The fifth generation of wireless networks, or 5G as it’s more commonly known, is slowly being deployed in the U.S. and other parts of the world. The new wireless network has promised us faster speeds and lower latency, but not much else is known besides that.
According to CNBC, 5G’s prospects are somewhat fuzzy. There are currently three different versions of it being built, however, there are plans for them to work together at some point. Additionally, there are no devices that are compatible with all three versions of 5G at the moment, according to CNBC. In addition, the 5G networks that exist right now are not running at the super-high speeds users were promised.
The U.S.’s four major wireless carriers, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint all have different ideas for how to build out 5G to their customers. Their plans coordinate with their current wireless spectrum holdings, as well as their plans to build fiber into the ground—which is critical to produce the fastest version of 5G.
3 types of 5G explained
mmWave high-band 5G
Millimeter-wave (mmWave) high-band 5G is considered the “best” version of the wireless network. Downloading a 4GB file like a movie would take about 32 seconds on an mmWAve high-band 5G connection, compared to approximately five minutes on today’s fastest 4G LTE networks. However, PCMag reports the user would have to be very close to a tower or transmitter to access those speeds.
Companies that build self-driving vehicles are excited about the improved latency part of mmWave 5G. “Latency” is how long it takes for a device to communicate with the network. Lower latency is critical for self-driving vehicles, especially in moments like having to stop in a split second. Meanwhile, companies like Microsoft, Google and Sony that offer streaming game service will have the opportunity to provide better game play with lower latency.
Certain CRE owners may be among the first to enjoy mmWAVE 5G. According to CNBC, most carriers are deploying it in limited areas and focused on public spaces like stadiums and arenas. Cities are deploying 5G’s best in highly dense areas like downtowns. Some carriers are selling transceivers for home use that are equivalent to how Wi-Fi works today. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon currently offer mmWave high-band 5G.
Mid-band 5G and Low-band 5G
The 5G that the wireless and CRE industries hear about most often is low and mid-band 5G—neither will be very much different from today’s wireless connectivity, according to CNBC. Mid-band 5G, which Sprint offers, is about six times faster than LTE but has a smaller footprint than low-band. Meanwhile, low-band 5G in only 20 percent faster than 4G LTE and provided by T-Mobile and AT&T.
A T-Mobile-Sprint merger could impact the game
Currently, T-Mobile has a nationwide low-band 5G network as well as smaller, although faster, mmWave 5G networks in parts of six U.S. cities, according to CNBC. Meanwhile, Sprint is building a mid-band network that will be accessible in parts of nine cities. The carrier said its mid-band 5G network is six times faster the today’s LTE. If the companies’ $26 billion merger is approved in court, they could combine their low-band and mid-band networks. T-Mobile already has a low-band and mmWave network in hand, so having access to Sprint’s mid-band network would make it the first carrier to have all three.
Some of the 5G confusion will be erased when companies release their latest mobile devices, according to CNBC. Samsung will introduce its new Galaxy phones in February, which will support all three 5G bands. Apple’s new high-end iPhones are also expected to support all of 5G when they’re released in September. Customers can expect very fast speeds when they’re close to mmWave, and slightly improved speeds when they are not. Regardless of which 5G Network is used, the speeds will increase and these wireless networks will continue to grow.