What is 5G? Everything You Need to Know

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The future of the internet is finally here—and it’s called 5G. It’s the faster, more dynamic version of 4G and the previous generations of mobile networks. 

But what does 5G mean, how fast is it, and where is it available? Let’s break down each topic one by one.

First Things First: What is 5G

5G stands for fifth generation and refers to the latest wireless technology for mobile networks. Since four other generations came before the 5G network, it helps to know what other generations brought to the table:

  • 1G – introduced analog voice. The first generation of wireless technology in cell phones was released in the 1980s and only allowed users to make voice calls.
  • 2G – supported texting and digital voice. In 1991, the second generation of mobile networks allowed cellphone users to send encrypted SMS (short message service) text messages. It later enabled picture and multimedia messages.
  • 3G – launched mobile data. The third generation of wireless networking tech was released in 2001. It kicked off early versions of mobile internet service, video calling, and mobile TV. 
  • 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) – paved the way for the era of mobile internet. The fourth generation was deployed in 2009 and is what most cell phone users have today. 4G offers more bandwidth and higher speeds than any of its predecessors (until now).

So what makes 5G mobile networks different from 4G? The simple answer is that 5G uses advanced radio technology and brings higher speeds and lower latency (or fewer delays)—but it’s so much more than that. 

Visual Capitalist states that “the switch to 5G will mean longer battery life for devices, lower costs, enhanced cellular footprints, higher throughput, enhanced capacity, low latency, and virtually no packets dropped.” These changes will revolutionize mobile connectivity. In another ten years, tech experts stipulate that 4G will be as “unrecognizable as the Nokia block phone era [is to us] today.”

What Makes 5G Technology so Revolutionary? 

Lower latency and fast speeds open up a world of possibilities. At the very least, 5G phones will be faster and smarter with improved virtual and augmented reality capabilities. But that’s only the beginning. 

A more advanced remote control infrastructure could transform medical procedures and vehicles as we know them. Think driverless cars, remote control robots, more advanced IoT (Internet of Things), and hyper-realistic virtual reality (VR) and gaming. 

In terms of infrastructure, unlike 4G LTE, which uses a small number of large masts relatively spread apart, 5G requires a higher number of small cells built close together. More cells in closer proximity will increase traffic capacity 100-fold and optimize “network energy consumption with more efficient processing.” Optimized consumption = lower costs. 

5G also uses millimeter-wave high-frequency bands, which have large bandwidths and are “ideal for keeping everyone connected in busy environments like stadiums.” If 4G base stations have “12 antennas to transmit and receive data,” Digital Trends estimates that 5G base stations will support 100 antennas. 

Most importantly, 5G paves the way for future technologies we haven’t even dreamed of yet. A more reliable, responsive, fast, dynamic system unlocks the door to innovation.

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The landscape of 5G

How Fast is 5G?

We’ve established that 5G speeds are faster than ever before—but just how fast is fast?

Visual Capitalist states that 5G maximum speeds will be up to “1000x faster than 4G.” How fast 5G operates also depends on a variety of factors, including your location, your network, how many others are connected, and your device.

One of the most notable changes will be lower latency—or less delay time. 5G latency is as low as one millisecond. To compare, 4G runs at about 40ms to 60ms, according to Digital Trends. One millisecond response time is essentially the internet acting in real-time, which will transform cloud gaming, virtual reality, and driverless cars as we know it. 

To get an idea of how fast 5G is, take a look at this speed chart comparing previous generations:

Generation2G3G3G HSPA+4G4G LTE-A5G
Max Speed0.3 Mbps7.2 Mbps42 Mbps150 Mbps300 Mbps-1 Gbps1-10 Gbps
Avergae Speed0.1 Mbps1.5 Mbps5 Mbps10 Mbps15 Mbps-50 Mbps50+ Mbps

Simply put, 5G internet speeds far surpass older technologies. 4G average download speeds measure between 15 Mbps and 50 Mbps, whereas 5G top speeds measure between one to ten Gbps (1000 Megabits per second = 1 Gigabyte per second).

Where is 5G Available

The race to 5G is just beginning. Different cell phone carriers are rolling out 5G all across the United States.

Enabling a new generation of wireless networking technology isn’t as simple as a software update or on/off switch on your cell phone. Similar to cable or fiber-optic internet, an entirely new infrastructure needs to be rolled out first. In order to use 5G you’ll need both a phone and a network that supports it.

AT&T beat out all the competition as the first carrier to offer 5G. AT&T 5G is currently available in 35 cities, including Los Angeles, Orlando, New York City, and Dallas.

A few 5G phones are currently available, including the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G. Apple is expected to release a 5G model sometime in 2020. 

For a closer look at 5G Wi-Fi availability near you, check out this 5G map.

sky view of 5G

What Should I Know About AT&T 5G?

AT&T is the frontrunner in 5G technology and the very first carrier to roll out 5G infrastructure. One especially noteworthy development is the launch of the NETGEAR Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router—the first 5G-enabled hotspot router available exclusively with AT&T. 

The Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router allows you to connect up to twenty devices at once, so you can experience the same 5G Wi-Fi you would get at home. It’s fast, secure, easy to set up, and has up to 24 hours of battery life.

This hotspot also functions as a portable mobile router (including dual-concurrent Wi-Fi bands). Dual bands just means you’ll have better network performance with less interference for a reliable connection.

The NETGEAR Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router is the first of many—AT&T is working to pave the way for future AT&T 5G phones and devices.

When will 5G be Available Everywhere? 

It will take time to implement compatible technology into every 5G phone and transmission base, but most carriers are expected to roll out 5G in the first half of 2020. Industry experts predict that 5G will be more widespread by 2022. 

Similar to previous generations, 5G will evolve over time. What we have now won’t be the same as the 5G five years down the road. The small size of 5G base stations makes them easier to install every 100 feet on top of streetlights and buildings. Plus, the number of cities with 5G infrastructure continues to increase. Once it’s implemented nationwide, the possibilities are almost endless. 

Can’t wait to get your hands on the latest AT&T 5G phone? Call 833-955-1569 to find out if 5G is available near you.

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