What Is 5G? How Will It Make A Difference To Me?
Technology never stops moving, it’s one of the things we love about it, but sometimes its hard to keep up with what is coming. You’ve probably heard of 5G, if not, it’s the follow up to 4G, the wireless connection for your smartphone, but does it just mean a bit faster data connection for a smartphone? Because really, most of the time 4G is fast enough, right?
In fact, 5G does bring more than increased speed, the question is, is it an important feature that you should think about when it comes to choosing your next phone? Let’s start with the basics of what 5G is, and then see why you may want to wait for a phone that includes it when its replacement time.
What is 5G?
Have you ever wondered what 4G actually stood for, or 3G for that matter? We know that it is the wireless technology that our phones use to transmit data, so when we connect to the internet to stream video, download emails, play games or use data intensive apps such as navigation tools. 3G was OK, but 4G meant broadband speeds, and 5G promises even more.
The G is not some tech shorthand, it simply stands for Generation, so 4G is 4th generation, and 5G is 5th generation. More speed then, but how. 5G achieves increased speeds over the 4G connections we use today by using a wider range o0f frequencies. 4G operates up to 6Ghz, using the low frequency bands, but still a much wider spread than previous generations. However, 5G uses frequencies between 30Ghz and 300Ghz (known as the millimeter band), not only higher frequencies, but a much wider range.
The higher frequencies give the speed increases, but if you find 4G fast enough for most things, is that all 5G can do?
A better connection is more than just speed
In fact, there is more to 5G, and not just for power users. Even those who love to look over the details of technical specifications and run speed tests. In fact, 5G has so much more for the average phone user that the speed aspect is probably the least impressive part of the experience.
To understand why it matters to every phone user, we have to look at how the wireless connection on a phone works. When we are using apps, watching a video or sending an email. The phone converts data into a signal, which is transmitted wirelessly to the nearest mobile base station.
It’s no secret that we all love phones, so unsurprisingly, when you are tapping send on an email, you can be pretty sure that at the same time, hundreds of other people are sending data as well. Each bit of data being sent is tied to a frequency, think of it as a road lane. If lots of data is sent at once, the lane clogs up, and the data travels slower. This is what happens with 4G, with fewer frequencies to operate in. Each lane is always busy, and that is why few people ever see the full speed of their 4G connection.
With its much, much wider choice of frequencies, there is more room for everyone’s data on 5G, and that means every phone has a better chance of getting the full speed out of a connection.
It’s more than phones
It’s not just other phones that can slow your 4G connection. Lower frequencies are generally crowded with all kinds of signals, and any one of them can interfere with your phone. From microwave ovens to remote garage doors, radio control models and wireless network routers. A strong signal from any of those can influence your phone connection, slow it down or even cause it to lose connection completely.
By using the higher frequency millimeter band, not only does 5G increase the number of available frequencies, but it removes your phone signal from the communications clutter found in the lower frequencies. All those other devices competing for bandwidth are left behind, allowing for a cleaner signal path for your data.
What that means is that not only does 5G give faster speeds, but more reliable connections that can make use of that speed more often. A problem that has plagued 4G since launch, even if we were not always aware of it.
We are relying on mobile data more than ever
All those extra frequencies matter, because more and more devices are connecting wirelessly. Not just phones, but devices that form what is known as the Internet of Things. That could be a smart meter that monitors traffic flow in a city center. Automated monitoring of production facilities and so much more. Each use mobile technology to maintain a connection to the world, and their use is growing. Currently, there are around 25 billion such devices in use. It is predicted that there will be 70 Billion IoT devices by 2025. With such numbers, as well as a continued growth in smartphone use. It is easy to see why that extra capacity is essential.
To maintain good connections, 5G will be an essential part of mobile data use in the near future.
It is easy to dismiss new technology as more of the same, especially with smartphones. Every year a new one appears, every year it is a ‘gamechanger’. And most years, it turns out to be more of the same.
As with the introduction of 4G connections though, 5G is something worthwhile. And will transform mobile data use for us all. Not just with faster speed, but with stronger, more reliable connections and increased bandwidth for less interference.
For smartphone users, whether a power user or not, the speed increase may or may not make a difference. But the increased frequencies will make always on data a different experience. Using a navigation app or streaming a video will become a less frustrating experience. Reducing those unexplained signal drops and giving smartphone users a smoother experience. That is something that will benefit all of us.