Cellular data technology is changing drastically in 2019, and it’s because of one singular technology—5G. What is 5G? Read on and Let’s Talk will explain all of the details of this game-changing innovation.
What is 5G?
5G is the most recent mobile network technology, which promises faster speeds and improved network reliability beyond that of 4G LTE. The G stands for “generation,” and each number (1-5 so far) represents an iteration of mobile technology. With 3G and 4G LTE being the previous generations, 5G is the new game-changing innovation currently being installed by U.S. carriers nationwide.
Peak 5G Cellular Speeds are 20 times faster than 4G
How Does 5G Work?
In layman’s terms, 5G is an improved network technology with exponentially higher speeds than 4G and very low communication delay, also known as latency. Just like previous cellular technology, 5G uses radio frequencies to send and receive data (including voice, texting, and data use) through cellular towers or cellular sites.
But unlike prior mobile technology, 5G uses higher frequency bands (or wide bands) called millimeter waves that allow for:
- Faster speeds
- Efficient power-consumption
- Improved network reliability
- Ultra-low latency (1ms)
- Working seamlessly with 4G infrastructure
One large benefit of 5G technology is that it works seamlessly with the current network 2G/3G/4G LTE infrastructure. That means you won’t notice any drop of connection between 4G and 5G in any given area. Better yet, it means carriers do not have to install an entirely new network of cellular technology to connect 5G. Instead, they can add on and upgrade current sites to 5G radios and antennas, which is far less time-consuming.
5G Speeds Compared
|1080p Netflix film (6GB)
||1.5 minutes||1.5 hours||5 hours|
|Music Album (700MB)||11 seconds||11-12 minutes||30 minutes|
|Podcast (60MB)||Instantly||15-30 seconds||3 minutes|
With 5G you Can download a high-definition film in under two minutes
How Fast is 5G?
5G can theoretically reach 20Gbps (gigabits per second), which is 20x faster than 4G’s peak speed of 1Gbps. Online, you may see articles or ads claiming 5G is 100x faster, but that is simply incorrect. Despite 5G peak speeds, median speeds of 5G are more likely to be between 400-700Mbps in its infancy. Reports from early 5G use have noted major differences in 5G data speeds between Verizon and T-Mobile. Although both major carriers use the term “5G,” Verizon’s data speeds are actually much, much faster than T-Mobile’s.
- Verizon 5G data speeds: 300Mbps – 1Gbps+
- T-Mobile 5G data speeds: 30Mbps – 150Mbps
For perspective, 4G speeds range anywhere from 10Mbps to 30 Mbps, so you could wind up getting closer to 4G speeds on T-Mobile’s 5G network. It is still early days for 5G data speeds, though, and we will likely see big changes in the future.
5G network latency is expected to be as low as 1 millisecond, which is impressively faster than the 30-70ms latency with 4G. That means 5G is a very useful technology for improving experiences like online gaming and streaming virtual reality videos, where lag can be a real detriment to gameplay or cause literal nausea. It could also be revolutionary for new technology like autonomous vehicles, which could soon communicate with one another on roads in real time.
Online, you may see articles or ads claiming 5G is 100x faster, but that is simply incorrect. 5G is actually only 20x faster than 4G.
When Will 5G be Available?
Due to the sophistication of 5G technology, it will take time to roll out nationwide for all major carriers. Because 5G radio signals travel shorter distances than 4G, more cellular sites are required to be installed to receive the same coverage. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint all have various 5G coverage available in select cities, with T-Mobile having the most widespread coverage. AT&T has 5G availability in certain areas, but only select businesses and consumers have access and it can only be accessed via hotspot. 5G coverage by carrier:
- Verizon: 18 cities
- T-Mobile: 5,000+ cities
- Sprint: 9 cities
- AT&T: TBD
Which Carriers Have 5G and Where?
|Cell Phone Carrier||5G Service Name||Areas||5G Phones|
|Verizon||5G Ultrawide Band||Verizon’s mobile 5G network, called 5G Ultra Wideband, has limited availability in Chicago and Minneapolis. Verizon is bringing 5G networks to 30 cities in 2019.||Moto Z3 and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (May 16, 2019)|
|AT&T||AT&T 5G+||Installed in 12 cities in 2018. Expanding to 21 in 2019 to Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.||Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (not announced)|
|T-Mobile||T-Mobile 5G||In 5,000+ cities and towns, including New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and more.||Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (June 28, 2019)|
|Sprint||Sprint 5G||5G sites available in May 2019 starting with airports and sports stadiums. Cities will include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, NYC, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.
Additionally, by 2024, Sprint/T-Mobile merger will eventually combine their infrastructure into one of the highest capacity networks in the nation.
|LG V50 ThinQ and Samsung Galaxy S10 (May 2019 and June 2019)|
|U.S. Cellular||U.S. Cellular 5G||5G expansion coming in the latter half of 2019.||Unknown|
Note: AT&T is also embroiled in a scandal after rebranding 4G LTE Advanced network capabilities as “5G Evolution,” or 5G E. This is not actually 5G technology and is already available on other 4G LTE networks.
What are the Benefits of 5G Technology?
5G can help you do anything you already do on a smartphone using the internet or cellular network faster and with less lag. No matter your mobile activity, all of these will improve tremendously with zippier speeds and virtually no latency:
- HD music and video streaming
- Virtual reality and augmented reality streaming
- Large file downloads and uploads
- Loading web pages
- GPS navigation applications
- Facetime/Skype/Google Hangouts
- Online gaming
Most carriers do not actually have 5G phones available to make use of their 5G networks’ blazing speeds.
What 5G Phones are Available?
Part of the problem with 5G’s early rollout is there aren’t many 5G phones actually available for purchase. And without a 5G phone, you can’t actually receive 5G service or its blazing speeds.
Right now you can use Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network if you have a Moto Z3 and a 5G Moto Mod, which is an external modification you attach to the back of the device in order to use 5G networks.
Verizon was also the first carrier to have the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which is capable of utilizing 5G technology. LG also has a new 5G phone available now—the LG V50 ThinQ—and OnePlus, HTC, Huawei and other manufacturers have shown off or hinted at upcoming 5G-compatible phones as well, but very few are available for preorder. You can expect to see more 5G phones available by the end of 2019 and early 2020.
- Motorola: Moto Z3 with 5G Moto Mod – Available now with Verizon Wireless.
- Samsung: Galaxy S10 5G – Available from Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
- LG: V50 ThinQ 5G – Available from Sprint.
- Huawei: Mate X – Unlikely to come to the U.S. following the company’s recent scandal.
In order to use 5G, you not only need a compatible phone but a specific 5G service plan. Below is the up-to-date information regarding various carrier plans and prices:
- T-Mobile: As of now, their 5G plans will not cost any extra for the first three years.
- Sprint: As of now, the plans will not cost extra, but 5G service is only available for customers on the Unlimited Premium plan.
- AT&T: Their prices have not been released yet.
- Verizon: They originally stated they’d be charging an extra $10/month but so far they have waived this fee.