back to article After spending $45bn on 5G licences, Verizon tells customers to turn off 5G to save battery life

US telco Verizon is advising customers to not access its 5G network –  for the sake of their phone's battery life – mere days after spending $45bn on new radio spectrum. In a since-deleted tweet posted early on Sunday morning, Verizon said: "Are you noticing that your battery life is draining faster than normal? One way to …

  1. jmch Silver badge

    Auto switching

    "A phone using the latest connectivity tech would automatically switch between 3G, LTE, and 5G depending on what's available at the time."

    The context (and what I know of 4G) seems to be that the phone will automatically switch to the fastest available signal... but then isn't that a problem with the phone OS? Surely it would be a cleverer approach for the phone to analyse data requirements and switch to the fastest available network only if the data speed required justifies this, and otherwise automatically switch back to the least power-consuming option.

    Unless it requires a lot of power and/or time to switch between modes. Anyone know any more?

    1. DS999

      What they need in cellular settings

      Is a toggle between "best speed", "best signal" and "least power use". I would choose differently depending on the situation - but if I had to give up one of those options "best speed" is the one I'd drop. non-overloaded LTE with a good signal is plenty fast for me.

      Not sure if "least power use" is strictly different from "best signal", especially once 3G shuffles off the mortal coil in another year (at least in the US) and it is down to LTE and 5G only.

      1. ecarlseen

        Re: What they need in cellular settings

        "What they need in cellular settings is a toggle between 'best speed', 'best signal' and 'least power use'."

        The iPhone 12 has this.

        You can set it to use 5G only when the signal is strong enough to avoid meaningful excess battery drain (Settings -> Cellular -> (phone number) -> Voice & Data -> 5G On / 5G Auto / LTE), and there is also a setting it to control more- or less-aggressive cellular bandwidth consumption when 5G is available to improve streaming quality (Settings -> Cellular -> (phone number) -> Data Mode -> Allow More Data on 5G / Standard / Low Data Mode).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What they need in cellular settings

        You left out a "best PR" option - you know, the one that keeps a 5G logo at the top, even if it's the worst speed, worst signal, and max power use.

      3. yetanotheraoc

        Re: What they need in cellular settings

        I hope they don't turn off 3G any time soon, because one place I visit that's all there is, and they're not getting LTE soon if ever. Verizon sold off their coverage to small outfits and abandoned the market to them, since that happened there have been no upgrades at all. The signal is pretty bad in general, but other carriers are worse so I don't complain. I can only use my phone as a phone when I'm close to a known tower. One of the best places is on top of a mountain -- the ski area put a tower at the top of the lift line. Other mountains are out of luck though. Using it as a browser basically doesn't work unless someone has paid for wifi (not me I'm just visiting). I put it in airplane mode most of the time so it doesn't kill the battery constantly searching for a signal that doesn't exist. Putting it in LTE mode would not be an improvement.

  2. HereIAmJH

    High battery usage

    My experience has been that when you have a weak signal, your battery usage increases. If I'm going to be in an area with poor data coverage I'll turn 4g off on my phone to keep it from killing my battery in just a few hours. Verizon has very little 5g coverage. If you want to use it, you should probably figure out where that is and only turn it on when you are in those areas. For most Verizon customers, that will mean leaving it turned off for the next year while they build out their network. But that isn't the message they want to give their customers, which is probably why the tweet was deleted.

    1. ecarlseen

      Re: High battery usage

      iPhone 12 models have a mode that auto-selects 5G only when it's available and won't significantly impact battery life, and reverts to LTE the rest of the time.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "turn off 5G to save battery life"

    LOL.

    Just LOL.

    Mine's the one with the feature phone that can last a week on one charge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

      Time for the 5G boosters to energetically facepalm with phone with larger battery in palm.

    2. Shadow Systems Silver badge
      Pint

      @Pascal Monett, re: feature phone.

      *Hands you an extra tall pint & taps rims in empathy glee*

      Mine was last charged on Sunday of the week before; it's still got 24% charge remaining. Depending on how many calls/texts I get/make, it'll probably go until Wednesday before I have to recharge it.

      Wanna join me for a game of darts while we make silly faces at the silly sods all pushing & shoving to find a free plug for their smart phone chargers? =-)p

      *Ducks & runs before someone flings a smart phone at my head*

      1. sev.monster Bronze badge

        Re: @Pascal Monett, re: feature phone.

