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5G Status Update

Posted on 8/8/2023 by Dustin Lowder

As carriers continue the 5G rollout in cities across the nation, the excitement around 5G is likely to escalate. Many people have questions surrounding the topic of the new 5G network and how it will affect them. We’ll try to answer those questions here.

What is 5G?

5G stands for “5th Generation of Cellular Standards.” The much-anticipated arrival of the 5G network revolves around its performance enhancements over 4G LTE. With a data speed of 20Gbps peak / 1 Gbps average, 5G will provide fiber-like speed over a cellular connection, lower latency for the real-time response necessary for AI and VR applications, and the connection density to meet the massive demand for the IoT.

When is 5G Coming?

Add politics to the list of obstacles 5G must navigate before it actually reaches consumers. Unlike previous generations of mobile communication standards, 5G will not rely on cell towers. Rather, 5G primarily will utilize small cells and antennas that will be attached to existing infrastructure.

So, what does that have to do with politics? Well, all installation approvals in the U.S. are handled by local governments. Those local councils have historically based mobile network approvals on regulations designed to govern cell towers.

The now out-of-date regulations could potentially make the 5G network approval process very slow for carriers. Some have suggested local governments may see the 5G network rollout as a revenue opportunity and charge high fees for the necessary installation permits. As for major cities, you probably that carriers are in the midst of 5G rollouts in larger metro areas.

In a competitive environment, it’s only natural for carriers to want to be first to claim 5G performance. For example, to improve performance on the existing 4G LTE network, several operators perform what is called “carrier aggregation.” This means combining up to three separate bands all at once in an effort to provide faster data rates. Additionally, some are deploying higher capacity antenna arrays on base stations (referred to as massive MIMO) and going to higher orders of modulation (more bits per MHz). Many will claim these service improvements qualify as 5G, but they’re actually just enhancements to the existing 4G LTE network.

Will 4G LTE Go Away Once There is 5G?

No, LTE will still work once 5G is rolled out. The new 5G networks will be built alongside the 4G LTE network and function along with it. 4G LTE networks will be an important existing layer and survive well into 2030.  

“New 5G service will require the 4G LTE network to act as the fallback network when a user is not covered by the new 5G service. This is an essential layer as 5G networks begin to densify in the coming years,” says Chief Product Officer at Wilson Electronics, Jeff Gudewicz.

Will I Need a Cell Signal Booster when 5G Comes?

Actually, you might need a signal booster even more so when 5G reaches your area. The higher-frequency radio waves needed to carry 5G mobile communications don’t pass through obstacles as easily as the lower frequencies now carrying 4G LTE service. At those higher frequencies, the shorter wavelength radio waves are blocked a lot more easily by things like the walls of your house, the leaves on trees, mountains, and low-E glass. And then, there’s the problem of distance.

The 5G frequencies actually have a much shorter range than we’re used to with 4G frequencies. Some research indicates 5G waves may have a viable range of well under a mile. By contrast, 4G LTE waves commonly reach several miles, and under certain atmospheric conditions can stretch as far as 30 miles. The higher frequency 5G waves just don’t travel as far.

The issues of material penetration and distance are likely to make signal boosters even more necessary than they are now. With a signal booster, you can overcome these challenges and bring you the strong, reliable cell coverage that you expect inside your home or vehicle.

Can’t wait for 5G? Need a stronger cell signal right now? Click the button below.

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