What is 5G and Why Does it Matter?
The fifth generation of cellular networks has arrived. Cellular network carriers and phone manufacturers alike are preparing for the new standard in network speed and the next wave of mobile technology.
Below we’ll explore what 5G is and how it will improve cellular connections.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of technical rules governing how a cellular network works, including the radio frequencies used and how cellular components handle radio signals and exchange data. For decades engineers have been creating specifications for cellular networks that evolve with every generation. To enjoy the benefits of 5G, users need to get new phones equipped with the technology while their carriers need to have the transmission equipment enabled to offer faster service.
How fast is 5G?
At its peak, 5G is roughly 20 times faster than its 4G predecessor; however, 5G speed varies depending on where the user is located, the services being used and when 5G is enabled. Wireless chipmaker Qualcomm has seen peak 5G download speeds of 4.5 gigabytes per second, but predicts median speeds of 1.4 gigabytes per second.
Users will notice 5G speeds especially when downloading video. Rather than remembering to download a video to the device before heading to the airport, users will be able to download a video while waiting in line to board.
Are there any other benefits of 5G?
5G not only increases download speeds, it also decreases lag time or latency. Even simple commands on your phone like searching the web aren’t instantaneous with 4G. 5G will reduce latency to a few milliseconds. 5G will also deliver signals more reliably.
The latency reduction is especially useful for virtual reality (VR). Currently most VR apps rely on headsets connected to devices; however with 5G users will be able to use smaller headsets with wireless connections to experience VR. 5G will also allow augmented reality features to blossom, allowing users to glean additional information about what they’re seeing just by pointing their phone.
Beyond entertainment, the decrease in latency can also save lives by improving processes like remote surgery.
Is 5G available now?
5G is not quite available yet. Network carriers are beginning to slowly rollout the service but only in specific markets.
AT&T has enabled 5G in 12 cities and plans to expand to another nine cities this year. Since most phones are not ready to handle 5G they are marketing a Netgear hotspot device that converts the network into Wi-Fi.
Verizon launched the first 5G product with its 5G home broadband router; however, this is not the same as the mobile network. Verizon is marketing its 5G service for homes in certain areas of Indianapolis and Houston, and expects to expand 5G in more cities later in 2019 but hasn’t said where or when.
Sprint is offering 5G in four cities and plans to add another five by the end of May. Coverage varies by city; for example, a sizeable chunk of Dallas will be covered while only Midtown and Lower Manhattan will see 5G in New York City.
T-Mobile plans to make 5G available in 30 cities in the second half of 2019, which would give it the largest 5G network this year.
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