As the first 5G networks continue to grow in size, this powerful next-generation technology is getting ready for its day in the spotlight. Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T (among many others) are all rolling 5G coverage as fast as possible.
While it will be years before the U.S. is blanketed in 5G the same way it is with 4G today, there are already more and more 5G phones coming into the market. Here is what you can expect a 5G phone to do with the 5G network.
Before diving into what your phone can do, let’s look at how we got here. So what is 5G? “G” stands for generation and the “5” stands for the fifth generation of mobile technology. For those who remember, 1G was as basic as it gets back when cell phones first rolled out to the world. They were big, bulky and expensive. The launch of 2G introduced the world to digital technology or GSM along with everyday staples like text messaging.
3G was our first foray into data speeds that didn’t invoke the thought of the modem sound playing in your living room. Today we live in a 4G world, and it’s fast, often very fast with data speeds that can rival home broadband. That brings us back to 5G which is set to have the fastest Internet speeds you’ve ever experienced at home or on your smartphone.
Faster Speeds for All
If you haven’t already picked up on this theme, the primary focus of 5G is speed. There’s little disagreement among the nation’s biggest carriers that 5G will be faster, but there’s a catch. Your phone won’t open Facebook or Reddit any faster. That’s more about the processing power of the phone. Where you will see the difference is when you try to download a movie or a music file.
Today it might take 30 seconds to download a song and a few minutes to download a TV show. With 5G those download times are going to be cut down significantly, likely in the blink of an eye. T-Mobile promises that by 2024,its 5G network will be up to ten to fifteen times faster than 4G LTE. Verizon says its speeds can be up to 100 times faster in the next few years. That’s mind-blowing! Instead of a few minutes to download a movie on Netflix, it will now take seconds. Your downloaded video will also be much crisper on a 5G connection.
Lower Latency Is a Good Thing
This benefit is more network-related and slightly more technical, but it’s relevant all the same. As phone manufacturers build this into their future devices, the benefits for customers all over the world are significant. Simply stated, latency is the time it takes for a signal from your phone to reach a cell tower. In today’s 4G world, those times average around fifty milliseconds. On your future 5G smartphone, that time can be reduced to just one millisecond.
This incredible improvement means games like Fortnite will benefit tremendously and introduce an even better multiplayer experience. Likewise, video chat apps like Skype or FaceTime will see a reduction in the delay between someone talking and their lips/face moving. It’s very subtle with a strong 4G LTE signal, but 5G is dramatically better.
The Internet of Things
This benefit might be surprising, but it’s already taking place in our 4G LTE world. The Internet of Things, also known as IoT, is loosely translated to how all of our devices are connected to each other. If you have smart lights in your home or a smart fridge, you’re scratching at the surface of IoT.
As 5G rolls out to these devices and your smartphone, it’s going to change the way you live. Connecting all of these together requires significant capacity on each cellular network, and that’s why 5G is so important. Some of this is possible today, but that’s only because the number of people doing it is small. The biggest benefit of 5G for your phone is that each carrier will have the bandwidth that allows you to turn down your thermostat from a thousand miles away almost instantly. All of this will be possible from the palm of your hand.
To be certain, all of this just touches the surface of what is possible with 5G. The primary focus right now is going to be speed, and 5G phones will unquestionably be fast.
Unfortunately, it’s going to be years before you have to worry about it as the first 5G-compatible devices are just launching now, and their networks are spotty at best. It will likely be five to ten years before we see nationwide coverage. Until then, enjoy what you have while keeping an eye on the future.