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We’ve been hearing about the impending rollout of 5G for so long it almost feels like an urban legend. One hundred times faster than 4G technology with next to no latency and the ability to connect an unlimited number of devices? It sounds too good to be true, but the technology is making its way to stores near you — the iPhone 12 is already available and boasts 5G capabilities.
But what does that really mean for users, how fast is 5G and how much time is it going to save us in our day-to-day? That depends on the kind of internet activities you enjoy and the number of users you’re planning to connect to your network.
How fast is 5G?
5G, or fifth-generation, technology will max out at 10 Gbps while 4G only goes up to 100 Mbps. At its fastest, 5G is one hundred times faster than 4G on devices with the capability. 5G also promises to deliver a fifth of the latency of 4G (4 ms vs. 20 ms). This means that every internet-connected activity you enjoy will take less time to load and respond faster to your commands, which is time back in your very valuable day.
What speeds can you really expect?
The exact capabilities of your 5G network will depend heavily on your internet service provider. Swapping data as fast as 5G will theoretically allow is going to bring you to your data limit pretty quickly if one is applicable. Average data limits like 1.2 TB per month are expected to last whole families with multiple devices.
That same cap on a family with a household of 5G devices wouldn’t last a week, so the onus will either be on subscribers or providers to incorporate the new technology into available internet plans. Providers like Verizon promise “no data limit or data cap for 5G Home Internet service.”
You’ll also need to make sure your devices, as well as your home’s Wi-Fi router, are equipped with 5G capabilities. You won’t be able to experience the full effects of 5G technology if your equipment only has the capacity for 4G.
How does 5G work?
Believe it or not, they didn’t reinvent the wheel to bring 5G to fruition. The tech will actually take advantage of millimeter waves on a new band of the existing 4G radio spectrum. 5G will take advantage of millimeter waves broadcasting at frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz, as opposed to 4G, which typically uses below 6 GHz.
Millimeter waves don’t travel well through walls and buildings, so 5G “base stations” are needed for better coverage. The tech that’s in these base stations, aka massive MIMO, will also live in your 5G router to extend your network to the furthest corners of your home.
When will 5G come to me?
Major mobile providers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have already begun development on 5G networks in areas of the country and even released a few buzzworthy 5G devices. But if you’re wondering whether you should upgrade sooner rather than later, it might be worth waiting for more network expansion. Without proper infrastructure, the speeds we’ve described at the quality expected isn’t possible on a widespread scale.
Major 5G adoption won’t take place for years, but if you’re looking for a sweet spot, a recent study released by GSMA predicts 5G to account for 50% of America’s mobile connections by 2025. That’s up from the 15% previously estimated by the group in 2018. Lucky for consumers, the race to 5G expansion is only speeding up, so we may be closer to 100% in 2025 than we know.
Do I need 5G?
If you’ve got a lot of residents in your home and a lot of devices to connect, you might want to jump on 5G as soon as you’re able. The speeds and latency that 5G boasts are sure to boost your internet quality. If you’re looking to experience that boost sooner rather than later, you may fare well by switching your internet connection type.
If available, try a fiber optic provider for the highest quality, fastest speeds and most reliability. If fiber hasn’t made its way to your area, consider a cable provider with a gig-speed offering for comparable speeds. These plans often utilize a combination of cable and fiber networks to deliver speeds up to 1,000 Mbps for a fraction of the price of a standard fiber provider.
Written by:Taylor Gadsden
Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content
Taylor is a veteran member of the Allconnect content team and has spearheaded a number of projects, including a data piece on the top fiber cities in the U.S. and a troubleshooting guide on how to connect your p… Read more
Edited by:Shannon Ullman
Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content
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