What you need to know before shopping for 5G network

Jan 11, 2020, 4:30 AM
(AP Photo)...
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Q: What’s the difference in the 5G being offered by the various cellular companies?

A: 5G is certainly going to be one of the biggest stories of 2020 as each of the major wireless carriers continues their network rollouts.

There have been lots of announcements at this year’s CES for new 5G smartphones as well as laptops, tablets and even cars that will be able to take advantage of the improved connection speeds.

Signal frequencies

Each of the wireless carriers will be offering a different combination of technologies that has to balance performance with coverage.

As a point of reference, 4G networks operate in frequencies below 6 GHz, while 5G networks can operate in much higher frequencies up to 86 GHz or more in the future.

The higher the frequency, the faster the potential speed, but those higher frequencies are also more susceptible to problems with physical structures or even weather conditions like a hard rain or heavy humidity.

Unlike 4G, higher frequency 5G signals are going to be challenged by buildings and other common structures that will require many more “beamforming” antennas to be placed near or inside of buildings.

Lower frequency signals are better at penetrating structures – like the bass from cars next to you or an apartment above you – but data speeds are slower.

The three frequency bands

When you hear 5G service is available in your area, the first thing you need to figure out is which frequency band the network is primarily built on.

The fastest speeds will come from high-band mmWave frequencies, which will be up to 10 times the speed of LTE, but they’ll require you to be very near the transmitters to get that level of performance (in some tests, within 80 feet of a transmitter).

This is what you’ll likely see being installed in open high-density spaces like airports, malls and stadiums.

At present, Verizon and AT&T have the most ambitious plans for mmWave networks, while T-Mobile is incorporating it sparingly.

Midband or sub 6 GHz networks will try to offer the best of both worlds; faster speeds and larger coverage areas.

It’s five to six times the speed of LTE with a couple mile radius service area.

Midband networks will be operating in a much more congested frequency spectrum, which can impact the consistency of speeds and latency.

Sprint is the only carrier focused in building out a midband primary network.

Low-band 5G provides the best coverage – potentially hundreds of square miles per tower – but the lowest speeds. Many view the speeds of up to 20% faster more of an enhanced 4G LTE than a true 5G.

T-Mobile has chosen to use low-band in its rollout because it will provide to the most coverage – especially in rural areas – to the most people, the fastest.

All of the carriers are likely going to end up with multifrequency networks when it’s all said and done.

Lower density rural locations will benefit from the wider coverage of lower frequency transmitters, while high-density urban areas will make it easier to justify the cost of installing a large number of short-range high-frequency transmitters.

T-Mobile’s upcoming merger with Sprint will be the first example of a multifrequency network once it’s been completed.

Data Doctors

(Photo by Rafael Henrique/Getty Images)...
Ken Colburn, Data Doctors

Tips to fixing navigation lag in Google Maps mobile app

Before you travel in another city, here are some tips to read over that'll help fix the navigation lag in the Google Maps mobile app.
1 day ago
(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)...
Data Doctors

Here’s how the activity app ‘Relive’ can help you remember your adventures

This is how the activity app "Relive" can help you remember your adventures.
8 days ago
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)...
Ken Colburn, Data Doctors

Grammarly, the tool that takes editing beyond spell check and autocorrect

Grammarly is a tool widely available for use on various devices and goes beyond spell check and auto correct.
15 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Data Doctors

How to use Google Photos for group sharing among iPhone and Android smartphones

Here's how to use the Google Photos App for picture sharing between iPhone and Android users.
22 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Data Doctors

Here are some screen capture tips for Windows computers

Capturing something on your screen has a variety of uses and Microsoft introduced a much more useful way to do it back in the early 2000s.
29 days ago
Ken Colburn, Data Doctors

Addressing the safety and benefits of Google’s Password Manager

Are you wondering if Google's Password Manager is safe to use? So were we -- here's what we found.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
What you need to know before shopping for 5G network