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What Is 5G: 5G Types & FAQs Explained

You’ve probably heard of 5G. Introduced in 2018 and now widely popular, 5G, the fifth generation of telecommunications networks, is much faster than 4G LTE, the previous generation. 5G has even better speed, bandwidth, latency, and more. All that means is you can browse and download much faster and with fewer hiccups. 

To understand 5G and its importance, we first need to understand the previous generations of cellular networks.

Launched in the 1980s, 1G could only carry one analog voice. In the 1990s, 2G gave networks texting and picture messages. In the 2000s, 3G shook the world by turning our phones into computers, allowing them to use data and use the internet. Lastly, 4G networks were more than 100 times faster than 3G networks, and mobile network coverage was increased. 5G reigns supreme above all the previous generations.

If you’re curious about exploring the different wireless plans offering 5G data and comparing them with options from across the market, our Plan Finder is here to help! In seconds we’ll find you the best possible options for your unique needs.

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Why Should I Care About 5G?

5G is rapidly shifting how businesses, infrastructures, healthcare systems, militaries, and consumer lives are conducted worldwide. With 5G being faster than previous networks, like 4G and 3G, consumers can download and use data more quickly, improving day-to-day communications. 

High-speed internet access, thanks to 5G, improves data-intensive tasks like streaming, teleconferencing, cloud usage, and even remote healthcare services. Plus, 5G's low latency (in other words, minimal delay) allows for fast response times.

On a more individual level, 5G means faster, stronger connections when you use your phone to do anything that needs internet access.

What Is 5G?

As we mentioned, 5G is the fifth generation of telecommunications networks. 5G wireless technology comes with many new strengths, though it has taken time for 5G services to be implemented.

5G improvements include:

1. Speed

While 5G speeds are better than 4G LTE speeds, with reported peak download speeds at 753 Mbps on the radio waves we currently use, 5G is not yet hugely faster than 4G on a massive scale. This is largely due to certain carriers, like AT&T, aiming to offer widespread 5G coverage initially, and then build on the quality of those 5G networks later on. As 5G is still relatively “young” in the world of phones and connectivity, only dating back to 2018-19, there are still improvements to be made as technology advances. 

Current 5G networks are most different from their 4G counterparts in regards to how many devices they can handle at once, so networks are less likely to experience crowding-related slowdowns.

2. Bandwidth

A network with high bandwidth can handle more connected devices.

5G has allowed more people than ever to connect to the internet. 5G networks can support up to a million devices per square kilometer at high speeds, over 20 times the GBs per second as 4G. This also increases download speeds because 5G technology is less likely to get overloaded and slow down. This means people can stream and download much more on 5G networks than on 4G networks.

3. Latency

Latency measures how long it takes for data to travel between two connected points. Low latency means that mobile phones and other connected devices have high loading speeds to use the internet. 4G latency was about 200 milliseconds, while 5G latency can get close to a single millisecond.

Is 5G Coverage Better Than 4G LTE?

Since 5G is a new technology, it has yet to reach the coverage that 4G currently has. However, phone companies are trying to expand 5G coverage as fast as possible. The Big Three — Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T — are performing their 5G rollouts at an impressive pace.

How Does 5G Work?

5G devices use radio frequencies to create wireless access. Radio frequencies range from 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz). The 30 GHz- 300 GHz range of the radio spectrum, called the millimeter band because it has 1-10 millimeter waves or mmwaves, is being used for 5G.

There are three different ways to build and optimize a 5G network:

  • Low-Band Network. A low-band 5G network has great coverage but is only a little faster than 4G.
  • Mid-Band Network. A mid-band 5G network has a balanced amount of speed and coverage.
  • High-Band Network. High-band networks have extremely fast speeds, but the signals don’t travel too effectively.

How Does 5G Compare to Other Networks?

We need to stroll down memory lane to fully understand how 5G evolved. It’s a great way to appreciate the improvements in mobile networks and see just how far we'’ve come. From vintage 1G to advanced 5G, each generation has transformed the way we connect and communicate.

1G: The Analog Origin

The 1980s heralded the advent of the first generation of mobile networks, 1G. These networks were all about analog voice communication. Nothing too exciting today, but it was a big deal back then!

Even if you weren’t around back then, you’ve probably seen the hefty cell phones from the eighties in classic films. They were the pioneers of wireless communication, allowing people to talk on the move without the tangles of a phone cord, though the sound quality and security weren’t anything to write home about. 

Still, it was a significant step forward from being tethered to landlines.

2G: Digital Voice Enters the Scene

In the early 1990s, mobile networks introduced 2G. This was the era when digital voice communication came into play.

2G brought improvements like enhanced sound quality, better security, and the introduction of SMS (text messaging). 

3G: The Dawn of Mobile Data

You might remember accidentally clicking the internet icon on your old flip phone and panicking because you knew your carrier would charge you through the nose for it. That was the dawn of 3G. This third generation of mobile networks was where mobile data truly began to shine. Technologies like CDMA2000, the standard for 3G connectivity, came into the picture, allowing our phones to access the internet, host video calls, and support mobile TV rather than just voice calls and texts.

At this point, it was possible, to browse the internet, check emails, and even download content. Sure, it wasn’t at the ultra-fast speeds we’re used to today, but it was only going to get better.

4G LTE: Welcome to Mobile Broadband

In the 2010s, 4G LTE brought us into the era of mobile broadband. 

