What are the benefits of 5G? Better coverage, speed and more

With all the hype surrounding 5G technology, it’s sometimes hard to separate the promise of what 5G will become from the reality of what it is today.

There is no doubt that 5G will revolutionize the way we communicate. It offers the high speeds and low latency that were once the exclusive domain of fiber broadband, along with the ability to deliver ubiquitous connectivity to many more devices.

Worker looks up at the 5G tower against a cloudy sky.
Dish Wireless

It all sounds pretty good, but if you’re not impressed with your own experience with 5G, you are not alone† The new wireless technology has: started off a bit rough† This was especially true in the US, where airlines were forced to share the airwaves with older 4G/LTE technology, argue with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and aviation industryand juggle an assortment of low bandmiddle bandand high band mmWave spectrum to make it all fit together.

Until recently, the only benefit many people saw from using a 5G network was the warm and fuzzy feeling of seeing the letters “5G” on their phone’s status bar. However, unless you were lucky enough to be under 1% of people who lived or worked within range of a mmWave transceiveryou wouldn’t have noticed much improvement over your 4G/LTE service.

The state of 5G in 2022

The good news is that things are finally changing for the better. Like AT&T and Verizon roll out new C-band spectrum on their 5G+ and 5G Ultra Wideband networks, and T-Mobile is expanding its midband Ultra Capacity 5G network, customers are finally starting see significant speed increases on their carrier’s 5G services.

However, there is much more to 5G than just speed. Today’s 5G networks offer tangible improvements that you may not even be aware of, as so 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 nice to run speed tests and see high numbers, but in normal day-to-day use, most people don’t need the fastest speeds that 5G offers.

What people do need is: connectivityand 5G ensures that you get the signal you need much more often.

Better connectivity

Anyone who has tried to get decent cell service at a busy concert or sporting event knows that it can often be a challenge. Thousands of mobile phones competing for the same mobile service can overwhelm even the best 4G/LTE networks. Checking Facebook or Instagram is starting to feel like you’re plodding through tar, outgoing calls take longer to connect or fail completely, and incoming calls often end up in your voicemail instead of ringing your phone.

When used correctly, 5G technology will solve all these problems. First, 5G was designed from the ground up to deal with congestion much more efficiently, but it also has another trick up its sleeve: mmWave.

Previous 3G and 4G/LTE networks were limited to a narrow frequency band, mostly in the 800MHz and 1.9GHz zones. While 5G can work here too, it can also access a range of much higher frequencies known as the mmWave, or millimeter wave, spectrum† Operating on the 28GHz and 39GHz frequencies, the mmWave transceivers can handle a significantly greater number of connections without breaking a sweat.

The range of mmWave spectrum is usually very short – about a city block – but all airlines need to do is place a few around a stadium, concert hall or airport, and they can provide unprecedented connectivity. With 5G you get the same performance whether you’re at home or attend an NCAA basketball game surrounded by 70,000 of your closest friends

NCAA

The advantage is that if you want guaranteed top performance in these kinds of scenarios, you need a smartphone that can connect to these extremely high mmWave frequencies. Apple and Samsung flagships will definitely cover you, but others like Google’s Pixel 6 might be a mixed bag

Don’t worry if your 5G phone doesn’t support mmWave. Almost all 5G smartphones can use the midrange C-band frequencieswhich can still deliver better performance on congested networks than the lower spectrum used by 4G/LTE.

Lower latency

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 communication. While raw download and upload speeds are the metrics many like to focus on, they aren’t nearly as important to smartphone users as latency.

A gamer plays Destiny 2 on a phone through Google Stadia.
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Download speeds only measure how fast a single stream of data can be delivered to your device. However, fast download speeds don’t always equate to a responsive connection because of the way digital communications work. This is because 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 connection established. The kind of back and forth traffic that comes with web browsing, instant messaging, and online gaming requires many separate connections in each direction.

By way of analogy, it can be helpful to think of a communications network as a highway between states. Once you’re on the highway, you can travel far and fast, but you have to get on it first. That’s the latency part, and if you’re on much shorter trips back and forth, that extra time adds up quickly.

Latency can even be an issue 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 5G architects designed the new technology, they made it a priority to deliver at least the low-latency level found on wired broadband networks, if not better. As a result, when you’re on a 5G network, your overall experience of everything from surfing to online gaming should feel smoother, smoother and more responsive.

5G at home

While most of the news surrounding 5G seems to focus on smartphones and mobile network operators, 5G is also revolutionizing the way internet connectivity is delivered to homes and businesses. In the same way that 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. The devices in your home use WiFi as before, but instead of laying a coax or fiber optic cable in your home, everything is connected wirelessly to the internet via 5G.

T-Mobile 5G home internet router on tabletop with a person's hand plugging in the power adapter in the background.
T-Mobile

While 5G is home internet still in its infancy, the big three US airlines have made serious advances. T-Mobile recently celebrated 1 million 5G home internet customers around the same time it is announced a similar offer for small businesses through the whole country.

While 5G home internet typically offers download speeds of 30 Mbps to 180 Mbps, wired broadband connections still have an edge over 5G home internet. However, it’s a safe bet that these speeds will only improve as carriers roll out more 5G infrastructure.

The 5G vision for 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 possibilities 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. The 5G out there today offers enough to enable the kind of online communications we already do on our smartphones, tablets and laptops, but it will be some time before it’s ready to power a new generation of smart devices. to provide.

Blue panels with 5G logo on the CES booth.
Samsung

Researchers are already looking at ways 5G could be used autonomous vehiclesdrones and healthcare devices, but the network understandably needs to be both ubiquitous and bulletproof for that to happen.

The routers used by today’s 5G home and business internet services are probably just an emergency measure. As 5G capacity increases and connectivity becomes almost 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 can connect directly to the internet via 5G. Of course, there will be some security issues that need to be addressed before this becomes a reality, but researchers are also working on solutions to those issues.

In the meantime, private 5G networks pop up in factories, university campusesshopping centresand even resort hotels to deliver high-quality connectivity to visitors, employees, students and guests over a much wider area. Finally, 5G will eventually also be a key component in powering the smart cities of the future

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