5G Explained: Everything you need to know!

by Mayank

5G (as the name states) refers to the fifth generation of cellular networks. It’s considered a major upgrade over the 4G & 4G LTE Advanced Pro of the last decade. A variety of claims have been made that the introduction of 5G would boost mobile connectivity and IOT (Internet of Things).

5G is being adopted by many network providers since 2019. 5G can reach speeds over a Gb/s down!(Good luck with your data cap though). Many mobile manufacturers are selling their “5G ready” phones on the market after Qualcomm released its flagship Snapdragon 855 SOC which has within a 5G modem such as the Galaxy S10 5 G, LG V50 ThinQ and many others.

Although the launch of 5G has brought criticism because its operating frequency can conflict with the weather forecast, it is about to be a revolution in cellular networking technology.

5G Operating Frequency

The frequency spectrum of 5G is classified into 3 different types:

  • Millimeter waves
  • Mid-band
  • Low-band

The frequency range of operation of 5G can reach upto 72 Ghz which is inside the EHV (Extremely High Frequency band)!

Image Credits: National Instruments

Millimeter Waves

Network service providers such as Verizon use millimeter waves. The benefit of doing this is that you can quickly reach gigabit speeds. The main drawback with using millimeter waves is that there is much less network coverage. The millimeter wave antennas are smaller than those used in previous cellular networks.

Consider, for example, that you’re standing near a 5G tower (which uses millimeter waves). You can reach speeds of 1-2 Gb / s near the cell tower. You can download the full season of your favorite TV series from Netflix in High Definition in about 30 seconds. But if you start moving a few feet away, you will notice that the signal will start to drop and your device will switch back to 4G or 4G Advanced depending on your region. The same is going to happen if you walk behind a building or a tree.

Why is this?

This is due to the simple fact that “As a wave’s frequency increases, it decreases in wavelength” .Because of the same reason most of us use our Wi-Fi in the 2.4 Ghz band rather than 5 Ghz.

Since millimeter wave technology operates at high frequencies ranging from 24 Ghz to 72 Ghz, the radio waves are too weak to penetrate houses, walls or even trees. Even heavy clouds and rain can intefere with the signals.

Image Credits:Western Reserve Public Media

So, if you’d like to experience those gigabit speeds, make sure you have a house near a 5G cell tower and dollars to spare for network plans with high data caps.

Resolving the issue of network coverage with millimeter waves

The coverage area served by the network is split into specific regional areas called nodes, in order to be able to use 5G millimeter waves to its maximum potential.Every node has its own pair of antennas. There are many such nodes in the network service area and if your device starts losing network due to any obstacle in the line of sight, it will turn to another node automatically. This will ensure signal consistency on your device.

Just think of it as a Wi-Fi mesh that you install in your home to get high and consistent data rates in every corner of your home.

Millimeter waves that use nodes to obtain consistent signal all over the region. Image Credits: Research Gate

Mid-Band 5G

Mid-Band 5G is currently the most widely used. Used at present by more than 20 network providers, we can get speeds between 100-400 Mb / s down, which is undoubtedly very fast, but we can’t always expect Gigabit speeds in such networks. Frequency range of operation for mid-band 5G varies between 2.4 to 4.2 Ghz. Network providers can choose their network’s frequency based on their preference.

The reason for the widespread use of mid-band 5G is that we can achieve the same coverage as the previous generation 4G by simple upgrades to existing 4G towers. This is actually cost-effective for network providers.

Low-Band 5G

Low-band 5G offers similar capabilities to advanced 4G. In December 2019, some US providers such as AT&T started offering low-band 5G. The speeds are often less than 100 Mb/s. You may typically anticipate data transfer rates of about 30 Mb/s which are still better than 4G but nothing exceptional like the 5G mid-band.

When do we expect 5G globally?

Although the implementation of 5G differs from country to country, we can foresee when we can use 5G in most countries. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association listed 224 operators in 88 countries involved in 5G investments. South Korea was the first to adopt 5G. In the United States, Verizon already provides 5G services that use millimeter waves in some areas, while AT&T and T-Mobile have mid-band & low-band 5G services. India and China have also started auctioning for 5G spectrums.

Swedish telecom company Ericsson has estimated that by the end of 2025, superfast 5G internet will reach up to 65% of the world’s population. If the issues surrounding 5G are resolved this will become a reality.

Do you use 5G services within your city? Comment below and share your experience with others.

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1 comment

5G in India: The present situation - The Wise Bulb March 26, 2020 - 3:21 pm

[…] You can learn more about the 5G technology here. […]


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