What Is 5G?

5G is the name given to the next generation of mobile data networks. It will be much faster than the current 4G/LTE networks we use with our iPhones today. That speed may lead to other uses, such as as a replacement for home network options as well. The problem with 5G is that it doesn't have the range of 4G, so it will require more transmitters spaced closer together. Therefore, it may only be used in cities.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: What Is 5G?.

So what is 5G? I'm sure you've heard the term by now but how will it effect you. Well, 5G is basically the next generation of mobile phone network. So right now you're using 4G LTE or just 4G and that gives you a fairly decent connection to be able to browse the internet, do video conferencing, upload posts, things like that using your iPhone. 5G is just going to simply be faster. It's going to make your iPhone faster. Pages will download faster, things will happen quicker when you're connecting to the internet, websites, whatever.

Now it does this two different ways. One is that the actual speed, the bandwidth, is going to be as much as a 100 times faster. It's quite a huge improvement over 4G. Also latency is going to be quicker. That's how quickly you get a response. When you ask for something like a webpage it's how quickly the server responds. That's going to be as quick as one millisecond. Right now it's much slower than that. Like 70 milliseconds or something on average. So it's going to definitely feel faster and download things faster using 5G.

So why is this a big deal? Because speeds of 5G are going to rival or even surpass the speeds that we get a home now. So you're used to having a slower connection on your iPhone when you're out but at home using your cable modem or DSL you have a fast connection. But it could actually be the case in five years with 5G that you have a faster connection using your phone.

How does it do it? Well, it's going to use a different set of frequencies than what 4G uses. It going to use higher frequency and that's going to give better speed as well as a whole bunch of other new technology that's going into the transmitters for 5G. So is there a downside to that? Yes, a big one. So these 5G frequencies don't travel very far through the air and they have a lot of trouble penetrating building walls. So this means that there are going to have to be transmitters pretty much every city block and sometimes multiple ones per city block.

Currently with 4G you can cover an area by placing the transmitters every few miles on towers. So the good news is they can be smaller so if you have to have a bunch of them on every city block they can be on a building roof, be on telephone poles, and all sorts of existing structures. They are a lot smaller devices.

Now how about outside of cities? Well, it's probably not practical for being out in rural areas. It's easy in cities to have them every block because there are a lot of people per block. There are a lot of homes or apartment buildings and there are existing structures like telephone poles. But going out into the country it probably doesn't pay to actually put a whole bunch of these to cover an area where there might only be one house or small neighborhood.

The solution to that is simply to combine and have 5G and 4G available. Our phones already do this. They already have the previous generations. You may notice sometimes that your iPhone drops to 3G or even Edge network, 2G, and this will be true in the future as well. You might have 5G in the city where you work but then when you go home maybe there's no 5G there and your phone will gracefully fall back to 4G.

Is it available now? Well despite the fact that you may be seeing a lot of headlines with 5G in them it's not really available now. There are some networks that are doing small tests around the world where they install a few transmitters in an area and they have a few testers with special phones that have 5G capability. Of course they need to do this to test things out so they can move forward.

So then when will it really be available. Two things need to happen. First there needs to be lots of transmitters so your city needs to actually get 5G. Not all the carriers may do it. You may have one carrier that does it and another carrier that lags behind. Sometimes you'll see headlines where it's saying one carrier is the first to roll it out but maybe it only rolls it out in a small area and by the time it's rolled out everywhere in your city it's probably going to be on all the networks.

So that has to happen first. Only after that happens will Apple probably put 5G into iPhones. They're not going to put it into iPhones when it's only available to less then 1% or potential users. So Apple usually does wait until it's widely available before they bother to put the chips in and make the iPhones more expensive with that new technology and only a few people can use it when they do it too early. So people are still talking about 2020 but that's getting pretty close already. Probably more realistic to think of it maybe in iPhones in 2021.

How about if your iPhone says it has 5G now. There's a little bit of a controversy going on because AT&T is using the term 5GE to mean 5G Evolution to basically say a little bit faster more robust 4G network. They are actually getting sued by other carriers for using the term 5G which they feel might mislead a lot of people. So if you see 5GE on your phone through AT&T it's not really 5G. It's just a pretty good 4G network.

Also, if 5G is going to be faster than your existing cable modem or DSL connection at home it could be that you have the option to get that as your home service. So you may have a box that gives you home internet that instead of connecting by wire that your telephone company or your cable company is connecting to the local 5G network. At the very least this will bring more competition for home networking which could lower prices for everybody.

Also people as excited about the possibility of perhaps getting 5G to the automobile. So then perhaps the highway gets wired with 5G networks and you're able to get faster internet connections in your car because your car has a 5G receiver. So there are a lot of cool possibilities for the future for 5G. We're at the really early stages now but one thing is for sure is that it seems like a lot of companies are invested in it and it will be coming, at least to our mobiles phones, in a few years.

Comments: 2 Responses to “What Is 5G?”

    Stephen wratten
    2 weeks ago

    Really surprised you didn’t address the elephant in the room, specifically the health threat and the fact that there has been no testing on people as to the long term effects of this technology. After all 5g has been developed by the military as a weapon so it’s not quite the panacea that you make out Gary.

    2 weeks ago

    Stephen: I’m not aware of any credible sources claiming there is a health issue. 5G cellular service is using radio waves similar to radio, TV, 4G, WiFi and many other services that have been in existence for a long time. It really isn’t that different from this perspective from what we already use now. Plus the sun is bombarding us with a flood radio waves all day long and has been all our lives.

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