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What is 5G Technology?

All of the carriers in the United States have now launched some form of 5G cellular network. But what is 5G, and how fast is it in comparison to 4G? Here’s what you should know.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology

Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, designed to significantly improve the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. Data transmitted over wireless broadband connections can now travel at multigigabit speeds, with some estimates putting peak speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second (Gbps). These speeds are faster than wireline network speeds and have a latency of fewer than 5 milliseconds (ms), which is useful for applications that require real-time feedback. Because of increased available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology, 5G will enable a significant increase in the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems.

5G can outperform 4G LTE networks in speed, latency, and capacity. It is one of the world’s fastest and most durable technologies. That means faster downloads, significantly less lag, and a significant impact on how we live, work, and play. 5G speed and other connectivity benefits are expected to increase business efficiency and give consumers faster access to more information than ever before. 5G networks will power connected cars, smart stadiums, and advanced gaming.

To accommodate the growing reliance on mobile and internet-enabled devices, 5G networks and services will be deployed in stages over the next several years. As the technology matures, 5G is expected to generate a slew of new applications, uses, and business cases.

How does 5G work?

5G networks, like other cellular networks, use a system of cell sites that divide their territory into sectors and send encoded data via radio waves. Each cell site must be linked to a network backbone, whether by wired or wireless backhaul. 5G changes the way data is encoded and provides carriers with a plethora of new airwave options.

5G networks use OFDM encoding, which is similar to the encoding used by 4G LTE. The air interface, on the other hand, is designed for much lower latency and greater flexibility than LTE.

Wireless networks are made up of cell sites that are divided into sectors that send data via radio waves. Long-Term Evolution (LTE) wireless technology of the fourth generation (4G) serves as the foundation for 5G. In contrast to 4G, which requires large, high-power cell towers to radiate signals over longer distances, 5G wireless signals are transmitted via a large number of small cell stations located in places such as light poles or building roofs. Multiple small cells are required because the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum—the band of spectrum between 30 and 300 gigahertz (GHz) that 5G relies on to generate high speeds—can only travel short distances and is susceptible to interference from weather and physical obstacles such as buildings or trees.

Previous generations of wireless technology used lower-frequency spectrum bands. To address the issues of distance and interference with mmWave, the wireless industry is considering the use of a lower-frequency spectrum for 5G networks, allowing network operators to build out their new networks using the spectrum they already own. Lower-frequency spectrum travels farther but has less speed and capacity than mmWave.

Low- and mid-band frequencies comprise the lower-frequency wireless spectrum. Low-band frequencies range between 600 and 700 megahertz (MHz), while mid-band frequencies range between 2.5 and 3.5 GHz. This is in contrast to high-band mmWave signals, which operate at frequencies ranging from 24 to 39 GHz.

MmWave signals are easily blocked by objects such as trees, walls, and buildings, which means that mmWave can only cover about a city block within direct line of sight of a cell site or node most of the time. Various approaches to resolving this issue have been considered. Using multiple nodes around each block of a populated area allows a 5G-enabled device to use an Air interface — switching from node to node while maintaining MM wave speeds.

Another, more feasible approach to building a national 5G network is to use a mix of high-, medium-, and low-band frequencies. MmWave nodes can be used in densely populated areas, whereas low- and mid-band nodes can be used in less densely populated areas. Low-band frequencies can travel farther and through more objects. A single low-band 5G node can connect to a 5G-enabled device for hundreds of miles. This means that deploying all three bands will provide blanket coverage while also providing the fastest speeds in the most heavily trafficked areas.

How fast is 5G compared to 4G?

5G is an investment for the next decade, and most major changes in previous mobile transitions have occurred years after the initial announcement. Take, for example, 4G. The first 4G phones appeared in the United States in 2010, but the 4G applications that changed our lives did not appear until much later. Snapchat debuted in 2012, and Uber went mainstream in 2013. Around 2013, video calls over LTE networks became popular in the United States.

Because the 5G transition is so complicated, and because we’ve been dealing with a pandemic for the past two years, the transition may take even longer this time. Scientists in Finland who contributed to the development of 5G technology believe it will be 2027 before we see the robotics, smart objects, and augmented reality that has been promised.

For the time being, the first primary 5G application is a 30-year-old concept: home internet service. T-Mobile and Verizon are using their 5G networks to compete with cable home internet, bringing competition to an otherwise uncompetitive market.

What are the advantages of 5G?

Along with 5G speed, discussing the benefits of 5G is really about delivering life-changing technologies via next-generation networks, and we’ve built it with these capabilities in mind—to do everything people will want to do.

Today, Verizon 5G Nationwide is available across the country, and it uses low-band spectrum to provide great coverage with performance that can support a variety of functions—from distance learning to mobile workforces—and it’s only getting better over time.

Verizon’s high-performance 5G Ultra Wideband offers game-changing benefits such as speeds that are up to ten times faster than average 4G LTE speeds, a safer alternative to public Wi-Fi,1 video chatting with fewer frozen faces, and console-quality gaming on the go. We expect 5G Ultra Wideband to help revolutionize industries and provide immediate impact for customers as we continue to expand to over 100 million customers.

