Motorola wants you to know that it died a true Verizon 5G connection on a true 5G phone in Maui, which over 330 journalists and analysts could see personally. It wants you to know that the phone has an incredible speed of 5 Gbps – enough to pick up a full season of your favorite TV show in a matter of minutes.
So when journalists tried Motorola's speed test demo, they obviously did the math. By measuring how long it assumed Motorola's 5G Moto Mod to download a 1GB file in a special Motorola demo app PCMag and PC World reported each independent rate of 470Mbps.
Did the Motorola demo fall? Are there any 5G in Maui at all? These are the questions we all wonder. When I spoke to Motorola, I assured that the test was real.
It was just extremely misleading.
According to Doug Michau, Motorola's Product Manager responsible for Maui demos, we actually experienced a true 5G demo that beamed data across a millimeter wave signal from an Ericsson base station directly to the 4×4 MIMO antennas inside the Motorola's 5G Moto Mod.
These files were not downloaded from the actual internet, but rather a server on site, which means we do not see real achievements.
More importantly, the files have been compressed into smaller file sizes when they passed the network, "said Michau. He also notes that compression is a fairly common practice, and generally a plus for end users because they still get the same result. "What makes sense for them is that they have the file size on your device," he says.
But is meaningful in the context of 5G speeds because downloading a gigabyte of file is not the same as just having the file on your device. With compression it is impossible to get any idea of 5G speeds or extrapolate 470Mbps + speeds from a 140 Mbps connection. And that means that the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit in Maui – the last, best opportunity for journalists to see what 5G really is capable of before AT & T launches the technology in a matter of weeks – can not really do the job.
Motorola says it was not unaware that compression could happen and it still explores how it could have happened. The company also claims that the demo was not a speed test for what it's worth. "We do not intend to mislead anyone with the demo," says a PR rep.
So what kind of speeds can we actually expect from Motorola's 5G mod? The company also made some level of setting there. Although theoretically capable of 5Gbps speeds, there are so many factors that Motorola now announces a conservative estimate of 300 to 500 Mbps. It's very fast, but it's less than a tenth of the full theoretical speeds. "We feel there is something that can be achieved," says Michau of what "the average user" can see.
Here is Motorola's complete sentence:
As mentioned during the event, the network and demo items were pre-commercial and set up over days. The purpose of today's demo was to show a live 5G connection on Verizon's 5G network using an actual smartphone and was not meant to focus on speeds, provided the 5G network used was temporarily set up for the event.
That said, and as you did, we performed some file downloads to demonstrate an actual download. As you were told, the 5G network at the event was limited to 130-140 Mbps. But in this demo environment there were many factors. Although we did our best to monitor, there is a chance that the files used for download under demos experienced some compression from the server or other network components, resulting in lower download times in some cases.
Be sure that what you saw today was a real life that served download over a working 5G mmWave network with a moto z3 and prototype 5G moto mod. Unfortunately, in temporary environments like these, it is difficult to accurately display speeds and therefore our demonstration was meant to show only the connection, not marking any speeds. When 5G becomes available in 2019, we expect to see speeds much higher than what appears today.
Misleading demo aside, I have to say 5G Moto Mod seems like a nice piece of tech. Motorola has actually built an entire 5G phone without a screen. It has its own Snapdragon 855 processor as well as the Qualcomm X50 modem so it can support both faster mmWave and wider range of sub-6Ghz 5G networks. It has its own 2000mAh battery so it does not drain the phone while you sport a total of 10 antennas to support 4×4 mmWave, 4×4 LTE and sub-6 5G at the same time.
"We think it's no problem watching a three-hour 4K streaming video on your device using the 5G mode without running out of battery," said Michau.
I can not wait to test it in the real world.
Photography by Sean Hollister / The Verge