        For most smartphones, the number one battery-killer is actually the display. As long as you keep data disabled unless you need it (I do) and get rid of all the trash bloat background running apps that you never use (I run a very slim Lineage build with no bloat apps and disable background services for the closed-source behemoths that no FOSS alternative exists for) and keep the display brightness on low when you do use it (I do) then you can go a good while before charging. When my phone was new I could go a week or longer without charging and be totally fine; now that it's been a good few years and my capacity has diminished, I can go a half a week on standby with some calling and texting before being worried about needing a top-up. I also only charge to 80–85% to help preserve my battery for longer.

        Also, I carry a small 5000mAh battery bank so I am never scurrying away to find a charger—I can get two 85% charges out of it. (My original battery capacity on my phone was 3300mAh.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

      Would yours be the phone that can't show you the latest scores as they happen, pay the barman for your pint, call an Uber to get you home or show the driver where you live? No wonder it doesn't need charging, it doesn't bloody do anything.

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

        You're right -- it doesn't let me surf the web, it doesn't run apps, it doesn't let me check my bank nor make payments, nor any of those "smart" bits -- it only lets me make & take phone calls & messages because, wait for it, it's just a bloody phone. You know, one of the whole reasons for owning the thing in the first place? =-)p

        Don't mock the feature phone -- it may not be your cuppa but it's exactly what some of us want/need/require in a communications device that fits in a trouser pocket not designed by giants to hold entire herds of livestock. =-)

        *Hands you a pint*

        I accept & acknowledge that a feature phone isn't right for everyone, use what's right for you, but in that same vein please understand that some of us value a battery life measured in weeks much more than a "smarter" phone that needs to be plugged in every night 'cuz itcan(not) barely make it through a single day doing everything & the kitchen sink. =-Jp

        1. sev.monster Bronze badge

          Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

          ...Aaaand 2G gets killed and you're left out in the dirt.

          Do they make 3G "feature phones"?

          https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/best-feature-phones/

          Huh. Guess they do.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

            My guess is that 2G is going to outlast 3G and possibly 4G too. There seem to be quite a lot of embedded devices out there which rely on 2G for connectivity - devices calling home with small amounts of data, for which GPRS is more than sufficient and the mature, robust, cheap and battery-friendly technology of 2G is ideally suited, and don't forget that for several years after the introduction of 4G, voice wasn't reliable and many phones dropped back to 3G or even 2G to make simple voice calls.

            Feature phones are available with 4G now, too. Nokia has been selling a range for some time with KaiOS (it's also entertaining to investigate the history of KaiOS!). The proposition is appealing - they're generally more robust than a typical smartphone, unlike a "dumb phone" they can do email and basic web browsing and have "apps" for those people who simply can't be without Twitface, but they also come with WiFi and can be used as hotspots to share their 4G connection, so if you need a more capable web browser you can simply fire up your tablet or laptop.

            The big downside is that their costs of £70 - £100 are comparable to those of a basic smartphone and they come with pretty dire cameras, so the value proposition is a bit low and for many uses (children spring to mind) a £20 or £30 dumbphone is actually perfectly sufficient.

            M.

            1. sev.monster Bronze badge

              Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

              Very true, I just have seen various pushes to phase out 2G technology despite its obvious benefits. I wonder how many little forgotten devices around the world make use of it, and what would break if it could no longer connect? Elevator emergency phones are one...

              Though, one rebuttal is that I really don't see any 4G (at least) technologies getting killed any time soon; with how poor reception on 5G has been in areas without repeaters, I imagine it will be around for a while more.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

                >> I really don't see any 4G (at least) technologies getting killed any time soon

                Depends on your definition of soon and which 5G you are talking about. 5G sub-6GHz can quite easily replace 4G as the network cell sizes are similar. The 5G specification permits use across all of the 4G bands and more, so there is a ready path for spectral refarming.

                The timescales would be about balancing the ROI from exclusive 5G spectrum use and terminal equipment in the field. As data usage goes up, 4G will become inefficient (cell capacity NOT throughput - it is not about speed of the spec, it is about speed across users). At some point it will become bad opex.

                Data usage will go up - Verizon has clever people to decide how to spend $45 bn.

                Sure the 20 folk here will just make phone calls on their feature phones and be happy with 10 kbps but that is an irrelevant aberration for a modern cellular provider and their customers.

                The reality here is that turning off a new wireless technology is sensible in the early days of deployment, particularly if you move afar a lot (or conversly stuck in one place without the tech). It is the same effect as going to somewhere without 4G or any network coverage. Nothing to do with 5G. This was true for 4G and will be true for 8G.

                I suppose if there was intelligence to use GPS assisted modem enables, then it can be made transparent to the user. But the cost of maintaining such a database would be hard to justify. I doubt people will switch network providers because of an auto-5G-enable feature.

