What’s 5G?


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The future of technology greatly depends on increased connectivity, with 5G connectivity being the next quantum leap that will propel all aspects of innovation, from AI to self-driving cars to mixed reality. 5G bears this name because it is the fifth generation of wireless technology, and is expected to offer speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, wirelessly, making it more than 600 times faster than the speeds 4G standard.

While several US carriers have started offering 5G services in several cities, initial speeds have not been very promising. Indeed, they offer their 5G services by relying on their 4G or LTE networks. However, that will soon change with the major US telecom operators introducing dedicated 5G networks.

The reason 5G availability and speeds vary a lot is because it is offered in bands sections of the electromagnetic spectrum. These include the low band, which operates below 1Ghz and can only reach speeds of 250Mbps. However, it has the advantage of increased range, allowing for wider coverage with fewer turns. Next is the middle band of the 5G spectrum that analysts believe is the sweet spot. The mid band operates between 1 GHz and 6 GHz, which allows it to balance a reasonably wide geographic reach with speeds of up to 1 Gbps.

Finally, to use the very high end of the wireless spectrum and be able to reach the ultra-high speeds that 5G is capable of, operators must integrate millimeter wave (or mmWave) technology. While this technology can allow speeds of 10 Gbps, the challenge is that their signals tend to be much less reliable over long distances and are easily blocked by obstacles. This means that for it to be a viable option, operators would have to install a large number of small access points in a city, as opposed to the large mobile towers currently in place.

Finally, for end users to be able to use these 5G networks, they also need to upgrade their devices. Major phone makers today offer 5G handsets, in almost all price ranges. And with the adoption and proliferation of this technology, it would be safe to assume that almost all handsets used in the future will have 5G capabilities.

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