Is Blazing Fast 5G in Your Future?
The fifth generation of cellular networking technology is imminent. This new 5G tech will explode several logjams in the river of cellular data traffic, enabling more than just faster mobile download speeds. Let’s take a look at 5G’s capabilities and their implications for all of us...
Is 5G Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?
5G is imminent, but exactly when and where will it arrive? AT&T will unveil its first 5G “neighborhoods” this summer in Dallas, Atlanta and Waco; Verizon will sell 5G for homes this year; and T-mobile and Sprint will have 5G phones early next year.
5G will come with much faster data transmission speeds; greatly reduced latency (the time data packets spend stuck inside a piece of network hardware); and the ability to connect a lot more devices to a single access point.
5G speeds could reach 1 Gbps, but only at the cost of very limited range. The tradeoff will result in a nationwide network that’s blazing fast in densely populated urban areas and slower but still faster than 4G in rural areas. The major carriers are expecting speed gains of at least “tens of megabits per second” everywhere, according to trade show reports.
5G access point hardware is incredibly small; instead of obtrusive cell towers the landscape will be dotted with discreet backpack-sized radios tacked onto existing utility poles, walls, and other vantage points. Each of these nodes will connect to the Internet backbone and broadcast wireless connectivity a few hundred feet or a few miles, depending on the radio frequency band on which it operates. The further a node’s signal reaches, the slower its speed.
Ultra-fast, short-range cells will be packed more densely into areas where many devices need to connect. Each cell will be able to handle orders of magnitude more devices. That vastly increased capacity will be needed as everything from your car to your smart necktie requires an Internet connection.
Latency is the bane of autonomous vehicles. Think of latency as “reaction time” and you will immediately understand why; longer latency means delays in inter-vehicle communications that could result in crashes. Where today’s network latency is measured in handfuls of milliseconds, 5G latency will be a fraction of one millisecond. Traffic control systems that rely on smart cars communicating instantly with each other become feasible. Gamers will rejoice in the responsiveness of their avatars and weapons. Virtual reality experiences will seem more realistic. The opportunities provided by sub-millisecond latency alone make 5G exciting!
As more cellular nodes are packed into a given area, each node will also become capable of serving hundreds of devices at once. The result will be enough connectivity to serve the exploding Internet of Things in which even merchandise price tags need an Internet connection.
Not All 5Gs are Created Equal
The major carriers all have different “go to market” strategies for their 5G tech.
AT&T is rushing to be “first to market” with a 5G network, and sowing confusion in its pursuit of that distinction. The company has branded its improved version of 4G tech as “5G Evolution,” fostering the false impression that it’s real 5G. Don’t be fooled. AT&T is currently upgrading cell towers in 117 cities with 5G Evolution technology. They claim is twice as fast at the current 4G LTE speeds, but it's still an intermediate step towards actual 5G service.
Verizon’s first 5G products and service plans will target the home, not the mobile user. 5G’s vastly greater connectivity capacity makes it economical to offer 5G home service. The 4G network can’t support enough home customers’ 190 GB average monthly data consumption to bring the price of the highest speed possible down to “reasonable.” But 5G can; if enough homes sign up, we might even see some price reductions. Wireless 5G will also make competition possible in the 49 percent of American households that currently have only one choice for broadband Internet. Newcomers will not have to dig up every street to lay cables; 5G access points every few blocks will suffice.
T-mobile is building a nationwide 5G cellular network of mixed speed capacities. The universal network will be in the 600 MHz radio frequency band, so it will not be the fastest that 5G can offer. But in densely populated areas that low-band network will be supplemented by blazing fast, high-capacity millimeter wave networks. Even where data transmission speed is not the fastest, the greatly reduced latency of 5G will make T-mobile’s network more responsive than current tech, so it will seem much faster.
Sprint’s 5G network will be on the 2.5 GHz band, the same wavelength used by its 4G network. In fact, Sprint’s 5G will use the same towers as its 4G. Sprint also plans to offer 5G smartphones in early 2019.
5G tech represents a quantum leap in wireless data communications. Of course, it will also mean you are going to need a new 5G phone when the 4G networks start shutting down, or sooner if you want to take advantage of faster speeds when 5G comes to your town. But you traded in your buggywhip for rubber tires, didn’t you?
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 9 May 2018
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