First things First

Each provider owns a few frequencies and bands over which their service operates. Think radio stations. Newer bands have greater coverage and so the antenna in the phones need to be able to tap into them to use them. This is one of the many (many) reasons why old phones are slower than new ones.

Table of the Carriers and what frequencies they own for 3G and what bands they own for 4G

(Source: https://www.whistleout.com/CellPhones/Guides/cell-phone-networks-and-frequencies-explained)


What 5G Is

Much to my surprise, I found out the “G” stands not for “Gigabyte” but rather “Generation”. In other words, this is the 5th generation of cellular networks. It’s defined as

cell tower rising up above some trees

Cell Tower

Like other cellular networks, 5G networks use a system of cell sites that divide their territory into sectors and send encoded data through radio waves.

In English, that means that there is hardware installed in neighborhoods and cities and states and countries and…well you get the idea. You’ve probably seen those towers with the rectangles sprouting from their tops. Those are how the encoded data is sent.

5G will use much smaller hardware and much smaller cell sites. It will use frequencies above and below 6Ghz (gigahertz). The higher, millimeter waves, aren’t as busy and so with less congestion comes faster speeds. The lower has “more flexible encoding and bigger channel sizes”.   This will allow for the following improvements over 4G

  • 4X the capacity by leveraging wider bandwidths and advanced antenna
  • Top speeds of 20 Gbps (gigabit per second)
  • 1 ms (millisecond) latency

(Source: https://www.pcmag.com/article/345387/what-is-5g)


When 5G is not 5G

5G is a cellular network. 5Ghz Wi-fi is a home network, which you get when you purchase home internet service. However, that’s not where the biggest confusion lies. AT&T decided to brand their 4G Network 5G E. But it’s not using the 5G network. They’re making use of a technicality to get away with it. When 5G fully rolls out, that network will be able to leverage the 4G Network. So, in the strictest sense, AT&T is not wrong, 4G will be a part of 5G. But 5G E can’t make use of the 5G benefits. Read a more detailed explanation in the source below.

(Source: https://www.pcmag.com/article/365754/5g-vs-5g-e-vs-5ghz-whats-the-difference)


 

Latency Vs Bandwidth

A couple of sections ago I mentioned Latency and Bandwidth. Confused as to the difference? Latency is delay and Bandwidth is data. Still confused (I don’t blame you)? Here are a few scenerioes:

  • Satellite Internet Connection (High Speed, High Latency): You would click a link on a web page and, after a noticeable delay, the web page would start downloading and show up almost all at once.
  • Theoretical Connection (Low Speed, Low Latency): You would click a link on a web page and the web page would start loading immediately. However, it would take a while to load completely and you would see images load one-by-one.
  • Cable Internet Connection (High Speed, Low Latency): You would click a link on a web page and the web page would appear almost immediately, downloading all at once.

(Source: https://www.howtogeek.com/138771/htg-explains-how-latency-can-make-even-fast-internet-connections-feel-slow/ )


How it will affect your phone

Now that we’re through with the specs, how is it going to affect you as 5G gets rolled out in 2019? Short answer? It won’t. Long answer? Well, that’s a bit long. So I thought it best to let Engadget take over.


Food for Thought

On October 13, 1983, Ameritech Mobile Communications (now AT&T) established the first cellular network in the United States, in Chicago, Illinois.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/thisday/oct13/first-american-cellular-network/