By now you are already starting to see some of the 5G hype. Qualcomm and Huawei are talking a lot about it, and so are carriers who want to be the first to the technology even though only a handful of devices support it. Yet, the 5G future is still at least a year away from realizing its true potential.
That doesn't diminish its importance and what it could mean for our mobile experience: faster data speeds and lower latency for online gaming. However, that's just the first layer to this complicated technology that has been years in the making and will likely spend another couple years being fully adopted.
It's both a mixture of real technology and marketing hype meant to get you excited about the big breakthrough ahead thanks to 5G. Until that day arrives, here is everything you need to know about 5G.
The latest 5G news
April 9, 2019 - AT&T expands 5G coverage to 7 additional cities
AT&T has added seven cities to its 5G coverage, bringing the total coverage up to 19 cities. The aggressive expansion outnumbers every other carrier, putting it on the cutting edge of the technology.
This is part of the network's building of the 5G infrastructure before actual 5G phones roll out. There are few phones that support the new technology, but none are readily available for consumers through the network right now.
The only device that can take advantage of the new network is the NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G mobile hotspot. If you are itching to jump on the fastest AT&T network, this is your only option.
All the big details
How does it work?
The new 5G networks will function through two ways: low-frequency 5G and high-frequency 5G. This, in turn, will be the backbone of the much more potent networks with blazing fast data speeds.
That is because it splits up the duties of the network into two. The low-frequency network will use the radio bands of today that are already in use. It'll just change things up slightly with channel polarization and wider channel bands, to allow for much faster data connection than the current technology allows for 4G LTE.
Where things get exciting is with the high-frequency 5G tech that uses different wavelengths (such as 28GHz) that allows for much faster and wider channels of broadband service.
High-frequency 5G tech will allow for blazing fast broadband service.
A great way to understand this is to think of current bands as highways. The more cars are on the highway, the slower you will go. When network bands are congested, that leads to much slower speeds at crowded locations like concerts and sporting events.
5G aims to add more highways and make the available ones wider to allow for much faster speeds.
Then there are issues with cell sites and the range of the available spectrums, but 5G millimeter wave aims to stop that by using a new system with small cell sites that are closer together. This is why carriers are scrambling to build the 5G infrastructure with cell sites around the country to support the technology.
It is still a work a progress, which is why it is not readily available now.
Which phones support it?
As it turns out, there are a number of new devices that say they will support 5G when they become available. That may not be for a while, but these phones are first in line to get the faster data.
Most of these are not for sale yet, but they will some time in 2019.
- Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
- Samsung Galaxy Fold
- LG V50 ThinQ
- Huawei Mate X
- OnePlus 5G Phone
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G
- ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G
When do I get 5G?
Soon, but not now. And no AT&T users, don't be fooled by 5G E moniker that appears at the top of your phone, because you are not using the carrier's real 5G network. In fact, your phone doesn't even support the new network. 5G Evolution, which is its real name, is the same 4G LTE network, though AT&T likes to say it has been enhanced.
AT&T and the rest of the other carriers are rolling out their 5G networks very slowly throughout 2019. This coincides with the number of phones that will be able to jump on the faster broadband.
The end goal is to have the full push of 5G to come in 2020 when the networks are much more fleshed out and more common devices support the new broadband. Until then, 2019 will be mostly about growing pains with the few number of devices that can run on 5G networks costing upwards of over $1,000.
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