5G is popular, but there are some unknowns
So you’ve heard about 5G, right? Of course you have – who hasn’t? But hearing about the fifth generation mobile network technology doesn’t mean you know everything about it. Like a lot of people out there, you probably have some questions about 5G.
That’s entirely understandable. The technology is very new, despite the fact that you can’t miss hearing about it if you’ve been on earth for the last couple of years.
In fact, even the experts have questions about 5G, and so do businesses – even those that have to do with telecommunications. Some have questions about security, others about whether or not its worth the extra headache to overhaul hardware and equipment, and so on.
For consumers like you, though, questions are probably a bit different, surrounding what the technology really is all about – what’s the hype, you ask, and what can it do for me?
In this article, we’ll take a swing at answering the five most common questions people have about 5G.
1. What exactly is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of wireless network technologies. Previous generations included 4G (the fourth), 3G (the third), 2G (the second), and 1G (yes, you guessed it, the first – those analog connections in the 1980s and 90s).
There’s not much to define besides that, other than 5G’s promised benefits – faster speeds, more bandwidth, and very low latency. Simply put, 5G will bring better performance, and 5G phone plans are already available.
2. How much better will 5G be, compared to my current 4G network?
Much, much better. Some argue that 4G is already fast enough for your needs, and that 5G’s better performance may therefore be unnecessary. In other words, you already stream movies and play video games over your current connection, so why bother with 5G?
Well, the answer to that is up to you, but believe this: You will end up with a 5G connection eventually, and you will probably love it.
5G speeds can be up to 100 times faster than 4G. What does this mean? Imagine downloading a full 8GB HD movie in around 10 seconds. Yeah, that fast. But, realistically, you shouldn’t expect every 5G plan to give you speed that’s really 100 times faster than your current connection – speed is largely dependent on your location, your device, and the extent to which 5G has been rolled out. Just expect it to be a lot faster, like 10 times faster instead of 100 times faster – for example, Optus’ 5G is averaging 100Mbps right now and maxing out at 295Mbps, but is expected to get even faster with time.
Your telco owns a chunk of spectrum that it shares amongst all its customers, and uses to transmit their data – the larger that spectrum (bandwidth) is, the faster your data transfers. Telco’s have a much larger spectrum with 5G than they do with 4G – to the tune of over 50 times that of 4G. This contributes to how much faster 5G is when compared to 4G, and also means you can connect more devices to the network without sacrificing speed.
This refers to how fast information sent gets received. In other words, the time that passes between sending data and receiving it. Current mobile networks latency are higher than WiFi and wired connections, meaning more time passes than when using those other connections. However, with 5G, you get very low, almost zero latency – current 4G latency takes around 50 milliseconds, while 5G is less than 10 and almost 0 in some cases. This means less reaction time – almost none at all – so loading and buffering disappears.
5G versus the previous two mobile network technologies. Source.
3. Will I need a new phone to use 5G?
If you want to connect to a 5G network from your smartphone without any other device, then you will need to upgrade from your current 4G smartphone to a 5G one, if you already haven’t. But if you purchase a secondary 5G mobile broadband device, such as the HTC 5G Hub, then you can connect it to a 5G network and then connect your phone to the device like a WiFi to use 5G. There are already a lot of 5G devices available, like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, for example. Expect even more 5G smartphones to hit the market this 2020.
4. How much will 5G cost, and which telco offers it?
This is probably the toughest question of the bunch, because telcos seem to have a difficult time figuring out cost as of yet. The technology is still pretty new, and the rollout is far from complete. However, 5G is available in select areas, and you can get access through 5G plans.
So far, here’s what we have:
- Telstra is currently offering 5G at no additional cost until June 30. The network is available in select areas, so check out their website for a coverage map. Just sign up and continue paying your 4G rates for now, and then an additional $15 opt in cost will kick in at the end of June. The telco recently announced that it had already connected 100,000 devices to its 5G network.
- Optus also has 5G available in select areas, so check out their website. However, Optus only offers home 5G broadband, meaning you can’t connect directly from your smartphone without a secondary 5G device – the Nokia 5G modem. Their current plan is $70 for unlimited data with no caps (50Mbps guaranteed), and one month free.
- Vodafone doesn’t hasn’t turned on any 5G site yet. The telco just recently announced a partnership with Nokia as its 5G equipment supplier, and that it would begin switching on 5G sites this year, and it seems 5G won’t cost extra on the network. However, you won’t find any Vodafone 5G network or plan yet – you’ll just have to wait and see.
5. Is 5G available in my area?
Only Telstra and Optus are offering 5G at the moment, but the network is only available in select suburbs. Telstra currently has over 800 5G sites, while Optus is planning to add 50 more suburbs to its list. It will take a while before 5G will become widely available, so make sure you check their websites for coverage information to see if 5G is available in your area.
Will 5G be harmful to my health?
It depends on who you ask, really. Some are concerned about the fact that 5G requires small cells, which means a bunch of mini antennas scattered around everywhere, literally – including right in front of your suburban home.
The concern here lies in the radiation exposure from the close proximity to those antennas, which could mean risks of cancer and other ailments. Whether or not to heed their warnings is a matter of opinion and what side of the argument you are. Just keep in mind that if this tech was so dangerous, its hard to imagine that one-fifth of the world has already rolled it out, and that the rest of the world is currently on their way to 5G as well.
Also keep in mind that there isn’t much proof or research to support these fears; but then again, the full rollout isn’t complete, so perhaps there aren’t enough connections to research or gather that proof. In other words, only time will tell.
5G has been the talk of the telco world for the past couple years, and the technology is finally here. But because of how new the network is, consumers have so many questions about it. We’ve covered 5 of the most common questions here to get you ready for the rollout.