After more than a decade, a new standard for mobile communication has arrived, and it’s about to start a new era of digital connectivity. Everyone is talking about 5G, and countries all over the world are putting it in place as quickly as they can.
India is the most recent country to auction off 5G spectrums, and now telecom companies like Airtel 5G, Jio 5G, and Vi 5G are ready to launch their 5G services. In the US, companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are already offering 5G services. If you still don’t know what 5G is, this explainer will tell you everything you need to know. So, let’s find out what 5G is and what it has over 4G that makes it better.
5G Explained: All You Need to Know (2022)
What is 5G?
5G, as the name suggests, is the standard for the 5th generation of cell phone networks. It will replace 4G-LTE. In technical terms, 5G is a set of technical specifications set by 3GPP, which is a group of companies that work together to make standards for mobile communication. Similar to how 4G improved speed, latency, and capabilities over 3G, 5G ushers in a new era of ultra-fast gigabit networks that can be used by everything from IoT devices to large machines.
In 2017, 3GPP approved Release 15, which was the first set of 5G rules. It thought that 5G’s top speeds would be between 10 and 20Gbps. 4G’s theoretical top speed, on the other hand, is 1Gbps. So 5G is much better than 4G-LTE in many ways. 5G is able to offer such a fast network because higher frequency bands (called “New Radio” or “NR”) are now available for public and commercial use.
The range of frequencies that 4G could use was only from 600MHz to 2.4GHz. Now, with 5G, the spectrum ranges from 600MHz to 52GHz, which is a huge change. 5G can deliver much higher throughput and latency of less than 10ms because it uses higher frequency bands. Move on to the next section to learn more about the different types of 5G frequency bands.
5G Frequency Bands
There are two main types of 5G frequency bands: sub-6GHz and mmWave. The sub-6GHz spectrum is now split into two parts: the low-band and the mid-band. In this case, “low-band” means the range of frequencies from 600MHz to 2.4GHz, which is the same as the range of frequencies used by 4G. As we move to the middle, things start to get more interesting. It works between 3GHz and 6GHz, which is why it is called “sub-6GHz.” It is much faster than 4G, with a maximum download speed of 1Gbps.
As you move up the frequency scale, the mmWave spectrum covers the range from 24GHz to 52GHz. This is an elite-level frequency band that can reach speeds of 10–20Gbps. Having said that, we know that in communications, the higher the frequency, the faster the speed. But as the frequency goes up, the radio signal can’t reach as far. The mmWave frequency band can only reach a few millimetres, which is why it is called “mmWave.”
At the moment, telecom companies are focusing on the mid-band sub-6GHz frequency band because it can reach a wide area and is faster than 4G. On the other hand, the mmWave frequency band needs cell towers every few blocks, so it isn’t used as much around the world. Telcos only use the mmWave frequency band in places with a lot of people, like stadiums, convention centres, tourist spots, etc., that are close to cities. So, that’s all there is to know about 5G frequency bands. Let’s learn how fast 5G is, both in theory and in real life.
How Fast is 5G?
As I said above, theoretically, 5G can offer download speeds between 10 and 20Gbps. But it will need the mmWave frequency band and a SA 5G network (more on this below), assuming there are no solid obstacles between your device and the cell tower. In the US, Verizon’s mmWave network could offer download speeds of up to 1.3Gbps. This shows how well 5G works in real life.
But a recent OpenSignal report found that Illinois and New York had the fastest 5G download speeds, with an average of about 141Mbps. When it comes to 5G development in India, Airtel reached a huge 3Gbps speed in one trial, while Vodafone Idea hit 5.92Gbps and Jio just announced that its true SA 5G network will be able to deliver 1Gbps download speed indoors. In practice, it seems like 5G speeds will be around 100Mbps and can go up to 1Gbps if you can connect to the mmWave 5G network when there isn’t a lot of traffic.
5G Deployment Modes: SA and NSA in 5G
When 3GPP first approved 5G specifications in 2017, they were called the Non-standalone 5G (NSA) standard. NSA 5G is a deployment mode that telcos can use to build a 5G network quickly. In this mode, you can use the existing 4G-LTE core, which is also called the EPC, over 5G frequency bands to provide 5G services to 5G devices that are compatible. In NSA mode, you don’t need to upgrade the 4G-LTE core to a 5G core. It’s not really a 5G network because it still uses old network infrastructure.
SA 5G, also called “Standalone 5G,” is a real end-to-end 5G network, which means that all of its parts are based on 5G standards. The latest 5G specs must be used for everything, from the core to the frequency bands to the end devices. With this kind of network infrastructure and the mmWave frequency band, you’ll have the best 5G experience, with a latency of less than 10ms, download speeds of more than 1Gbps, and more.
Companies are using the NSA mode with the 4G core they already have to make the switch to 5G faster. But telcos have said that all network gear will switch to 5G in a few years, which will make it the best ever. Some telecom companies are also using software to virtualize the 4G core in order to get the benefits of 5G. This is called vEPC. Go to our detailed explanation of SA, NSA, and vEPC in 5G to learn more.
5G vs 4G: Benefits of 5G Over 4G
5G is better than 4G in a lot of ways, like having a gigabit download speed, almost no latency, saving power, and more. Read the points below to learn more about the difference between 5G and 4G.
5G can offer speeds that are much faster than 4G. Its operating frequency range is from 600MHz to a huge 52GHz, which lets it do things that no other device can do.
5G has a latency that is usually less than 10ms. This means that you can play games in the cloud with 5G, talk to other people while watching live content, watch over or drive a self-driving car, and do other things. In the medical field, it can help make robotic surgery possible from far away, and doctors can keep an eye on ambulances that are connected to 5G from far away.
Compared to 4G, 5G can handle a huge number of users and grow very quickly. It can work with more than a million devices in an area of 1 square kilometer. Massive MIMO and Beamforming also improve throughput and efficiency in areas with a lot of people.
The Release 15 specifications say that 5G uses a lot less power than 4G. As we try to figure out how to deal with climate change, 5G can help us build a better future.
Voice calls over New Radio (VoNR) are better than VoLTE, but the network must be an end-to-end SA 5G network for this to work.
Like 4G, 5G supports carrier aggregation, which combines multiple frequency bands into a single data pipeline. Aside from that, there is support for DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing), which uses both 4G and 5G spectrums to make the experience better.
5G also brings a lot of new features, such as network slicing, real-time analytics, accurate location tracking, and more. One of the most important is network slicing. It lets mobile operators turn a single physical network into several virtual networks. This can be useful for making communication faster.
Do You Need a New 5G SIM Card?
Most of the time, you don’t need a 5G SIM card. Your 4G or 3G SIM card should work fine with 5G networks since the 5G standard is compatible with 4G and 3G SIM cards. Still, some US and UK carriers have asked users to get a new SIM card that works with 5G for a better experience. In this situation, you should get a 5G SIM card. In our article about whether you need a new 5G SIM card or not, you can learn more about the carriers in your area.
Learn Everything About 5G in Detail
So, that’s all there is to know about 5G and how it will affect our lives in the future. Aside from making things faster, I like that 5G uses less energy and uses less power. It can also work with the network infrastructure that is already there, which makes better use of old network gear. Anyway, that’s all we have to say.
If you want to learn more about India’s 5Gi standard, check out our in-depth explanation. And click on the linked tutorial to find out which 5G bands your phone can use. Read our article to see a list of all the 5G bands that work in India. Lastly, if you have any questions, let us know in the section below for comments.