This gave us faster internet service, the ability to watch high-definition videos on our phones, video conferencing, and so much more. 

5G: A New Era of Connectivity

And now, we’re stepping into the future with 5G. Designed to provide unprecedented connectivity, 5G brings high speeds, superior reliability, and almost no latency. 

Where do we go from here? The next logical evolution is 6G, which is in the works as we speak.

What Are the Other Types of 5G Networks?

Trying to make sense of 5G is certainly exciting, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t say it’s a bit complex. So let’s simplify this by breaking down the different types of 5G networks. Each type has its unique strengths, and understanding them can help you make an informed choice for your wireless needs.

The ones we're about to breakdown - 5G UW, 5G UC, and 5G Plus - are what Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T respectively call their networks. When you're connected to these, versus the regular 5G network, you'll see the appropriate icon on your phone where you'd normally see the plain 5G.

Despite a few differences, these mostly provide similar speeds, latency, and connection strength.

What Is 5G UC?

5G UC, or ultra capacity 5G, is T-Mobile’s approach to 5G, combining mid-band and mmWave (millimeter wave) networks. It is also referred to as 5G XR. 

Imagine being on a highway where the express lane (5G UC) gets you to your destination much faster than the regular lanes (standard 5G). It’s because 5G UC operates on higher frequencies, and that leads to faster speeds and a smoother overall experience.

This means when you’re streaming your favorite show or working on the go, you’re likely to notice quicker downloads and more reliable connections, especially in areas where these networks are available.

What Is 5G UW?

5G UW stands for Ultra Wideband, and it’s Verizon’s specialty in the world of 5G. By using a wider range of radio frequencies, 5G UW can achieve much higher speeds and significantly lower latency than traditional 5G networks.

This ultra-fast, low-latency network is made for the demands of high-bandwidth applications. Whether you’re a gamer, a streamer, or just someone who appreciates lightning-fast internet, 5G UW is a definite upgrade on normal 5G, let alone 4G LTE.

What Is 5G+?

Last but not least, 5G+ is AT&T’s take on 5G technology. The 5G+ network is an upgrade on the 5G network, bringing you wide coverage, balanced performance, or ultra-high speeds even in crowded areas like airports or concerts.

What Are Non-Standalone Networks?

Since 5G is so new, many networks are combining 5G and 4G LTE networks, which are called “non-standalone networks.” Some networks also perform network slicing, which means they can split up channels between 4G and 5G based on demand.

5G FAQs

Are There Problems With 5G?

Since 5G is still being developed, there are some areas for improvement. 5G speeds are still increasing, with some pitfalls. On some networks, 5G runs slower than 4G LTE. However, this will likely be smoothed out by wireless networks in the coming years, as telecom companies are hurrying to increase 5G coverage. There are also concerns surrounding the economic impact of 5G replacing 4G and privacy, security, and cost.

How Has 5G Improved Data Storage?

5G has an improved data rate, with 5G phones having download speeds to maximum levels of 1 GBP to 10 GBPs.

What Is a 5G Core Network?

A 5G Core is the heart of a 5G network, controlling data traffic, security, and more.

Will 5G Replace Wi-Fi?

5G home mobile broadband allows customers to connect their homes to the internet without wireless, with faster speeds than typical wifi.

Do I Need a New SIM Card for 5G?

Typically, no, you don’t need a new SIM card. Most modern phones support 5G and 4G. Just make sure your device is 5G compatible. If you are in the market for a new 5G device, consider trying out Navi’s Phone Deal Finder.

Who Has the Best 5G Network?

This depends on the metrics used and what you seek in a 5G network. Coverage-wise, T-Mobile is currently the winner, though its bandwidth is slower than Verizon or AT&T.

While its coverage is less expansive, Verizon’s 5G speeds are impressive and could theoretically hit 2.5 Gbps. 

As of this writing, AT&T is the only carrier with 5G in all 50 states, though its total coverage is less than T-Mobile.

If choosing the right 5G network seems daunting, consider Navi’s Plan Finder. We only need your zip code and current carrier, and we will find the right plan for you, hassle-free.

How Do I Turn Off 5G?

If you’re in one of the areas where 4G LTE is actually faster than 5G, you can go into your settings and turn off 5G. Usually, this option will live with your other network settings or as an immediate option in your general settings.

Is 5G Different From Gigabit LTE?

Gigabit LTE, also called LTE-Advanced, is different from 5G and built from a combination of LTE and Wi-Fi signals.

What Are 5G Small Cells?

A small cell is a miniature mobile wireless access point. Think of it as a smaller cell tower. In fact, small cells are usually the size of a pizza box. 5G small cells provide 5G access on a smaller scale and are useful in boosting coverage in areas with a high demand for data. 

The Bottom Line

5G makes it easier for us to communicate, work, and enjoy ourselves online. Streaming, gaming, talking, texting, web surfing, conducting business and commerce, and more will become faster and more effective. 4G, while still more robust, has lower latency, speed, and bandwidth.

We are using our phones now more than ever, and 5G will likely increase phone use further. It is important to be informed about cell phones and cell phone carriers. If this sounds intimidating, let us help.

Discovering the ideal phone and carrier shouldn’t be a headache. At Navi, we’re all about simplifying your search. With our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder and Plan Finder, we’ll sift through countless options in a flash to find the best ones for you.

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