Did you hear? 5G is here!
Err… of course you did. These days, it seems like every mobile provider is touting their new 5G connection. In fact, most providers have a 5G option already available.
But what is 5G, exactly? And what makes it better than 4G?
To answer this, first we need to understand how mobile networks function. Then we can discuss the benefits of 5G – and what you can expect from it.
The evolution of mobile networks: What the “G” means
First things first: There are a lot of different types of mobile networks, and each provider uses their own (though some “borrow” from each other).
If you’ve ever gone traveling and used roaming, then you know what it’s like to switch between networks – and the same is true if you’ve changed providers (maybe you noticed slower or faster internet after changing).
Now, the first of these mobile networks was the analog cellular network. We can now call that “1G” (although the naming system was only introduced in 2017, so it was never actually called “1G” when it was in primary use).
Next, we moved into digital cellular technology, such as CDMA, GSM, and TDMA. These “2G” networks were faster than the previous, BUT they were incompatible. (For example, you can’t make a phone call to someone on a computer – the devices don’t speak the same “language”.) When it was released, the entire industry had to catch up with this new standard… which took some time.
After that came 3G, which massively increased speeds from about 200Kbps to 1-2Mbps (a huge leap).
Then there was 4G, the current standard – which made it possible to reach even gigabit speeds (thousands of times faster than the previous).
And now here we are, knocking at the door of 5G.
What is 5G?
5G is essentially the next evolution in mobile networks – and it brings a ton of new capabilities with it. The three main improvements of this new network include:
- Bigger channels: This speeds up data transmission, making the internet faster.
- Lower latency: This makes your connection more responsive.
- Increased connections: 5G allows for a LOT more devices to be connected at once.
Beyond this, there are actually three forms of 5G: low-band, mid-band, and high-band. These different types have unique advantages and disadvantages, and all of them are incompatible with each other right now.
This means we’re still not sure EXACTLY how 5G will be used – but we do know it will be better at supporting those next-generation applications that will soon be helping us live better lives.
Why was 5G invented?
One of the main driving reasons behind the development of 5G is the Internet of Things (IoT). We’re seeing more smart devices than ever, and our old mobile networks aren’t good at handling all those connections. Now, imagine a world where every little thing is connected. That’s a lot of data being sent – and with the 4G network, “virtual traffic jams” would become a serious problem.
When the 4G network was created, we couldn’t anticipate the world we’d live in – even 10 or 15 years ahead. Now, armed with more information and better technology, it’s only natural that we update things to prepare for the future.
What does 5G mean for me?
If you’re being bombarded with messages about 5G, we don’t blame you for being confused. Do you really need it?
Well, yes and no. You certainly WILL want 5G… but for now, it’s not really all that important. In fact, the most popular version of 5G available today does not perform much better than 4G!
This is normal, of course. Back in 2010, when 4G was first introduced, it was only available on a small handful of phones. It wasn’t for another couple years that we saw it come to life in applications like Snapchat and Uber.
That means you may be able to get a boost here and there from 5G, but most apps won’t truly take advantage of the new technology until 2021 or 2022. It’s mostly laying the foundation at this point.
So if you’re on the fence about 5G, we wouldn’t suggest going crazy for it. The technology to make use of it simply isn’t there yet. However, if you have it, that’s great – you’re ahead of the times!
Hey, wait a minute – what about the radiation?!
With all the exciting things that come with 5G, there are also some unknowns. Perhaps the biggest one is the potential danger of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation.
As we know, the creation of 5G will require a lot of new cell towers. These cell towers are a powerful source of EMF radiation – and considering the fact that radiation levels today are already 100 million times higher than they were 50 years ago, this can be quite concerning. Although experts believe the “non-ionizing” radiation caused by 5G won’t cause harm, nobody knows for sure.
But don’t worry – with modern problems come modern solutions. For example, we live in a world where smartDOTs exist!
