In December 2018, AT&T made history by becoming the first mobile carrier to roll out 5G service. The average person probably thinks that 5G is merely a high-speed cellular service, however, technology aficionados know it’s much more than that—5G has the potential to facilitate major technological shifts in the way our world works. In our two-part series, the Mystic Media Blog will take a look at what 5G is and how it could shift our society.
WHAT IS 5G?
Let’s start with the basics. The G in 5G stands for Generation. 5G is the 5th generation of wireless technology. 5G will bring exponentially faster download & upload speeds with reduced latency, enabling many practical high-tech innovations across many different industries, in addition to many new consumer applications.
4G has been the prevailing cellular technology for the past 5-8 years. 4G is currently responsible for the high speeds powering your phone. While 4G speeds average about 16.9 megabits per second (Mbps), 5G promises to deliver speeds at the Gigabit level, greatly enhancing the things your devices can do. For example, while 4G allows for streaming in HD, 5G will make it possible to stream 4K HDR content.
The appeal of 5G is not just speed, but access as well. 5G will allow many more devices to connect to 5G networks at once. In order to facilitate this, carriers will have to use more cell sites. Currently, there are about 25,000 200-foot cellular towers blanketing large portions of the US with cellular service. 5G will change that, in fact, there will be far more 5G cell sites in the future, each covering a smaller region. These are called “Small Cells” and function differently from large cellular towers.
Check out Verizon’s awesome breakdown of what “Small Cells” are and their importance below.
5G will also greatly reduce latency, or the amount of time it takes for devices to communicate with each other’s wireless networks. For online gamers, reduced latency has a great deal of applications, as well as in healthcare, autonomous vehicles, and many other examples which we’ll cover in our next blog on what 5G can do for the future.
Unlike 4G LTE, 5G operates on three different spectrum bands.
Low-band spectrum is a sub-1GHz spectrum. It is primarily used by carriers in the US for LTE and offers great coverage area, great building penetration, and peak data speeds of 100Mbps.
Mid-band spectrum provides faster coverage and lower latency than low-band, but fails to penetrate buildings as well as LTE. Peak speeds are up to 1Gbps on mid-band spectrum.
High-band spectrum, also known as mmWave, can offer peak speeds of up to 10Gbps with lower coverage area and weak building penetration.
The real innovations facilitated by 5G are happening at high spectrum bands which are less used by cellular companies. Frequencies of 28GHz and 39GHz have large sections of spectrum available to create big channels for high speeds. Those bands have been used for very advanced technologies previously, such as connecting base stations to remote internet links, but they have never been used for consumer devices.
WHEN IS IT ROLLING OUT?
5G’s roll out will be gradual. As mentioned earlier, until there are enough cellular cites for 5G to cover the entire nation, 5G will work together with 4G to augment connection speeds.
AT&T officially become the first carrier to roll out 5G service earlier this month when the carrier began offering 5G in parts of Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Louisville, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, New Orleans, Waco and San Antonio. AT&T will expand 5G in early 2019.
Verizon began offering 5G fixed in homes in October 2018. Verizon’s 5G is currently available in portions of Houston, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles, with plans to roll out standards-based mobile 5G in 2019.
T-Mobile expects to launch 5G in New York, LA, Dallas, and Las Vegas in 2019 with nationwide rollout in 2020.
Sprint will deploy 5G in early 2019 with additional markets in the future.
In our next blog, we’ll explore how 5G will enable innovations that will change the way our world works. Stay tuned!