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What Is 5G and Will It Change Our Lives?

What Is 5G and Will It Change Our Lives?

Tuesday, 24 March, 2020 - 11:00
In this file photo, a worker rebuilds a cellular tower with 5G equipment for the Verizon network in Orem, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)(George Frey / Getty Images)
Washington- Jim Rossman

This week a reader wrote: “I have searched the Internet for an explanation about what 5G is, what it will do, and why it is so great. All I get is a lot of technical information about what is different about it and 4G, claims that it is going to save the world with respect to health without saying why or how, and that that reception speed or something like that will be so fast it will make us think we are in heaven rather than on earth.”


Hmm. I can tell you what 5G is, but I’ll need some (divine?) help to tell you why it might make you think you’re in heaven.


5G is a wireless technology that can transfer data over the air from cell towers to phones and other devices at much faster speeds than we have now.


Think about the broadband internet connection at your home.


I’ll use my house as an example. I have AT&T internet (not fiber or gigabit). My internet plan’s connection speed is advertised to be 28 megabits per second. This is the speed of downloads from the internet to my house.


I ran a quick test at Speedtest.net, and my download speed is 28.05 Mbps. You can’t get much closer to advertised speeds (thanks, AT&T).


Last week I was able to test Verizon’s 5G network in the Dallas Medical District using the new Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, and that same speed test showed a download speed of 975 Mbps.


Simple math tells me that 5G connection is almost 35 times faster than my home internet, and it comes through the air, not through a wire that has to connect to my house.


Not all 5G is the same

There are different types of 5G based on the part of the radio spectrum in use.


Low-band uses 600 megahertz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz and has a peak download speed of around 100 Mbps.

Midband uses frequencies from 2.5 gigahertz to 4.2 GHz with peak speeds of 1 gigabit per second.

High-band uses several bands between 24 GHz and 47 GHz and it offers peak speeds up to 10 gigabits per second.

You might see the midband referred to as Sub-6, while the high bands are also called millimeter Wave.


So lower bands are slower, but the signal travels much farther from the tower and penetrates buildings better.


Higher bands are much faster, but the signal doesn’t travel as far from the towers, so you need higher tower density to get good coverage. It also doesn’t penetrate buildings very well.


Midband is a good mix of speed, distance, and building penetration.


According to Digital Trends, T-Mobile uses a lot of low-band spectrum, Sprint owns a majority of the midband, and AT&T and Verizon are rolling out high-band.


In use

Aside from faster phone data connections, 5G can bring much faster internet to your home — if you live in range. Right now, most people in Dallas/Fort Worth can get home internet through only one phone company and one cable company.


Today, if I want 1 Gbps service at my home, I have to call my phone or cable company and have them run a new wire to my house.


How great will it be if three or four wireless companies are all competing to sell 5G service for your home without needing to install anything more than a small wireless hotspot to make it happen?


There are also potential uses in health care (perhaps remote robotic surgery), self-driving cars (they need huge amounts of data to move down the street) and even smart infrastructure that could allow a city’s traffic signals to talk to one another. It could improve vehicle safety, for example, if your new car knows how soon a traffic light will change so you have more time to react at a busy intersection.


5G is going to change our lives. It might not be very evident for the next year to two, but I believe it will be significant. In five to 10 years, we might marvel at ever having had wired internet connections.


I’m ready, and I hope this cleared things up a bit.


(The Dallas Morning News)

(Tribune Media)


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