Key TakeawaysMore affordable 5G devices means wider traction for the technology.Getting more people on 5G means more resources can be pulled from old networks and put towards future development.Lowering the price of 5G-capable chipsets benefits more than just cellular devices. Wachirawit Jenlohakit / Getty Images
With most 5G phones ranging in price from $500-$1,000, depending on what you buy, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 480 platform is expected to make 5G devices more affordable. Experts believe it is the missing piece needed to truly push the technology forward.
In a recent Twitter post, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said he expects phones with the technology to start as low as $125, with the first models to be announced in early 2021.
While it's easy to get caught up on the faster speeds that 5G brings, the latest data network service is about more than just increasing how fast you can download content. With a firm foundation in place, 5G's true strength lies in growing the connections that we have in our lives, something that experts believe a more budget-friendly 5G-capable chipset like the Snapdragon 480 will make possible.
"You want more people to have access to it [5G]," Swarun Kumar, assistant professor in Carnegie Mellon's Electrical and Computer Engineer Department, said in a phone call with Ach5. "You want people to have better speeds, better connectivity for whatever they are doing."
The importance of budget-friendly devices is especially clear during the current pandemic facing our world. Following a very trying year in 2020, many people don't want to spend $500 or more on a mid-tier device capable of hitting the newer speeds offered by 5G.
By offering those speeds in a device at a lower cost, carriers will be able to help push more consumers onto the 5G network, which Kumar says is ideal when trying to clear the resources used by older networks like 3G or even 4G.
"These consumers, once they make that investment, are not going to make another investment for a substantial period of time as well," Kumar said. "So, if networks are being upgraded then older bands need to be retired to make way and make room. It leads to much more exclusion of the consumer base if the products aren't available in time or at a price where consumers can actually afford it."zhengshun tang / Getty Images
With Qualcomm's announcement of the Snapdragon 480 5G, we now know a budget-friendly 5G device isn't that far out, which in turn means we can expect more users to have the option to buy into 5G at a much more affordable price. The first step of this is making the chipsets cheaper.
"We all want faster connectivity." Kumar continued. "The more accessible and the more inexpensive the chipsets become, the more inexpensive the handsets become, the more people can adopt it. And you gain wider traction for the technology itself, and it can benefit more people."
Of course, cellular devices aren't the only thing that benefit from the advances made with 5G. Speed is important, but the advances made with the network also focus heavily on "ultra low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users," according to Qualcomm's website.
This is important for cellular devices because it allows more people to be connected in one area without networks being overloaded. Lower latencies also mean applications that make use of augmented reality and other advances in tech will be more reliable. Of course, these improvements also come into play outside of the cellular network—something that also will rely heavily on more affordable 5G chipsets.
"Things that you see around you, like your roads, your infrastructure, medical devices, and other things that support you are all getting connected," Kumar said. "You need to install a large amount of them at a lot more places for your traffic lights to be smart or for your medical devices to be tracked correctly."metamorworks / Getty Images
These large-scale systems like medical devices and smarter traffic technology also make having cheaper chipsets that support 5G important. A more affordable chipset means upgrades can be done sooner rather than later, offering advances to cities that can help make things safer for everyone.
If we really want to experience all 5G has to offer, then it's important to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. While the larger upgrades should be taken into account, getting people more connected is key, especially at a time when most of us are actively practicing social distancing as a result of COVID-19.
Faster network speeds, more reliability, and a better user experience as a whole are key reasons why making 5G more affordable is extremely vital to the technology's success and expansion.