One of the biggest buzzwords in the tech world right now is 5G. But what exactly does 5G mean? And what are the advantages to 5G? What companies offer the best network?
In the 1980’s, the first cell phones were introduced using a 1G network. Soon after, the technology was improved allowing for more efficient, secure phone calls and text messaging. As the popularity of cell phones and the demand for internet connectively grew during the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, 2G couldn’t keep up and 3G technology was developed. In the past ten years, technology allowing for video streaming and video calls, along with the increase in cell phone usage worldwide required another jump to 4G technology. Now, driven by the growing number of devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, smart home devices, GPS devices, Bluetooth, wireless security cameras and the growing number of apps that require internet access and bandwidth, another upgrade is needed. The advantage to 5G is that it doesn’t require the expense that building broadband infrastructure would. According to Microsoft estimates, “roughly 163 million Americans are not using broadband internet.” 5G could provide a solution.
5G works by beaming broadband at short ranges, requiring hundreds of thousands of devices over long distances. 5G uses shorter wavelengths than 4G which means that antennas can be much smaller and less costly than current ones while providing precise directional control. That allows 5G to support more devices than 4G technology. The downside is that 5G only works if there is a clear direct line-of-sight between the antenna and the device requiring the signal, which means that it would be more effective in more heavily populated areas.
What Are the Advantages to 5G?
One of the biggest advantages of a 5G network is that the increased bandwidth allows for faster speed. With 5G, peak data transfer speeds are projected to be about ten times faster than with 4G with some projections of an everyday download speed of at least 100 mbps. With faster speeds, websites will load faster, videos will stream quicker, online multi-players games will be easier to play and Skype and FaceTime calls will be smoother with fewer interruptions. Those frustrated by buffering issues or who wish to download files or stream movies or media at blistering speeds will love 5G.
Another huge advantage to 5G is that cell towers equipped with 5G technology have an increased capacity over a 4G network. With that increased capacity, it will be much easier to connect multiple “smart devices” to the same router. You’ll be able to use more of your devices – say multiple smart phones, a wireless thermostat, a video game console, wireless security cameras and laptop – simultaneously without bandwidth issues. 5G is also more efficient as it can more easily understand the type of data being requested and switch into a lower power mode when a device is not in use.
Opens the Door to New Technology
According to the tech site Lifewire.com, devices and apps such as GPS or mobile banking, that require access to real time data such as traffic conditions or bank account information, need fast and reliable internet to work. 4G networks are increasingly unable to provide that. The advantage to 5G is that, with increased connectivity and download speeds, it opens the door to the development and use of internet-enabled tech like smart traffic lights, wireless sensors, mobile wearables, virtual reality video, robots and driverless cars.
When Can We Expect 5G?
With all the advantages of 5G, when can we expect it? 5G phones are beginning to come onto the market and 5G service is slowly being rolled out across the country. Most of the major cell carriers such as Verizon, AT & T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Comcast, are offering 5G in limited “test cities” across the US with T-Mobile planning on having nationwide coverage by 2020. So, according to Lifewire’s Tim Fisher, “even if you have a 5G phone, there are huge areas of the country where you can’t get 5G service.” The reasons for that are many. Because 5G networks are limited in range, they require more and smaller cell towers. With the time and cost involved in building those towers, 5G expansion has been slow. Regulatory issues are another challenge. Many communities are not on board with 5G and/or willing to work with the telecommunications companies to install the necessary hardware, approve the permits and zoning changes and negotiate fees. Because 5G operates using part of the radio spectrum, the FCC also needs to being involved in the approval process. Once approvals are met and hardware is installed, then there is testing. All of this is expensive. But with the cell carriers committed to spending, according to Lifewire, over $275 billion for network expansion by 2025, it shouldn’t be long before you can experience the advantages to 5G.
If you want to be prepared or are lucky enough to be in a market where 5G service is available, check out these 5G phones: