After three years of promises, 5G will be widely available in 2022.
The new mobile network technology was meant to spark a revolution “The fourth industrial revolution has begun.
, “Verizon claims that it has not done so. Most Americans’ experience with “5G” has been similar to that of 4G, with a new symbol. However, AT&T and Verizon are launching new networks this year, including the much-discussed C-band, which, combined with T-more Mobile’s mature mid-band network, might ultimately change things.
With no new experiences to speak of, consumers are beginning to question what the big deal is about 5G. Is what we’re witnessing now anything close to 5G? Technically, the answer is yes. It turns out that 5G technology and a “5G experience” are two very different things, and we’re now getting the former but not the latter in the United States.
However, things will begin to change. T-“ultra Mobile’s capacity” 5G topped our Fastest Mobile Networks 2021 testing by displaying speeds that were substantially faster than 4G, and the new C-band networks are starting to shift the game for AT&T and Verizon now that they’ve launched.
Dish Network just debuted a 5G network in Las Vegas, with plans to expand to more than 125 cities and towns by June.
5G is a ten-year investment, and prior mobile transitions have seen the majority of the major improvements occur years after the first announcement. Take, for example, 4G. The first 4G phones emerged in the United States in 2010, but it was not until later that the 4G applications that revolutionized our world appeared. Snapchat debuted in 2012, and Uber gained popularity in 2013. Around 2013, video calls via LTE networks became popular in the United States.
Because the 5G transition is so difficult, and because we’ve been dealing with a pandemic for the past two years, the changeover may take even longer this time. According to scientists in Finland who helped develop 5G technology, we may not see the robotics, smart products, and augmented reality that have been promised until 2027.
The first major 5G application is currently a 30-year-old concept: residential internet service. T-Mobile and Verizon are deploying their 5G networks to compete more effectively with cable home internet, bringing some competition to an otherwise uncompetitive market.
1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G
First and foremost, 5G Wi-Fi and AT&T’s “5G E” phones are not the same as 5G cellular. Here’s a complete breakdown of 5G vs. 5G E vs. 5GHz: What Is the Distinction?
And don’t believe the hype that 5G entails millimeter-wave towers on every lamppost. That’s just one of the three basic types of 5G now in use.
The G in 5G refers to a wireless technology generation. While data transmission speeds have defined most generations, each has also been marked by a break in encoding methods, or “air interfaces,” that renders it incompatible with previous generations.
1G was a cellular analog. The first generation of digital cellular technologies was 2G, which included CDMA, GSM, and TDMA. Speeds ranged from 200kbps to a few megabits per second with 3G technologies including EVDO, HSPA, and UMTS. 4G technologies, such as WiMAX and LTE, were the next incompatible step ahead, with rates reaching hundreds of megabits and even gigabits.
Bigger channels (to speed up data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the possibility to connect a lot more devices at once are all new features of 5G. (for sensors and smart devices).
With 4G, there isn’t a clear separation. 4G networks and coverage are required for all 5G phones. Initially, all 5G networks relied on 4G to create their connections, a practice known as “non-standalone.” We’re starting to move away from that and toward “standalone” networks, but without the help of 4G, they suffer significantly in performance. 5G phones can blend 5G and 4G channels discreetly and flawlessly, according to the 5G specification. For a long time, most connections will be combined 4G/5G connectivity.
Because of this symbiotic relationship between 4G and 5G, AT&T has become overconfident in its 4G network. Because it regards enhancing 4G as a crucial step toward 5G, the carrier has begun to refer to its 4G network as “5G Evolution.” Of course, you’re correct. However, the wording is intended to mislead inexperienced customers into believing that 5G Evolution is the same as 5G.
While 2G and 3G will soon be obsolete,
As part of the 5G equation, 4G has at least a decade ahead of it. You can trust 4G if you find yourself in need of new phones or equipment because 3G is being phased out.
How Does 5G Work?
5G networks, like other cellular networks, use a set of cell sites that split their region into sectors and transmit encoded data via radio waves. Every cell site must be connected to the network backbone, whether by cable or wireless backhaul. 5G changes the way data is encoded and gives carriers a lot more alternatives when it comes to airwaves to use.
