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

(Facebook Photo/Otter Voice Meeting Notes)...
Data Doctors

Here are some tips for using free voice recognition software

Today’s voice recognition technology is far from perfected, but if you’re willing to spend the time training yourself, it can be useful.
2 days ago
Jumper cables are jammed to a car battery. Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa (Photo by Christophe Gateau...
Ken Colburn, Data Doctors

Here are tips for buying car battery jumper packs

The starting price of these battery packs is so cost-effective, it’s kind of a no-brainer to have one for each car in your family.
9 days ago
(AP Photo/Richard Drew)...
Data Doctors

Here is how long different iPhone support services last

Different versions of iPhone support services can last longer than others, so here's a list of how long repair, iOS and app support lasts.
16 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Data Doctors

What to do with random PayPal security messages

If you are getting ‘security codes’ from a standard 10-digit phone number, it isn’t PayPal at all.
23 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Data Doctors

Here are tips for finding recently added contacts in your iPhone

Here are some other ways to navigate finding recently added contacts in your iPhone.
1 month ago
In this photo illustration the logo and search page of the multi-facetted internet giant Google is ...
Ken Colburn, Data Doctors

How to better examine your Google search sources

Now, more than ever, it’s important to know the source of information you find online and there's a handful of ways to clean up your Google search.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
(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.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
What you need to know before shopping for 5G network