    4. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: "turn off 5G to save battery life"

      "Mine's the one with the feature phone that can last a week on one charge."

      Mine's the one with a single device that can run my entire business.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm somewhat miffed

    I wasn't fully sold on the 5G hype, but I did believe it would at least have a better power use than its predecessors, if only by being a protocol where that would be designed in from the beginning, front and center.

    It is disappointing.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: I'm somewhat miffed

      From what I understand, 5G is more efficient, but only if the 5G mast is close by, and by close I mean within a few tens of meters, not say a km+ away like a typical cell tower.

      One of the ideas was that you add 5G to the main cell towers (same as 3G etc), then add repeaters in the areas between the main cell towers every 50m or so. One plan being to add them to street lights as they get replaced, or local road signs etc. (The repeaters only need power, they use a microwave link for data).

      That way in theory, mobile phones are only a few tens of meters away from a 5G signal, so can run at a lower power.

      The issue seems to be that whilst many main cell towers have had 5G added, very few of the repeaters have been installed yet. (Costs, NIMBY, not rolled out yet etc etc).

      So instead of the phones connecting to a cell only a few 10s of meters away, and so allowing for lower power usage, they are still having to connect to the main cell towers, which are typically further away, and in that use case, 5G seems to be worse than 3G/4G for power consumption.

      I suspect till there are lots of 5G repeaters all over an area, you'd probably be better sticking with 4G/3G etc, at least for power usage issues.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: I'm somewhat miffed

        >One plan being to add them to street lights as they get replaced, or local road signs etc. (The repeaters only need power, they use a microwave link for data).

        Easier said than done...

        Basically, you need the permission of whoever owns the lamp or sign to mount anything permanent on it and to tap into the power supply. Naturally, this space and power doesn't come free, also many lamp posts are being switched off and removed...

        However, this overlooks the backhaul issue. Microwave is basically line-of-sight, which from most (UK) street furniture means the only path is down the length of the pavement - any route that involves crossing traffic only becomes viable (and reliable) if the microwave equipment can be mounted at 5+ metres ie. higher than a double decker bus. Naturally, in all cases trees and other vegetation can also cause problems.

        Given what's involved, I suspect the networks aren't really bothering with repeaters - only deploying them in certain and limited situations.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm somewhat miffed

        There are two 5G specs - 5G sub-6GHz and mmwave.

        5G sub-6GHz can use all the 4G frequencies and more. it has thus the same range properties and can be seen as a drop-in replacement for 4G.

        mmwave is what you are talking about with restricted range - this indeed needs all the repeaters, backhaul and what not. It is meant for limited deployment in my opinion, think stadiums, subways, airports, indoor malls etc. Outdooors perhaps where there is very heavy footfall. This is where scepticism of the 5G marketing hype is warranted IMo - uniquitous mmwave is a long way away.

        But that is not license to start ignoring the actual benefits of 5G, and falling victim to misplaced cynicism.

        efficiency per bit transferred is a complex topic - you could be more efficient with a slower data rate for eg, but that does not meet the expectations and requirements. similarly quantifying band congestion versus justifiable power usage are not trivial outcomes to determine.

        The power consumption here is not because of the 5G specification, every spec revision improves on cell capacity and throughput efficiency as the modems can take on more computing power.

        The power consumption in this case is because coverage is scant and so it has to keep legacy connection alive in parallel for voice and texts. This was true for 4G as well in its early days. Very few people will be happy with just 3G coverage today.

        I am certain people will be unhappy with just having 4G coverage in time.

  5. Howard Sway

    Return of the brick sized phone

    Who could ever have predicted that much higher processing requirements would use much more battery power?

    Now the phone companies need to start convincing punters that the fashionable thing is no longer to boast about how thin your phone is, but how thick it is, as the bigger the battery is, the more it can do.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Return of the brick sized phone

      >Who could ever have predicted that much higher processing requirements would use much more battery power?

      Not necessarily as power requirements per 1mm^2 of silicon have tended to be constant. Hence why Huawei's HiSilicon/Kirin 7nm and now 5nm SoCs can be both faster and consume less power than a 10nm SoC. But then you can only get Huawei SoCs in Huawei phones, which given the US government currently has a major downer on Huawei....

      The major power consumer on 5G phones is really the radio and the number of frequency bands and antennas that need to be concurrently handled.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Return of the brick sized phone

        >> The major power consumer on 5G phones is really the radio and the number of frequency bands and antennas that need to be concurrently handled.