OFDM encoding is used in 5G networks, which is comparable to the encoding used in 4G LTE. However, the air interface is optimized for substantially lower latency and flexibility than LTE.
The new method makes available “high-band,” short-range airwaves that were previously unavailable to 4G technology. However, 5G can operate at any frequency, resulting in three distinct 5G experiences: low, middle, and high.
On the same old radio channels, 5G isn’t significantly faster than 4G. Instead, the 5G standard allows phones to access far wider channels and frequencies. However, the carriers and the FCC must make those broader channels available, and here is where they have generally failed.
With 4G, you can utilise a total of 140MHz of spectrum by combining up to seven 20MHz channels. Phones, on the other hand, often use 60MHz or less.
You can combine three 100MHz channels for 300MHz usage with new low- and mid-band 5G phones, and layer multiple more 20MHz 4G channels on top of that. You can use up to eight 100MHz channels in high-band 5G. However, if you don’t have access to the airwaves, you won’t be able to get the speeds.
Carriers can also use dynamic spectrum sharing to exchange channels between 4G and 5G. (DSS). DSS allows carriers to move the walls between 4G and 5G channels, allowing them to split channels between 4G and 5G based on demand. Verizon has been employing this for its “nationwide” 5G deployment. Because it doesn’t create any new airwaves for 5G, instead repurposing bits and pieces of 4G, we haven’t seen DSS 5G deliver significantly greater performance than 4G.
Low-band 5G uses frequencies less than 2GHz. These are the oldest mobile phone and television frequencies. They can go long distances, but there aren’t many channels available, and many of those channels are used for 4G. As a result, low-band 5G is slow. For the time being, it acts and feels like 4G. Low-band 5G channels range in width from 5MHz (for AT&T) to 20MHz (for T-Mobile), thus they’re not much bigger than 4G. You’re on low-band if your phone’s network indicator only shows “5G.”
To make matters more complicated, AT&T and T-Mobile low-band phones often display 5G indicators even when they aren’t connected to the network, making it difficult to discern the difference.
The frequency range for mid-band 5G is 2 to 10GHz. That includes the majority of existing cellular and Wi-Fi frequencies, as well as frequencies slightly higher. Because these networks have a reasonable range from their towers, sometimes around half a mile, they are the workhorse networks that carry the majority of 5G data in most other countries. For mid-band 5G, most other countries have offered roughly 100MHz to each of their carriers.
In the United States, numerous different mid-band slices are employed. Some are contentious; the airline industry has complained that frequencies between 3.7 and 4.0GHz are too close to the frequency of their radio altimeters, which operate at 4.2 to 4.4GHz. However, that isn’t the only mid-band frequency we use! T-“extreme Mobile’s capacity” 5G network operates on 100MHz channels.
2.5GHz. AT&T and Verizon have just launched new mid-band networks based on the “C-band,” which operates at frequencies of 3.7 to 3.8GHz. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Dish will all expand their 3.45 to 3.55GHz coverage later this year. You’re on mid-band or high-band if your phone’s status indicator shows “5G UC,” “5G UW,” or “5G+.” On your phone, there’s no clear way to discern the difference between mid-band and high-band.
The genuinely new thing is millimeter-wave 5G, or high-band 5G. This has largely been in the 20-100GHz range thus far. These frequencies have never been used for consumer use. They have a relatively low range; our tests revealed distances from towers of roughly 800 feet. However, there is a large amount of unoccupied spectrum up there, allowing for extremely rapid rates of up to 800MHz at a time. On Verizon’s high-band network, dubbed “ultra wideband,” we’ve seen speeds of over 3Gbps. Unfortunately, Verizon’s network only provided roughly 3% coverage in the cities we tested in our Fastest Mobile Networks 2021 tests. High-band services are also available from AT&T and T-Mobile. They usually limit it to high-density areas such as college campuses and football stadiums.
