What is 5G? The Complete Guide to When, Why and How

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The future depends by connection. From artificial intelligence and self-driving cars to telemedicine and mixed reality and yet unimaginable technologies, everything we hope will make our lives easier, safer and healthier requires a high-speed and constant Internet connection. To keep up with demand, the mobile industry has introduced 5G, so named because it is a fifth-generation wireless networking technology.

5G brings faster speeds up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) to your phone. That’s enough to download a 4K movie in 25 seconds. But 5G isn’t just about faster connections. It also provides lower latency and allows more devices to be connected at the same time.

What is 5G?

The fifth generation of 5G cellular networks is the global wireless standard. All cellular networks send encrypted data using radio waves. Radio waves have different frequencies and are divided into bands. Previous generations, such as 4G, operated at low and medium frequencies, but 5G can operate at low, medium, and high frequencies (also known as millimeter waves). Lower frequencies can travel farther and penetrate obstacles but offer relatively slow speeds, while higher frequencies are much faster but have limited range and have difficulty passing through objects.

While 5G opens up a band of unused radio frequencies at the top of the spectrum, it also includes new technologies and methods for combining spectrums that are already in use. At the low end, 5G looks and feels very similar to 4G.

5G rollout

Telecom operators have been building their 5G networks for several years now, but they are taking different approaches. All carriers started by building 5G on top of their existing networks, which provided ample connectivity, but not at the high speeds associated with 5G. More recently, they have started building new 5G high-frequency networks, but they are mostly limited to cities or specific locations within cities. You can get a general overview using Ookla 5G Card.

Verizon offers a low-frequency 5G network across the country labeled 5G Nationwide. coverage map. Verizon offers mid-range 5G in many urban areas and high-band 5G in many cities, but mid-range and high-band coverage is combined and labeled 5G Ultra Wideband or 5G UW.

AT&T also offers low-band 5G coverage in most of the country and mid-band coverage in select cities. coverage map. AT&T’s 5G high band is currently limited to a number of places, such as stadiums, and is labeled 5G+. Early in its 5G efforts, AT&T marketed its upgraded LTE network as “5G E” and was chided by the National Advertising Review Board for misleading customers.

T-Mobile is offering a low frequency 5G network across the country labeled 5G Extended Range. coverage map. Its mid-to-high 5G range is labeled 5G Ultra Capacity.

Ultimately, 5G availability and speed varies as 5G service is offered in three bands. The low frequency band, which typically operates below 1 GHz, can reach speeds of 250 Mbps. The trade-off for the comparatively lower low-band rates is wide coverage, which means that carriers can leave more distance between towers using such equipment.

Analysts call the middle band of the 5G spectrum the best because it has a wide geographic coverage and is faster than the low band. The mid-band operates from 1 to 6 GHz and can reach speeds up to 1 Gbps.

But to achieve the maximum speeds associated with 5G, carriers need millimeter wave (or mmWave) technology that takes advantage of the upper band of the wireless spectrum, operating at 20 GHz and beyond. mmWave can deliver multi-gigabit speeds, but mmWave signals are less reliable over long distances and are easily interrupted by obstacles such as trees, people, and even rain. To make it practical for mobile use, carriers must deploy a huge number of small access points in cities, instead of relying on a few large cell towers, as is done today.

Figuring out if and in what form 5G is available to you requires some detective work, but you’ll also need a device that can process the 5G signal.

5G smartphones

Anyone who wants to take advantage of these new 5G networks needs the right device. Most major phone manufacturers now offer 5G phones, but as we’ve seen, 5G is a generic term. All 5G phones support low and mid bands (often referred to as “sub-6” since they operate at 6 GHz and below), but not all 5G phones support high band connections. If you want a smartphone that can take advantage of high frequency (mmWave) networks, look for mmWave support.

You can find mmWave support on high-end phones like the Apple iPhone 14 Pro, Google Pixel 7 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S22 in the US. It is worth noting that in other countries these same models are often sold without mmWave support.

What does 5G mean to me?

Much of the buzz around 5G is focused on its potential. Since smartphones connected to 4G LTE can already stream high-quality video, you may be wondering what 5G brings to ordinary people. In addition to faster download speeds, lower latency benefits multiplayer and cloud gaming by improving responsiveness. And 5G’s higher bandwidth for seamless multi-device connectivity also helps us all stay connected when we’re part of a crowd, whether it’s a crowded concert or a football game.

The stability and speed of 5G also promise improvements for self-driving cars, remote-controlled drones, and anywhere response time is critical. While the tangible benefits are limited today, there is huge potential for more cloud computing services, augmented reality experiences, and everything beyond. But a true killer 5G application for consumers remains elusive.

Race for 5G dominance

The US has sought to claim a leadership role in worldwide 5G rollout, but has so far failed to do so. Chinese company Huawei is the world’s leading manufacturer of 5G network equipment, and although its equipment is widely used, the company has faced scrutiny and even bans from Western countries for alleged ties to the Chinese government. Other 5G equipment companies such as Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung, none of which are headquartered in the US, may have benefited from the bans.

According to the British research firm, in terms of speed, the US is not in the top 15 countries. opensignal, which found that South Korea has the highest 5G download speed of 432.7Mbps, followed by Malaysia, Sweden, Bulgaria, and the United Arab Emirates. Where is the USA done the high score was in 5G availability at 25.2%, meaning users spent more than a quarter of their time with an active 5G connection — an impressive result for a country the size of the US and a sign that the rollout is gaining momentum. step.

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