What is 5G? Understanding the New Technology from the Users POV

May 20, 2020

We've seen 5G ads everywhere. It's on TV, radio, billboards, and social media. It's hard to ignore all the beautiful, high-speed promises. Imagine all the benefits of faster Internet service.


Better shopping experience. Faster search results. Improved online services. All these and more await anxious consumers.


But what does 5G mean for daily Internet users? Now that 5G is in our heads, the next question is how will this benefit those who don't live in big urban cities? The people who live and work in a small town, rural areas? With the appropriate equipment, they will receive faster and more stable Internet access.


Here's a quick round-up to show how 5G works.


Faster data transfer


Although the pace of 5G distribution remains high, the technology itself is not quite there yet. 5G doesn't only mean the 5th generation form of communication, but also the transition to new data transfer frequencies from the communication tower to the subscriber’s phone.


5G itself can mean quite differently to end-users. Generally speaking, it's the promise of greater network speed and capacity.


Many mobile devices and communication networks are already 5G-ready. For now, 5Gs are added to the existing 4G LTE network to make it possible to increase the capacity of the network in places where it is necessary. Three 5G categories are determined by the frequency used for this connection. These are the low-frequency and mid-frequency ranges, as well as the millimeter range (mmWave).


When using any 5G connection, you will get a high data transfer rate, but only when using the high-frequency millimeter range will there be a significant difference with previous generations of networks. In mmWave networks, speeds will be maximum, but coverage of such networks is very limited. The sub-6 5G boasts much more coverage comparable to LTE networks, but its speeds will be at the maximum level achievable in 4G LTE.


In the United States, all major operators have chosen the strategy of combining all three 5G bands to get a single network in which differences will be based on building density, number of subscribers, and other geographical factors.


What about the frequencies?


T-Mobile only uses the 5G low-frequency range, which is activated at a frequency of 600 MHz on most operator towers. Since the maximum coverage level is reached at such a frequency, the operator can implement 5G without large-scale construction of additional base stations. It is enough to upgrade the equipment of the existing towers and make sure that the cable connection is reliable enough for an increased data transfer flow. AT&T also launched its 5G network, but at 850 MHz.


These low-frequency ranges do not allow consumers to use the features available at higher frequencies, so the increase in speed compared to 4G is small. However, if we talk about building a solid 5G network, then this choice makes it possible to fill the spaces where there will be no high-frequency 5G.


However, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are deploying 5G networks at the millimeter-frequency frequencies already allocated. Verizon has the fastest process but has refused to deploy 5G at low frequencies, so its coverage cards look more modest. But its networks provide speeds up to 1 GB/s, which is undoubtedly an obvious advantage.


What about smartphones?


Buying a device that already supports 5G is not a problem, but it's also not that simple. Market firsts like the LG V50 ThinQ 5G cannot work with sub-6 5G networks. They don’t get anything from the low-frequency 5G preferred by most American operators. Samsung Galaxy S20 5G or OnePlus 7T Pro 5G have already received support for all possible 5G ranges.


However, when buying a phone, check in advance what frequencies your operator broadcasts on and which are supported by the selected device. Otherwise, all the 5G advantages will be nothing but words displayed on the mobile device's box.


When do we expect 5G in full force?


In the US, all operators either offer a really fast network, but very locally, or talk about 5G and wide coverage, but the actual speeds in these networks are not far from 4G LTE.


One interesting point is the use of access points with support for 5G networks. There are very few of them so far, with Verizon being one of the first ones in the US to provide services based on 5G networks. T-Mobile is planning the possibility of providing Internet access services using 5G networks in rural areas.


The future of 5G


An increase in the volume of transmitted information requires an increase in connection speed, which means that only 5G has prospects for meeting the future needs of smartphone owners. In addition to legislative problems in implementing 5G, operators face technical difficulties. Operators in the US choose a simpler option with a low-frequency sub-6 5G, which is considered as a more reliable version of the LTE connection. We'll only see a brighter future for 5G when all possible bands are involved.


The advantage of existing 5G networks provides higher speeds compared to LTE with an increase in the number of connections. It is easier for operators to provide a high-speed connection, even without large-scale construction of new networks by updating the equipment of base stations, to which a fairly wide fiber-optic channel is connected. In the US, 5G is only slightly faster than LTE networks, speeds will grow only with the construction of new infrastructure.