High-band backhaul has already been utilized to connect base stations to faraway internet cables. However, because handheld processing power and tiny antennas were not accessible at the time, they were not used for consumer products. Millimeter-wave signals also fade faster over distance than lower-frequency signals, and the vast amount of data they transmit will necessitate additional landline internet connections. To deliver the multi-gigabit speeds that millimeter-wave networks promise, cellular companies use many smaller, lower-power base stations (usually 2–10 watts) rather than fewer, more powerful macrocells (which emit 20–40 watts). The waves are relatively mild when they reach you due to the rapid drop-off.
Carriers began installing these “small cells” in many major cities in 2017 to improve 4G capacity. To make 5G in those cities, they simply need to add an extra radio to the existing site. However, in some areas, carriers are having difficulty persuading municipalities to allow them to build tiny cells in suburban areas. This is similar to prior battles in many of these areas to get cellular coverage at all.
Verizon is working with firms that make 5G extenders and repeaters, such as Pivotal Commware, to improve its high-band 5G coverage.
Where Can I Get 5G?
Although 5G is now “national,” you’ll have different experiences in different regions due to the carriers’ differing methods.
Verizon offers a slower “national” 5G based on shared 4G channels, mid-band 5G in 46 metro areas, and fast, high-band 5G in over 60 locations, with coverage maps available online.
Verizon’s coverage map uses the same hue for mid-band and high-band coverage. Almost all of it is in the mid-band. “5G UW,” or “ultra wideband,” is how Verizon refers to its mid and high bands.
T-Mobile presently offers national low-band 5G and faster mid-band 5G service, with a coverage finder available here.
, as well as some limited high-band coverage for which I haven’t been able to locate a recent coverage update. The mid- and high-bands are dubbed “5G UC,” or “5G ultra capacity.”
AT&T has slow low-band coverage across much of the country, mid-band coverage in a few locations, and high-band coverage in a variety of “venues” like stadiums and campuses. The low-band is dubbed “5G,” while the mid- and high-bands are dubbed “5G+.” Here are low-band maps and a high-band venue list from the company.
Which 5G Phones Will Be Released?
Any phone costing more than $300 should be able to support 5G. The following is a list of Verizon phones that support mid-band 5G. AT&T’s list is identical, however it includes the Galaxy A13 5G. Mid-band is supported by all T-Mobile 5G phones.
Because low- and mid-band 5G is less expensive to execute than high-band 5G, high-band 5G is not available on many AT&T and T-Mobile phones. I’m undecided about whether or not it matters. The firms actually hold a lot of high-band airwaves, so more technology is better. However, they’ve been tight-lipped about what they want to do with them, so it’s unclear what benefit high-band will provide in AT&T and T-Mobile phones. The OnePlus 9 Pro, Galaxy S21 and S22 series, Galaxy Z Flip3 and Fold3; Galaxy Note 20 Ultra; iPhone 12 and 13 series; Pixel 5; and Verizon and AT&T models of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro all have high-band.
For further information, see our current list of the top 5G phones (and the table below).
Models from Huawei, Oppo, Realme, Xiaomi, and others are available in other countries. They don’t work on American 5G networks since they don’t support our frequency ranges; instead, they employ European and Asian mid-band technologies that we don’t have.
Is 5G Safe?
Yes. Online conspiracy theories have linked 5G to anything from cancer to the coronavirus, but they tend to crumble when confronted with actual evidence. 5G low-band and mid-band employ radio frequencies that have been in use for decades. UHF TV bands, which have been in use since 1952, are used in low-band 5G. Sprint’s mid-band has been in operation since at least 2007, with elements of it dating back to 1963.
The airline industry has recently expressed worries about AT&T and Verizon’s new C-band networks, claiming that the frequencies are too close to those used by radio altimeters, which determine an airplane’s distance from the ground. The cellular networks, which operate at 3.7 to 3.8GHz, and altimeters, which operate at 4.2 to 4.4GHz, are separated by 400MHz, although certain altimeter models lack filters to prevent transmissions on other channels. The FAA and the FCC have been working on solutions to this problem, including certifying altimeter models with filters and establishing “exclusion zones” around airport approaches with no C-band.
