It’s a revolutionary kind of internet that promises to change everything from your phone to home internet, to more futuristic fields like self-driving cars and even remote surgery. But 5G’s also been in the headlines lately for a lot of bad reasons with bizarre conspiracy theories and rumors. So, to help clear things up, I am gonna explain to you, what exactly 5G is, how we got here, what the technology behind it is, and any real concerns that might exist around the new technology.
So, what is 5G? Well, 5G or fifth generation, is the next step in mobile internet technology. It’s what all of the next waves of phones and tablets are gonna use for speeds that are even faster than the LTE networks that we already have.
Speed And Coverage:
So all the big US carriers are well underway with rolling out 5G, and by the end of this year, you should be able to get it wherever you live in the US, but what 5G means on each carrier is different. Speeds are different, coverage is different, so for the last year I’ve been testing out all the networks, Verizon, AT& T, T-Mobile, and Sprint is now part of that, just to see how fast it is and what a difference it makes in your day to day life.
Now Verizon’s 5G is blazing fast; you can get download speeds of over one gigabyte per second. That’s up to 10 times faster than most home wifi connections. You can download a whole season of a TV show in just minutes. But the problem is coverage. Verizon’s 5G is very, very spotty. The indoor coverage is pretty much nonexistent.
The issue is, the signal can’t travel very far, so in a city where it wants to roll out 5G, Verizon’s gotta put up all these nodes all over the city, and that’s not really practical to do nationwide. So for now, Verizon’s 5G network isn’t really worth upgrading to a new phone for, unless you’ve got anodes like right outside your apartment or your house.
T-Mobile’s And Sprint’s 5G:
T-Mobile has the most comprehensive 5G plan of all the US carriers. It’s also using millimeter-wave on the high end, plus Sprint’s mid-band spectrum in the middle, and it’s own low-band 5G at the base. Now Sprint’s mid-band spectrum is much faster than LTE is today. It’s much faster than phones today, it’s not quite as fast as millimeter wave, but it makes a big difference day today.
AT& T’s 5G:
The last is AT& T which has a similar strategy to Verizon, in that you get the high-band millimeter-wave and low-band sub six 5G. But they’re missing that middle part of the cake, that mid-band spectrum, so you’ll have really fast speeds in small parts of some cities and somewhat faster speeds than your phone today everywhere else.
Confusion With AT& T’s Fake 5G:
Now, none of the above is to be confused with AT& T’s fake 5G, which is called 5GE. You’ve probably seen it in your phone’s status bar at times. That’s just fast LTE. It’s got nothing to do with real 5G. We’ve seen less than a dozen phones hit the market that offers these new faster speeds.
Qualcomm’s Latest Chips:
Now concerns, along with battery life, have largely been overcome with Qualcomm’s latest chips. We’ve seen those chips in the Galaxy S20, the LG V60, and the OnePlus 8, all really great phones. But we’re still waiting for that first iPhone from Apple that has 5G and that’s rumored to come later on this fall in 2020. So, when we talk about 5G, we’re not really talking about anything that’s radically different than our current and past mobile technology. Let’s put that in perspective.
The earliest generation of mobile technology, 1G networks, was launched back in the 80s. Unlike the other generations, 1G networks used analog signals and could really only do voice calls. You’ve probably seen phones that use 1G networks like the Motorola Dynatac, that classic oversized cell phone from 80s movies.
2G networks kicked things up a notch. More bandwidth meant that in addition to calls, users could start sending data, enabling text messages, SMS, and even pictures, MMS. Later versions of 2G phones could even access basic internet, like the most famous 2G device ever sold, the original iPhone.
3G networks offered even more bandwidth and faster speeds, and 4G LTE, which is what most of our current phones use, made truly fast wireless internet a possibility. The 5G, as mentioned earlier, takes things a step beyond even that, with speeds that are faster in some cases than home wifi.
The key thing is that all these technologies aren’t fundamentally different. They’re all based on the same science, which means that it’s time to talk about the electromagnetic spectrum. EM radiation is what we call a wave of photons traveling through space and all EM radiation, be it AM radio waves, X-rays, infrared, or even visible light fall somewhere on the electromagnetic spectrum.
X-ray Radiation Vs Benign AM Radio:
The difference between harmful X-ray radiation and benign AM radio is simply the amount of energy it has. Now, on the right end of the spectrum are low energy radio and microwaves, which are characterized by low frequency and long wavelengths. As we travel up the spectrum, wavelengths get smaller, frequencies get higher, and the amount of energy being transmitted gets higher too.
AM radio, for example, broadcasts between 540 and 1600 kilohertz. It’s low energy, but those low wavelengths can travel incredibly far, up to 100 miles. And depending on atmospheric conditions. But again, quality suffers.
FM radio, broadcasts at between 88 and 108 megahertz, and you’ve got more bandwidth, which allows for higher-quality broadcasts, but your usable range decreases. It’s the same basic idea with cellular data.
Increased Bandwidth And Higher Frequencies:
New generations allow us to improve our transmission technology, which leads to increased bandwidth and higher frequencies, which in turn leads to faster speeds. But at the core, it’s all the same basic technology and the different types of 5G.
A lot of the improvements in 5G, come from new transmission technology. Things like carrier aggregation, which combines multiple LTE bands into one data stream for faster speeds, or MIMO antennas, or multiple inputs multiple outputs, where we use antenna arrays, made up of lots of little antennas to improve connectivity.
5G, And Other Cellular Radiation:
But is 5G, or really any cellular radiation, safe? Well, there’ve been a lot of inaccuracies going around about 5G. Some are completely absurd. But the simple answer is that 5G is basically the same as any other type of cellular radio technology and we already have a pretty good idea that cellular radiation is not harmful. There’s a lot of studies available on that sort of effect, but that’s never been proven that indeed there is a carcinogenic effect of expose to radiofrequency radiation.
Other Inaccuracies About 5G:
There’s also concern that exposure to radiofrequency fields, for instance, the higher fields, the higher frequencies that 5G’s got to use, may result in an adverse effect on the immune system and that people may be more susceptible, to infection by the COVID-19 virus. There’s no proof, no indication whatsoever that there are any effects on the immune system from exposure to radiofrequency fields.
Non-Ionizing And Ionizing Radiations:
Ionizing radiation has a very high energy content and because of that, it is possible that if you are exposed to that sort of radiation, that chemical bonds in the body, that are damaged and broken, and that may result in uncontrolled cell growth, which may result in the formation of cancer. This sort of effect, breakage of chemical bonds, is something that is not possible with non-ionizing radiation, with the type of radiation that cellular technology uses because the energy content of that type of radiation is not enough to result in such chemical breakage.