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Nerd knowledge: What Is 5G?

Carriers are running out of LTE capacity in many major cities. Users are already experiencing slow downs during peak usage. The fifth generation technology adds huge amounts of new frequencies in bands that have never been used for commercial broadband.

The first cell phone available to the public went on sale on September 21st, 1983. This phone utilized analog technology and the network it operated on was referred to as 1G or First Generation. The first generation of digital technology, known as 2G, was launched in the early nineties, enabling people to send text messages between phones. The next development was 3G, introduced in 1998, which allowed people to browse the Internet with data speeds up to a few megabits per second. The next step was the 4G network, which came on the scene in 2010, allowing people to download and even upload large video files. Further enhancements to the 4G network were made with competing technologies. LTE (Long Term Evolution) won out and became the industry standard. Now, 36 years later, the fifth generation of cellular phone technology has arrived.

Called 5G, it provides vastly greater download speeds up to 27 Gb/s ( which will allow you to download a full HD movie in a matter of seconds), lower latency (the time a transmitting signal arrives at the receiving device), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once. Further, 5G is being implemented to keep up with the vast array of devices that need a mobile internet connection. It is not just a phone, computer, or tablet accessing the internet these days. Home appliances, door locks, security cameras, watches, dog collars, even self-driving cars are now connecting to the Web. It is estimated that by 2020, the number of devices connected to the Internet will jump from 6.4 billion to 20.8 billion. This network of assorted devices is called the Internet of Things, or IoT.

Carriers are running out of LTE capacity in many major cities. Users are already experiencing slow downs during peak usage. The fifth generation technology adds huge amounts of new frequencies in bands that have never been used for commercial broadband.

In the future, vehicles will communicate with other vehicles on the road. They will provide information to other cars such as road conditions and provide performance information to other drivers and to automakers. For example, if a car brakes quickly up ahead, your vehicle would know about it almost instantly and brake as well, to avoid a collision. This kind of vehicle-to- vehicle communication requires rapid communication that a 5G network can provide.

Utility companies will be able to track usage remotely, sensors can notify public works departments when street lights go out. Municipalities will be to inexpensively install surveillance cameras. Remote control of heavy machinery will be possible. It will allow technicians to control machinery from anywhere in the world.

There will be improvements in telemedicine, remote recovery, physical therapy, precision surgery. Even remote surgery will be possible thanks to ultra-reliable, low-latency communications offered by advanced 5G networks.

According to a 2016 FCC report, 51 percent of Americans have only one option for 25Mps or higher home internet, 5G will increase home internet competition. This 5G home internet service is much easier for carriers to roll out than fiber optic to each home. Instead of digging up every street or laying cables on existing above-ground phone lines, carriers just have to install fiber optic to a cell-site every few blocks, and then give customers wireless modems.

There are some challenges to building 5G networks. The fastest networks will use much higher frequencies (28 and 39 GHZ) to achieve the blazing speeds promised. The waves in these Extremely High Frequencies are measured in millimeters instead of centimeters and are called “millimeter waves.” These waves do not travel as far as waves of lower frequencies and also do no penetrate buildings very well. The solution will be a lot of smaller cells using advanced antenna and signal transmitting technology.

Currently, there are very few true 5G networks, limited to a few test cities and in some cases, only parts of a city. There are no 5G cell phones on the market at this time but there are some scheduled to come out in the coming months. Most carriers are starting by building on the foundation of their existing 4G LTE networks. AT&T has been taken to task for the “5G E” icon appearing on many AT&T phones. This is not really 5G but an improved version of the 4G LTE network. Widespread rollout of 5G is not expected until 2020. It will be interesting to see how the new technology actually performs.

About the Author

Micah is the owner/Editor-In-Chief of Sapulpa Times and passionate about telling the everyday stories in the town that we love. You can find him on Twitter at @meetmicah or email him at

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