In the United States, the most serious 5G concerns revolve around high-band, or millimeter-wave, 5G. This is a short-range system that necessitates a large number of tiny cell sites, making the infrastructure more apparent than before. The irony of fretting that millimeter-wave will fry your cells is that it is too weak: it is blocked by foliage, walls, glass, cars, clothing, and skin.
The importance of power levels is crucial. The frequency of Bluetooth and microwave ovens is the same. Some individuals believe millimeter-wave communications are microwave ovens that will fry us because they are technically called microwave. But a firefly isn’t the same as a blowtorch, and 5G systems are more like fireflies.
have demonstrated that it does not penetrate human skin well and that its strongest effect, at power levels higher than those used by any 5G network, is to make things slightly warmer. There is no discernible effect on people at the levels used by 5G networks.
The whole narrative on why 5G is safe may be found here.
What Does 5G Mean?
The home internet is the first major 5G application. T-Mobile and Verizon are both offering residential internet services using their 5G mid-band and high-band networks. Hundreds of terabytes are regularly used every month by home consumers.
, which is more than our 4G networks can handle. The capacity of 5G networks is sufficient to meet that demand.
Carriers will find it easier to deploy 5G home internet than house-by-house fiber optic cables. Instead of digging up every street, carriers can simply attach fiber optics to a cell site every few blocks and then provide wireless modems to users. T-5G Mobile’s home internet service has been reviewed, and it is better than DSL but not as good as fiber.
However, home internet isn’t a new concept. The truly novel apps are waiting for ubiquitous 5G coverage that is noticeably quicker than 4G, and the mid-band hold-up on AT&T and Verizon means we aren’t there yet.
Another 5G use that we’re starting to see is remote control of robotics and drones. Remote pilots can manage vehicles from a distance without lag because to 5G’s reduced latency than 4G, and because 5G has more bandwidth, they can get reliable multi-camera video feeds from vehicles to see where they’re going. Tiny Mile delivery robots in Toronto
Bell’s 5G network is testing snacks delivery.
Verizon has shown remote-piloted drones in manufacturing, agriculture, and firefighting, with video and sensor data sent back through 5G.
This will also be a crucial component in self-driving cars. Self-driving cars will interact with smart roadways, traffic lights, and other vehicles, and may have to offload some of their processing capacity to larger, nearby computers—but only if you’re on a low-latency 5G network, not a 4G network.
Even though the cars are exchanging very little packets of data, they must do so almost immediately. When a packet of data is sent directly between two automobiles or bounces from a car to a tiny cell on a lamppost to another car, 5G’s sub-one-millisecond latency comes into play. (A light-millisecond is approximately 186 miles, therefore the majority of the 1ms lag is still processing time.)
Think about what you can do with a dependable 100Mbps connection instead of 500Mbps when it comes to video and games. In this example, 5G refers to increasing the minimum connection speed to allow for multiple high-quality broadcasts and low-latency camera switching.
During a game, Verizon demonstrated an NFL experience in which spectators may rotate between seven high-quality camera viewpoints. Bell has installed dozens of cameras throughout a hockey arena in Canada, allowing you to flip through a fluid 360-degree picture of the action.
5G will assist people on-site in those arenas the most because it can handle more connections at once than 4G. A 5G network will not “choke up” in crowded venues, such as concerts, sporting events, and parades (if we ever go back to any of them).
The role of 5G in augmented reality and the “metaverse” has been discussed. The notion is that if you’re going to be wearing AR glasses outside, having company ratings show up above restaurant front doors, and conversing with holographic ghosts of individuals walking next to you, you’ll need the low latency and consistent speed that 5G provides.
However, I’d like to stress that we have no idea what the main 5G application will be. Many observers predicted that clear voice calling would be the main driver of 2G, but text messaging turned out to be the big new business. 4G was first released with laptop modems, but it quickly became known as a method for phones to upload and download video. Unexpected new uses will inevitably emerge once high-quality 5G is widely available.
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