If you haven’t heard about it already, smartDOTs are small non-electrical devices that reduce the EMF radiation coming from your phone, laptop, or other EMF-emitting device. Not only do they bring EMF down to a safe level, they also lower the heat coming from your device. It’s the first (and only) solution of its kind… and with 5G around the corner, it’s safe to say that we’re all big fans around the office!
(Want to reduce EMF levels around you, too? Click here to visit the smartDOTs website!)
Conclusion: 5G is the future, but there’s no hurry
In summary, 5G is simply the next step in the development of our mobile networks. There are multiple types, and we’re sort of waiting for the tech world to figure it all out before we’ll really benefit.
Since it’s primarily designed for things to come, it’s not especially important right now… but soon, it will help keep our world of innovation connected and constantly in tune. Pretty cool, huh?
Update (February 19, 2020): “High-Band”, “Mid Band”, and “Low Band” frequencies explained
Reader JTC mentioned in the comments below: “I would like to know more about the differences between low-band, mid-band, and high-band.”
Well, guess what? So do we! Here’s what we learned:
Basically, “High Band”, “Mid Band” and “Low Band” refer to various speeds that a given network (like 4G or 5G) can deliver. In versions prior to 5G, we only had access to “Low Band” and “Mid Band” speeds.
- Low Band covers a broad area, but can only offer relatively slow speeds.
- Mid Band covers a smaller range, but offers higher speeds.
- High Band covers a very small radius (approximately 1 mile), but delivers extremely fast speeds.
This also explains how you can have different speeds from the same 5G network. If you aren’t near a High Band cellular tower, or you don’t have “permission” to use the High Band channel (such as restrictions from your cellular provider), then you’ll use Mid Band (or Low Band) by default.
The goal is to have as much High Band coverage as possible. That’s why cellular providers are racing to create more High Band capacity, so they can have the fastest network. No matter what, 5G will increase speeds for all of us… and eventually, we’ll have plenty of High Band access all around the globe.
Thanks for asking, JTC – hope this helps!
I have an iPhone 7
It works fine for me
But do I need a new phone by thee d of
Thank you for new information. As a senior in his 80s its nice to get news of how things work in this fast moving tech. I enjoy surfing the web, communicating with family, an You Tube.
The thing I would like to see is more info on various providers (Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile vs Comcast) re: speed, reliability, coverage
Great input Ben! Will pass along to our content team.
Straight forward and simple. Just this one piece sold me on the efficacy (word we hear a lot of these days). I am onboard as a very very senior citizen who joined IBM in the mid 60s. Keep it up, the world needs this kind of educational information.
Loved your explanations, great for an old analogue codger like me
Thank you 😊
This article only touches the surface of what 5G is and how it’s different to 4G. You haven’t touched on edge vs core processing in the network and why there needs to be so many more high band transmitters. Please explain how 5G moves so much data so much more quickly and the opportunities and risks this entails, including the risk of having data being processed at the tower (edge) rather than at the core. Thanks.
Thank you for these informative articles.
Thank you for trying to help us all understand a little clearer.
What is the impact for me with my flip phone? Will it be obsolete requiring me to buy a new phone?
After reading this article, I can’t help but wonder what kind of cumulative effect of more and more EMF these 5G towers will have on people. As a person who wears a pacemaker, EMF is not my friend. Already I have found that the electric charging terminals for the new all electric vehicles will not be safe for me to stand too near.
Good explanation. Understand perfectly. Thought 5g was already well established. Great to get an update.
I agree with Howard Johnson above. Usually get gobbledygook. This is very understandable.
The information stated simply is good for older users who are not technical savvy. Phone companies are good at throwing out IT gobbledygook that baffles the mind of Boomers and older. Thank you for clarifying these issues and new ideas in a more simplified way. Now I know what 5G means rather than a short string of a number and a letter that looks like 5 Gigs but could have meant anything to us.
All understood so far.