5G Status Update

Nicholas Jones | April 8, 2019

Time for a 5G update! There are a number of new announcements coming soon about the 5G standard, 5G networks and even the very first 5G devices. The excitement around 5G is only escalating. Many people have questions surrounding the topic of the new 5G network and how it will affect them. Read on to get all your 5G questions answered.

What is 5G?

So 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.

AT&T and Verizon have already sought federal government permission to do 5G connectivity trials over the 28GHz frequency band. These will be fixed-site to fixed-site trials using a version of the 5G standard. Previous trials with this technology have demonstrated near-gigabit data speeds over distances of more than half a kilometer.

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’s the problem? 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 The now out-of-date regulations could potentially make the 5G network approval process very slow for carriers.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.

However, some carriers have already started 5G rollouts in major cities. Verizon just announced that they will be rolling out 5G in 20 new cities and parts of at least 30 cities in 2019. They are also taking pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy S10, which is the first 5G capable phone. AT&T’s release began with 5G Evolution, which boosts 4G LTE network speeds for certain phones, but their true 5G network will be usable when the new 5G capable phone is released in summer of 2019. 

Why are some cell carriers coming out with 5G phones or 5G signal boosters?

In a competitive environment, it’s only natural for carriers to want to be first to market. Some will stretch the boundaries in order to make that claim. An example of this is the “5Ge” icon being featured in AT&T’s marketing. The actual definition of 5Ge is “5G evolution”, meaning every enhancement in their network’s overall performance is considered an evolution towards 5G. Yet, it’s not true 5G as per industry specifications.

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 eort 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 just enhancements to 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 is launched. The higher-frequency radio waves that are proposed to carry 5G mobile communications don’t pass through obstacles as easily as the 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 or the leaves on trees in your front yard.

The 5G frequencies also 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.

Hence why a signal booster would be able to overcome these challenges and bring you the strong, reliable cell coverage that you expect inside your home or vehicle.

 

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