Over the past year, we've been hearing a lot about the next-generation cellular network. Every company is touting its own 5G communication systems.
With 4G technology being replaced by 5G, it's providing a number of improvements in speed, coverage and reliability. The primary reason for 5G is that it provides an upgraded network due to the massive amount of devices that require internet access.
If you enjoy streaming, or gaming online from your wireless networks, the expansion to bandwidth is a huge deal. So why is it such a big deal and where can you access that 5G network near you?
What is 5G and why does it matter?
In addition to the expansion to bandwidth, and improvements to speed, coverage and reliability, 5G uses different kinds of radio spectrum frequencies and antennas. This allows the network to connect to many more devices while reducing delays and performing at ultrafast speeds.
Frequencies are different, too, with 4G using below 6GHz, whereas 5G uses extremely high frequencies between the 30GHz to 300GHz ranges. Speeds are also different with 4G minimum download peak sitting at 1Gbps and 5G using 20Gbps.
Other contrasts between 5G and 4G are that 5G networks can more readily recognize the kind of data being requested. It can also switch into a lower power mode while not in use and when providing low rates to particular media but then shift to a higher powered mode for things such as HD streaming.
Where can you get access to 5G?
Well for starters, all four major telecommunications carriers are stating that they'll have their 5G networks running this summer. The catch is it's only in select parts of some of the bigger cities right now and it may cost you extra.
- 5G service will launch in April
- Chicago and Minneapolis will be the start but will be limited to high-profile areas around the Verizon stores
- Everywhere, well you’re just going to have to wait
- You’re going to have to pay $10 per device on top of the fee for an unlimited plan
- They are however currently waiving these charges for the first three months of service
- Unlimited, no throttling of data speeds, tethering and hot spots without paying extra
- No 5G pricing or other information available
- Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; and Kansas City, Kansas, launch this May
- Similar to Verizon, they won’t provide coverage citywide, and only in select areas
- Select portions of Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C., to get service before the end of June
- Has had issues with mislabeling its high-speed 4G service as “5G Evolution” but officially rolled out real 5G last year
- Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Antonio; and Waco, Texas, rolled out 5G last year.
- Although they released only to select businesses and consumers
- AT&T plans to provide 5G service to nine more cities this year: Chicago; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, California.
- Expecting to have their nationwide 5G network in place by early 2020
- Again no details on their 5G service as of yet officially as T-Mobile, which plans to merge with Sprint
- Expects to have a 5G network in place this summer
- No note on which markets will be covered
- The launch of a nationwide 5G network in 2020
- No specific pricing, although claims the combined T-Mobile and Sprint won't charge extra for 5G service
What about 5G smartphones?
If you're planning on getting your hands on that 5G smartphone, there are some things you'll want to consider first. Despite Motorola, Samsung, LG and a plethora of other smartphone manufacturers releasing 5G smartphones to market, the prices that come with those may be staggering.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G will be out from Verizon first in the spring and other carriers in the summer. LG's first 5G phone, the V50 ThinQ, is coming to Sprint sometime before summer. That being said the phones currently set as flagships of their respective manufacturers will be well over the $1,000 mark with the addition of 5G.
Final notes about 5G
It's still a little early to tell if jumping on board the 5G express is worth it right now. The devices are still a ways out and are likely to cost quite a bit more than the current releases of flagship phones. Additionally, the range is going to be limited despite the rollouts currently being decided in major markets.
While the 5G networks are promoting impressive improvements to the communication systems, the devices that will use it are also going to be limited with the most expensive devices. That means those with a smaller budget will just have to suffer a while longer on their 4G LTE networks.