        Not accurate enough to be quotable. You need to put 5G *mmwave* in your statement.

        The reason for increased 5G sub-6GHz consumption is because of coverage. Once 5G coverage is ubiquitous enough, calls can be done on 5G alone, without a 3G/4G standby fallback.

        5G mmwave indeed is a new radio/band - but then compared to the previous 4G technology generation, it is an inf% improvement - 5G is allowing that band to be usable for low latency/ultra wideband applications, 4G cannot.

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Not new

    Not good PR for Verizon, but this is not a new thing at all.

    When 3G came out, the early 3G chips burned tons of power, you would turn off 3G to save power. In addition, if a market had ANY 3G (even 1% coverage area), the phone would keep looking for 3G service throughout the entire market. (In Verizon's case, this is 2G 1x and 3G EVDO -- no GSM here!). When 4G LTE came out, the early LTE chipsets were power hogs; and the other bit applied too, early on in the 4G deployment when it had small area coverage, you would have the phone looking for 4G service througout the market even if you were nowhere near any actual 4G coverage. The 5G is a little different, newer cell site hardware is using software defined radio, which can run 5G through software update, so a lot more 5G popped up all at once than with the 3G or 4G rollouts (after I'm sure running a few test markets, the new enough hardware got software updated nationwide.) But it still applies, the early 5G chipsets are power hogs, and the phone will be wasting power looking for 5G service in areas that are still 4G-only.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Not new

      Because 5G is basically just an extension of LTE to provide more bandwidth, it's always going to use more power. The world didn't ask for it but the marketing managers did so that they could have something new to sell…

      1. sev.monster Bronze badge

        Re: Not new

        And with how limited it is on distance, what real benefit does it have outside of crowded city centers? Or maybe as last-mile for Internet carriers out in the boonies?

        It really doesn't seem like a great idea to get so hyped about.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not new

          5g mmwave - limited distance. 5g sub-6GHz - can reuse exactly the same 4G bands and exactly the same range. It can use additional frequencies nearby with comparable range.

          If you go to a 5G coverage area on the motorway, it is most certainly not mmwave, and certainly does not only last a few metres.

          In crowded areas with heavy footfall, mmwave gives the capacity that the “traditional” bands cannot in practice (the laws of physics are rejecting requests for amendment).

          I actually use 5G and the transition down to 4G is noticeable and a worse experience. It is down to network deployments of course, and yes, with 5G too, there will be the NIMBYs and what about my backyard-ers, but for the vast majority it is a better way for a web browser user, the zoom user and a 4K video junkie to coexist on cellular.

  7. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    What a big phone you have

    "Now the phone companies need to start convincing punters that the fashionable thing is no longer to boast about how thin your phone is, but how thick it is, as the bigger the battery is, the more it can do."

    Can do! Really, I've seen pepole here in the states using those like 10" tablets as phones! It looks kind of ridiculous to have the top of the tablet by their ear and the bottom of the tablet at mid-torso level or so, one person I saw making a call on one kept moving it up and down so the mic would be near their mouth when they spoke (and speaker near their ear when listening). (I don't know if they had to, I'm guessing the mic would have picked up anyway... but they were, and it looked spectacularly silly.)

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    LOL!

    More bandwidth means more power required? And cell towers not in optimum range requires the phone to boost its transceiver?

    Whocouldknowed?

  9. Thargrove

    5g can't be turned off

    It's really sad to have spent $1400 plus on a Samsung Note 20 Ultra and connected with Verizon and the 5g network actually sucks. Plus you can't turn it off. You can try but it continues to connect with the 5g network. The 5g network obviously isn't ready. Slower speeds than 4g LTE. Fix it or expect me to be leaving Verizon.

  10. Alan Brown Silver badge

    8 years ago.....

    I watched my brand new Galaxy Note 4's battery declining by 1% per two minutes on a train trip into central London (starting at the M25) unti I switched off 4G

    I also got a "we're calling about your accident" call - 45 minutes after the number had been activated for the first time

    Now the same phone's battery stays reasonable on that trip wuith 4G enabled - but I keep getting those f***ng calls

    I blame the telcos for this - they're getting revenue for terminating the calls which in my view makes them jointly and severally liable for them. If the courts took that view you can guarantee they'd be stopped within days (ditto presenting forged CLI - telcos are still getting accuracte biling data or they go on well-publicused warpaths about it)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why does it take more power to use faster comm speeds? It's not an issue with desktop PCs.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps better 5G solutions

    Maybe we need Huawei 5G network solutions and Xiaomi phones after all....?

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