There’s a lot more to 5G technology than most people realize. 5G is actually big — really big — as it stands to seriously revolutionize the way that we use technology by effectively removing the divide between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
As much as cellular technology has evolved over the past twenty years, it’s always been considered a second-rate alternative to using Wi-Fi networks at home, school, or work. While originally that was due to performance — early EDGE and 3G networks just didn’t provide nearly the same bandwidth — with the development of pretty fast LTE networks, it’s become more about the cost of using that bandwidth, although of course as many providers run fibre everywhere, even LTE can’t compete with the gigabit-plus speeds that people can get running into there homes.
Except that 5G can — and will — provide this kind of performance, and as it becomes more widely deployed, it’s going to blur the line between the kind of stuff you do on your home Wi-Fi network and the kind of things you can do on your cellular data network. In fact, many say that the long-term vision for 5G networks will be to eliminate the concept of home Wi-Fi networks altogether — all of your devices will simply be connected directly to the internet over 5G, without the need to deploy a router in your home, so it’s not surprising that Apple plans to use the technology for more than just smartphones and tablets.
A 5G MacBook
We’ve actually been hearing rumours of a cellular-equipped MacBook for more than ten years now. A couple of years before the launch of the iPad, sources inside Apple told us that the company was working on a MacBook Air that would include 3G cellular radios and room for a SIM card. While this clearly never made it out of the company’s skunkworks, probably at least partly due to the arrival of the iPad, it’s reasonable to assume that Apple has never completely abandoned the idea, and the development of 5G definitely means it’s going to be a good time to revisit the idea.
According to DigiTimes, Lenovo, HP, and Dell are poised to debut their own 5G notebooks later this year, with Apple expected to have its first 5G MacBook in “the second half of 2020.”
According to a translation of DigiTimes’ Taiwanese report by MacRumors, Apple has already finalized its integrated 5G MacBook design, and while it won’t be ready to ship until next year, the company is expecting to deliver better power efficiency and higher speeds than most rival designs. This is supposedly being handled by a new ceramic antenna board, which will cost six times more than a regular antenna board. Further, the metal chassis of the MacBook will require more antennas — 13 to 15 in total — which will also drive up the cost even further.
If true, we can expect a 5G-equipped MacBook to sell for a premium price, but that’s not surprising considering how Apple rolls; there’s a very good chance that the first model will be positioned in a similar way to the original MacBook Air back in 2008 — a premium “executive” MacBook for those who really need it.
While DigiTimes’ track record on predictions can be spotty at best, it has been occasionally right in the past, and this particular move makes a lot of sense for Apple. What we’re more skeptical about is when it will happen, as Apple is rarely in a hurry when it comes to deploying new technology like this. DigiTimes’ information usually comes from supply chain sources, so it’s highly likely that Apple is working on a 5G MacBook, but any information on timing is often just speculation on the part of supply chain analysts.