Jesse Hollington* lays out the difference between what 5G is today and what it promises to deliver in the future.
With all the hype surrounding 5G technology, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the promise of what 5G will one day become from the reality of what it is today.
There is no doubt that 5G promises to revolutionize the way we communicate.
It offers the high speeds and low latency that were once the exclusive domain of fiber optic broadband, along with the ability to provide ubiquitous connectivity to many other devices.
That all sounds pretty good, but if you’ve been disappointed in your own experience with 5G, you’re not alone.
The new wireless technology got off to a pretty rough start.
This has been especially true in the United States, where carriers have been forced to share the airwaves with older 4G/LTE technology, wrangling with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the aviation industry, and to juggle an assortment of low bands, mid bands and wide bands. high band mmWave spectrum to make it all fit together.
Until recently, the only benefit many people saw from being on a 5G network was the warm, fuzzy feeling of seeing the letters “5G” on their phone’s status bar.
However, unless you were lucky enough to be one of the 1% of people who lived or worked within range of an mmWave transceiver, you wouldn’t have noticed much of an improvement over your 4G service. /LTE.
The state of 5G in 2022
The good news is that things are finally changing for the better.
As AT&T and Verizon deploy new C-band spectrum on their 5G+ and 5G Ultra Wideband networks, and T-Mobile expands its Midband Ultra Capacity 5G network, customers are finally starting to see significant speed increases on 5G services. of their operator.
However, 5G is not just about speed.
Today’s 5G networks offer tangible improvements that you may not even be aware of, as many of the benefits of 5G work behind the scenes to improve your overall experience.
After all, how fast does your smartphone really need to be? It’s fun to run speed tests and see high numbers, but in typical day-to-day use, most people don’t need the fastest speeds that 5G offers.
What people need, however, is connectivityand 5G will ensure that you get the signal you need much more often.
Anyone who’s tried to get decent cell service at a crowded concert or sporting event knows it can often be a challenge.
Thousands of cell phones competing for the same cellular service can overwhelm even the best 4G/LTE networks.
Checking Facebook or Instagram starts to sound like tar, outgoing calls take longer to connect or fail altogether, and incoming calls often land in your voicemail instead of ringing your phone.
When properly deployed, 5G technology solves all of these problems.
First of all, 5G is designed from the start to handle congestion much more efficiently, but it also has another trick up its sleeve: mmWave.
Earlier 3G and 4G/LTE networks were limited to a narrow band of frequencies, typically living in the 800 MHz and 1.9 Ghz areas.
While 5G can also work here, it also has access to a much higher set of frequencies known as the millimeter wave spectrum.
Operating at 28 GHz and 39 GHz frequencies, mmWave transceivers can handle significantly more connections without the hassle.
The range of the mmWave spectrum tends to be very short – around a block away – but all operators have to do is place a few around a stadium, concert hall or airport, and they can offer unprecedented connectivity.
With 5G, you’ll get the same performance whether you’re sitting at home or watching an NCAA basketball game surrounded by 70,000 of your closest friends.
The catch is that if you want to be assured of top performance in scenarios like this, you’ll need a smartphone that can connect to those extremely high mmWave frequencies.
Apple and Samsung’s flagships will certainly have you covered, but others like Google’s Pixel 6 can be a mixed bag.
Don’t worry if your 5G phone doesn’t support mmWave.
Almost all 5G smartphones can use the mid-range C-band frequencies, which can still perform better on congested networks than the lower spectrum used by 4G/LTE.
It’s true that 5G has lower latency than 4G and 3G connections, but what does that mean? There are two aspects to performance when it comes to digital communications.
While raw upload and download speeds are the metrics many like to focus on, they aren’t as important to smartphone users as latency.
Download speeds only measure how fast a single stream of data can be transmitted to your device.
However, fast download speeds don’t always equate to a responsive connection due to how digital communications work.
This is because an additional overhead is required for each new request sent and response received.
Downloading a single file or streaming a single video relies on an existing and established connection.
The type of round-trip traffic involved in web browsing, instant messaging, and online gaming requires many separate connections in each direction.
By analogy, it may be useful to think of a communications network as an interstate highway.
Once on the highway, you can travel far and fast, but first you need to get there.
That’s the latency part, and if you do a lot of shorter round trips, that extra time adds up quickly.
Latency can be an issue even on wired broadband connections, but it’s much worse on traditional 3G and 4G/LTE cellular networks.
This is why mobile connections have always been a relatively poor choice for online gaming; low latency is crucial if you want to make sure your opponent gets the message as soon as you pull the trigger.
When the architects of 5G designed the new technology, they made it a priority to provide at least the low level of latency found on wired broadband networks, if not better.
The upshot is that when you’re on a 5G network, your overall experience of everything from surfing to online gaming should be faster, smoother and more responsive.
5G at home
Although most of the news around 5G seems to focus on smartphones and mobile network operators, 5G is also revolutionizing the way internet connectivity is delivered to homes and businesses.
The same way a traditional broadband router bridges a wired connection to your home Wi-Fi and Ethernet network, a 5G router can bridge a 5G wireless network.
Devices in your home use Wi-Fi like before, but instead of running coaxial or fiber optic cable through your home, everything is connected to the internet wirelessly via 5G.
While 5G home internet is still in its infancy, the big three US
carriers have made serious inroads.
T-Mobile recently celebrated 1 million 5G home internet customers around the same time it announced a similar offer for small businesses across the country.
While 5G home internet typically offers download speeds of 30 Mbps to 180 Mbps, wired broadband connections are still a step ahead of 5G home internet.
However, it’s a safe bet that these speeds will only improve as carriers deploy more 5G infrastructure.
The 5G vision of tomorrow
What we see today is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the promise of 5G technology.
The bandwidth, low latency and other more technical capabilities of 5G open the doors to many other possibilities.
However, the infrastructure has to be in place before many of these things can happen.
We are still in the construction phase at the moment.
The 5G that’s here today offers enough to power the kind of online communications we already do on our smartphones, tablets and laptops, but it’s going to be a while before it’s ready to power a new generation of smart devices.
Researchers are already exploring ways to use 5G for autonomous vehicles, drones and healthcare devices, but the network naturally needs to be both ubiquitous and bulletproof before that can happen. .
The routers used by today’s home and business 5G internet services are likely only an interim measure.
As 5G capability increases and connectivity becomes near universal, the day will come when you won’t need a home router at all.
Everything from your laptop and smart TV to your fridge and coffee maker will be able to connect directly to the internet via 5G.
Naturally, some security issues will need to be ironed out before this becomes a reality, but researchers are also working on solutions to those issues.
Meanwhile, private 5G networks are popping up in factories, college campuses, shopping malls, and even resort hotels to deliver high-performance connectivity to visitors, employees, students, and guests over a much wider area.
Finally, 5G will also ultimately be a key element in powering the smart cities of the future.
*Jesse Hollington is a mobile editor at Digital trends.
This article was first published on digitaltrends.com.