What Is 5G Network? The Future of Mobile Internet
Welcome to our practical guide to 5G!
Can we ask you a few questions first? Did you watch Netflix last night? How about YouTube on your phone?
When was the last time you tried to download a movie or watch a Facebook live video on the go?
We bet it was slow, and the random pauses for buffering made you want to turn your phone into a mosaic of glass shards on the ground.
Now imagine that all being up to 600x FASTER. Movies downloaded in seconds. Totally immersive live videos on social media without buffering. 4K gaming WITHOUT game consoles.
5G is going to change EVERYTHING, and the revolution has already begun. In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What is 5G?
- 4G vs. 5G
- What are the different forms of 5G?
- Why hasn’t it taken over yet?
- How will 5G change the world?
And all with 0 jargon (Kind of). This guide is totally in plain English so us non-techies can understand.
What is 5G?
5G (“Fifth-Generation) is the next generation of mobile broadband internet. This is not just another step forward. This is a quantum leap into the future of connectivity.
The network operates on a system of low, mid, and high-band spectrums (The invisible radio waves data travels on). It’s not important to know the scientific underpinning of the network, just know this system is a massive upgrade in capacity and speed.
What’s the Difference Between 4G and 5G?
The easiest way to demonstrate the difference between 4G and 5G is to think of it like traffic on a highway.
4G is like driving 80MPH on a two-lane highway.
5G is like driving on a TWO HUNDRED LANE AUTOBAHN. No speed limit and no bottlenecks.
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) claims that 5G will be up to 100x FASTER than 4G. That means 100x faster downloads, 100x MORE devices connected to a network, 100x uptime, 100x EVERYTHING.
Downloading a 2-hour movie on 3G used to take 26 hours. Now, downloading a 2-hour movie on 4G currently takes an average of 6 minutes. On 5G? 3.6 SECONDS.
Excited for the future yet?
Here’s a quick overview so you get a good idea of the history of connectivity:
- 1G: The first generation of wireless technology that started all the way back in the 1980s. This is what enabled us to make the first cell phone calls.
- 2G: Introduced digital signals and enhanced speed. 2G enabled us to send texts AND make better calls.
- 3G: Enhanced speed, security, and location services. The first modern apps appeared during this time.
- 4G: Unleashed the app economy and introduced us to high-speed data transfers that allowed audio, video, and web access on the go.
How Does 5G Work?
5G is a software-defined network that could very well end our dependence on cables altogether. We mentioned it briefly before, but it works on a system of low, mid, and high-band spectrums.
Here’s what that means in English:
Low and Mid-Band
Low (1 gigahertz or less) and mid-band (2-6 gigahertz) spectrum signals are low and middle frequency radio waves used to transmit data. This is the current system you interact with daily.
With 5G, this will enable fast downloads, streaming, and gaming on the go, but won’t offer the blazing fast speeds of the high-band spectrum signals.
So why use them?
- They’re more reliable: Ultra fast high-band technology isn’t quite ready yet. Low/mid-band signals are more reliable. Think of it like driving on a 20-lane Autobahn with nicely paved roads rather than braving the 200-lane Autobahn that’s still under construction.
- They can use existing technology: High-band spectrum signals will force us to overhaul our current system. Low and mid-band can work on our existing infrastructure and reach more people faster.
So think of low-band as the base that reaches all people and mid-band as the “enhancer” that provides fast download and streaming speeds.
This is where the quantum leap begins. High-band internet can transfer data at a rate of 10Gb/s. That’s mind blowing. As soon as the 200 lanes are fully paved, there will be no speed limits.
High-band (Known as mmWave) works on extremely tiny waves that operate at ultra-fast speeds. There are just two issues with this:
- The current infrastructure isn’t ready: Short waves can’t travel as far as the waves we currently use. That means we need to upgrade our equipment. The current solution is “small cells”, which are basically tiny “waypoints” for the waves to travel on.
- Building penetration is poor: High-band signals struggle to get through buildings. That means you could have it on one city block, turn a corner, and completely lose it. We’ve still got to work the kinks out.
When the technology is ready, all 3 of these bands will work together to bring complete coverage. You could have blazing fast mmWave-enabled 5G, and then switch to low or mid-band when you’re out of reach of small cells or if a building gets in your way.
What Are the Benefits of 5G?
It should be pretty obvious by now, but some of the key benefits of upgrading to 5G include:
- Data transfer: Uploads and downloads will go at blazing fast speeds. 5G can hit 20Gp/s download and 10Gp/s upload speeds. That’s a blink of an eye.
- Latency: 5G could essentially eliminate data transfer latency, opening up a world of practical applications (Covered below).
- Efficiency: 5G should have about double the efficiency of LTE. That means the maximum amount of data will be transferred with limited errors.
- Density: 5G should be able to handle 1 MILLION connected devices per square kilometer. This will unleash the Internet of Things (IoT).
Practical Applications of 5G
Imagine a future where you can download movies in the blink of an eye, and watch them in high-def from anywhere at any time.
Or a world where your home city uses the IoT to continually collect data to improve security, efficiency, and quality of life.
How about not having to leave bed for a comprehensive doctor’s visit?
5G’s practical applications go way beyond Netflix.
- Self-driving cars: Autonomous cars need a constant stream of data to drive safely. Your brain must process everything from the curve of the road to the estimated future position of the surrounding cars. The decreased latency of 5G will provide the direct data stream cars need to operate safely and efficiently.
- Land trains: Smart trucks will be able to band together to create land trains – massive, self-driving convoys to transport goods quickly and cheaply.
- eHealth: The health revolution will be in full swing once 5G allows seamless audio and video diagnosis right from your own home.
- Home entertainment like you’ve never seen: Once connections are powerful enough, cloud gaming will explode. For you, that means 4k, 90fps streaming WITHOUT an expensive console.
- Smart cities: The increased power and reach of the network will allow entire cities to connect smart devices to the cloud. The result? Smart cities. These cities of the future will utilize the power of the IoT to collect, store, and manage big data for improving security, quality of life, energy and monetary efficiency, and maintenance.
- Virtual reality: Low latency and fast speeds will unleash virtual reality live streams, catapulting us into the future of entertainment…for better or worse!
- Smart manufacturing: The enhanced security and low latency of 5G will allow manufacturing bots to synch and collaborate en masse on production.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the difference between 4G and 5G?
A: The main difference is that 4G is built on low-band signals and 5G can operate on high-band signals. That means far greater speeds, reduced latency, and increased density. Think of it like upgrading from a two-lane highway to a two-hundred lane highway with NO SPEED LIMIT.
Q: Who has 5G now?
A: Most carriers either have the basis of a 5G network or are working on one, including the 4 major American carriers – Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
Q: Which phones have 5G connectivity?
A: Right now, the Samsung Galaxy s10 and Huawei phones with the Kirin 990 5G chip have 5 G connectivity. The iPhone is expected to be 5G compatible in 2020.
Q: What are the dangers of 5G?
A: 5G does not pose serious health risks like radiation. If anything, it upgrades security and enhances our safety. There is nothing to worry about.
Q: Where can I find a 5G coverage map?
A: The best place to look is Ookla speed tests. They have a map of the newest 5G coverage.
Q: What will 5G do?
A: 5G will totally revolutionize everything from streaming and downloads to entertainment, manufacturing, driving, and health care. This is truly a quantum leap forward.
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