the University of Duisburg-Essen. “The technology will therefore only become market-relevant in one and a half years at the earliest, and if network expansion is delayed even in two and a half years,” the expert concludes.

What to do with a smartphone that can handle 5G? Video calls, as Xiaomi shows, are one option, but so are computer games or file managers that synchronize all data on all devices in real time. However, there is still a lack of new usage scenarios. The technology has been launched without any big and life changing use cases.

5G initially only offers an improved mobile phone connection, explains the market researcher at IDC. But that’s not enough to make it widely available, says analyst Francisco Jeronimo: “The speed will be there, the devices will be there- but there won’t be a rush as long as there aren’t any new user experience advancements”.

This is illustrated by a survey by the Bitkom technology association shortly before the MWC: According to this survey, many users are not prepared to pay a surcharge for 5G. Today, many users do not need more bandwidth or more data volume.

Smartphone expert Jeronimo has no doubt that the introduction of the new technology will massively change the way smartphones are used. He refers, for example, to devices with flexible screens that are particularly suitable for videos and games thanks to their large surface area – several manufacturers have presented such models.

But: “The market needs time”. Companies have to learn how to use the technology, software developers have to experiment with the technology and come up with new ideas. “This will happen and change our lives – but it will take longer than many think,” says Jeronimo. The spread of 5G smartphones will therefore initially increase only slowly.