5G Ultra Wideband’s high speed, low latency, and massive capacity could enable drone delivery, cloud-connected traffic control, and other applications to reach their full potential. The possibilities are virtually limitless, ranging from emergency response to global payments to next-generation gaming and entertainment.

When did 5G come out?

Many people are unaware that the first 5G deployments in the United States were not for mobile devices. Carriers began testing fixed wireless 5G services as a replacement for wired broadband home internet in 2017. Closed trials of 5G home internet continued well into 2018, with commercial availability following later that year.

The first 5G deployments are being driven primarily by wireless network operators in four countries: the United States, Japan, South Korea, and China. According to Technology Business Research (TBR) Inc., network operators are expected to spend billions of dollars on 5G capital expenses through 2030, though it is unclear how 5G services will generate a return on investment. Evolving use cases and business models that capitalize on the benefits of 5G could alleviate operators’ revenue concerns.

Concurrently, standards bodies are developing universal 5G equipment standards. In December 2017, the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) approved 5G New Radio (NR) standards, which are expected to complete the 5G mobile core standard required for 5G cellular services. Although the 5G radio system is incompatible with 4G radios, network operators who have recently purchased wireless radios may be able to upgrade to the new 5G system via software rather than purchasing new equipment.

According to TBR projections, 5G use cases will emerge between 2020 and 2025, with 5G wireless equipment standards nearly complete and the first 5G-compliant smartphones and associated wireless devices commercially available in 2019. By 2030, 5G services will be commonplace, with capabilities ranging from VR content delivery to autonomous vehicle navigation enabled by real-time communications (RTC).

In the United States, some networks are already being built in select cities. Verizon currently offers mmWave 5G in a few cities, including Atlanta, Boise, Idaho, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, New York, Providence, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. Verizon will gradually expand its 5G network to include cities such as San Diego and Kansas City, Mo. T-5G Mobile’s network includes locations in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York.

Where is 5G available?

5G is now “nationwide,” though due to the carriers’ disparate approaches, you’ll have different experiences in different places.

Verizon offers a slower “nationwide” 5G network based on shared 4G channels, mid-band 5G in 46 metro areas, and fast, high-band 5G in over 60 cities, with online coverage maps available here (Opens in a new window). Verizon’s coverage map combines mid-band and high-band coverage into a single color. The majority of that coverage is in the mid-band. Verizon refers to its mid and high bands as “5G UW,” which stands for “ultra-wideband.”

T-Mobile currently has nationwide low-band 5G and faster mid-band 5G coverage that covers the majority of the country, with a coverage finder here(Opens in a new window), and some limited high-band coverage for which I haven’t been able to find a recent coverage update. It refers to its middle and upper bands as “5G UC,” or “5G ultra capacity.”

AT&T offers slow low-band service throughout much of the country, mid-band service in a few cities, and high-band service in a variety of “venues” such as stadiums and campuses. It refers to the low band as “5G,” and the mid- and high-band as “5G+.” Here are low-band maps and a high-band venue list from the company (Opens in a new window).

Is 5G safe to use?

5G, like any other existing mobile technology or everyday items such as televisions, home WiFi routers, hairdryers, radios, or microwave ovens, is subject to international and national exposure guidelines and regulations.

For decades, scientists have been studying mobile frequencies, including those used by 5G. As long as exposure stays within national guidelines, there is no negative impact on health.

Vodafone’s masts fully comply with national guidelines, and we constantly monitor and evaluate them to ensure that we are in compliance with all regulations. Furthermore, all of the phones we sell are rigorously tested to ensure they meet international safety standards.

Most countries base their national regulations on the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection’s international guidelines (ICNIRP).

The ICNIRP guidelines are based on a review of thousands of individual pieces of scientific research, and they apply to 5G in the same way that they do to existing 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies – as well as other radio frequencies used by radio and television.

Following an extensive review of the best science currently available, the independent body ICNIRP updated the international safety guidelines that protect against EMF exposure from mobile devices and networks in March 2020.

Although the ICNIRP made several minor changes to its 1998 guidelines, the review confirmed that radio frequencies used by mobile technologies, including 5G, have no adverse effects on human health if exposure is kept below the guidelines.

“A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk,” according to the World Health Organization. To date, no negative health effects from mobile phone use have been established.”

What 5G phones are on the market?

The 5G phones offer much faster download speeds, lower latency, and much more.

A phone or other piece of hardware cannot simply receive a software update to enable 5G. 5G necessitates specialized hardware. To use 5G, a user must have a device that supports 5G, a carrier that supports 5G, and be in an area where a 5G node is within range.

The following are some examples of the best 5G-enabled phones:

  • iPhone 14 / 14 Plus / 14 Pro / 14 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13 mini / 13 / 13 Pro / 13 Pro Max
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 / S22 Plus / S22 Ultra
  • Google Pixel 7 / 7 Pro

Other countries have even more 5G phones, including models from Huawei, Oppo, Realme, and Xiaomi. They generally do not work on US 5G networks because their frequency bands do not support ours; instead, they use European and Asian mid-band systems that we do not have.

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The above article was written by the BestTopReviewsOnline team, which consists of some of the most knowledgeable technical experts in the United States. Our team consists of highly regarded writers with vast experience in smartphones, computer components, technology apps, security, and photography, among other fields.

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