If you’re like most people, you didn’t know much about cellphone generations until cell carriers started advertising 4G speeds a few years ago. But the generations go all the way back to the first wireless phones, and every time a new generation began people could send more information at faster speeds over the airwaves. Now the time has come for the fifth generation, 5G, to start coming out, and some carriers are starting to jump the gun.
Here’s the thing about 5G: right now, there’s no accepted standard for what makes a network 5G instead of 4G. It needs to be faster with less latency and use new protocol software, but as far as actual milestones go, there are several ideas but nothing that everyone agrees on. So while carriers are promising to roll out gigabit internet speeds in some areas and calling them 5G networks, that’s really just a name.
Still, one thing people know for sure about 5G is that it will use signals in the very-high and ultra-high frequency ranges. That’s because signals in this range can carry a lot more information a lot faster, but the downside is that it works based on line-of-sight: large buildings and hills can block UHF signals.
In other words, the biggest issue with creating a wireless network with a gigabit internet connection is the fact that carriers will need to build a lot of extra cell towers and antennas. They don’t have to be as big as the old towers, but all the extra construction will cost a lot of money.
On the other hand, home internet users won’t have to worry about how fast 5G networks show up, especially if they have a fiber connection at home. Fiber cables are already showing up in major cities like San Antonio, Texas, and if they’re available in your area you can get a gigabit internet connection today, complete with symmetrical upload and download speeds. Plus you can get the same speed on a home Wi-Fi network with just a halfway decent router since Wi-Fi networks already use the UHF band to send and receive signals.
5G networks are starting to show up in certain cities, and it won’t be much longer before an organization defines 5G and we can find out whether the new, faster networks really are 5G or whether it’s just marketing. But cellphone networks will always be one step behind landlines because they have to make things mobile, so if you want to experience 5G speeds today you should find out whether a fiber line is available in your area.