5G is coming. Well, technically it’s here. Kinda? Maybe? Slowly? This fifth-generation cellular network is 10 times faster than 4G LTE. That means instead of waiting five minutes to download a movie on Netflix in 4G, it will take just 30 seconds on 5G. So it could even replace your home’s current high-speed internet service.
The new standard means devices can communicate with each other with no lag. You know how when you write with a pen, you see it as it happens? That’s zero latency. That’s pretty much what 5G can do: no waiting. That opens up the possibility for things like wireless VR experiences and more reliable driverless cars thanks to the ability to analyze and process data at faster speeds. It’s an exciting time for faster, more connected devices. But there are some obstacles 5G needs to overcome before we can really reap all of its amazing benefits.
First, we need a whole new infrastructure. Your cell phone provider, for example, will need to install a lot of new equipment for this new technology because 5G uses a totally different wavelength than the 4G standard your phone currently uses.
The 5G standard uses millimeter waves, which are a lot shorter than the wavelengths 4G uses. The shorter wavelength means 5G can carry a lot of data much faster than 4G, but it also means a much shorter range. 4G wavelengths have a range of about 10 miles. 5G wavelengths have a range of about 1,000 feet, not even 2% of 4G’s range. So to ensure a reliable 5G signal, there needs to be a lot of 5G cell towers and antennas everywhere. We’re talking on every lamppost, traffic light, etc. because even trees can block 5G signals.
5G isn’t gonna be cheap. You know, each node, or mini cell tower, needs some kind of connection to it, and that means laying down fiber optic cables, and, you know, it’s still an undertaking, and it’s definitely not in the millions. It’s definitely in the billions, possibly hundreds of billions.
Some are concerned that 5G radiation may cause cancer. The FCC so far has said that there aren’t any problems or concerns with 5G radiation, but they have said they still need to do more research. Despite all that, Verizon already rolled out the beginnings of its 5G network to parts of Chicago and Minneapolis.
AT&T currently has about 19 cities with 5G capabilities, and Sprint and T-Mobile say they’ll be releasing their 5G network sometime in 2019.