What is 5G? Here’s what you need to know

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For years, wireless carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have been working to make 5G available to the public. Aka the fifth generation of wireless technology. Think of it as an upgrade to its 4G little brother – and it’s meant to be very good faster and create more innovation. To allow self-driving cars communicate in real time on the way to have doctors perform surgery remotely. (Yes really.)

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that reliable and fast connectivity is a must. For all of school and work remotely, ordering medicine and groceries. Now, this sophisticated new technology will give millions of Americans access to faster wireless service than ever before. Courtesy of AT&T and Verizon. So we’re breaking down what you need to know about it. And how it might affect your technology. With the help of a mobile technology expert.

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What is 5G and why does it get a high-five

While 3G helped our phones connect to the internet and 4G meant we could binge on Netflix anywhere, 5G speeds everything up. By… a lot. Specifically, it will be up to 100 times faster than 4G. And have a “near instantaneous response time,” according to the FCC. Here is the (5)Gritty detail…

  • Faster uploads and downloads: 4G allows us to download full movies in minutes. 5G can reduce this to as little as 15 seconds. And allows you to download your TikTok video much faster.

  • Clearer picture: You might want to click “camera on” for remote work meetings. 5G could mean no lag on Zoom calls – meaning clearer video chats on the go.

  • Streaming and virtual reality makeover: The video game lover in your life could soon be living in the clouds with faster and clearer Diffusion. And 5G could also improve the VR experience (think: make it more mobile so you can enter the virtual world from anywhere). Meta probably can’t wait.

  • Bandwidth increase: Because 5G will have more bandwidth, your service should not lag behind. In addition, more devices will be able to connect to the 5G network at the same time.

Experts expect a lot from 5G to boost several industries – from Agriculture at telehealth. Bill Menezes, director adviser at Gartner, says things like smart manufacturing and smart warehousing could also see an overhaul.

You might be wondering, ‘do I have 5G on my phone?’ If you’ve ever seen a 5G icon on your phone, this isn’t the full-speed version we’ve all been waiting for. That’s because 5G has been on low-band spectrum – which is essentially the same as 4G LTE – for years. Now carriers will boost it up to midband (aka C-band) waves, which balances speed and coverage.

January 19, AT&T and Verizon are official release their 5G C-band service. And promises it will be harder, better, faster, stronger than previous generations. “What AT&T and Verizon are going to do is basically activate 5G service using new airwaves that they’ve purchased from the federal government over the past two years,” Menezes told theSkimm. “This will add a huge amount of capacity to their network. So more people using more data at the same time will be possible if you have a 5G device.

The caveats surrounding the new 5G rollout

Here’s the bad news…the new 5G won’t be available to everyone in the US right away. Like the generations before it, it will take time (read: years) for it to become mainstream. Here’s what we know so far:

  • AT&T: In 2021, the carrier said it plans to cover up to 75 million people with its new service, called 5G+, by the end of 2022. And up to 200 million in 2023. You’ll know if you have it if you see “5G+” on your phone.

  • T-Mobile: The company is ahead of the game. It currently offers its Ultra-capacity 5G to 200 million people nationwide. But he expects that number to grow as he hops on the C-band airwaves. Next year.

  • Verizon: It plans to cover 100 million people in January with its 5G ultra-wideband network. The first standing: major metropolitan cities like NYC, LA, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston.

PS: Here’s how to check if the new 5G will be available in your area via AT&T and Verizon.

Corn select airports across the country won’t fly high with the C band, including Chicago O’Hare, JFK in New York and LA International. For months, airlines have feared that new 5G frequencies could interfere along with those used in airplanes (think: for measuring things like altitude). Verizon and AT&T have already pushed back their 5G rollout amid fears interference could cause flight delays (something that is already a problem in part due to staffing shortages related to COVID-19). Carriers also agreed to FAA buffer zones — aka 50 airports — “to minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments.” But airline CEOs say ‘It is not enough.’ And wrote a letter calling on Administrator Biden to step in and create a larger buffer zone at some airports. Fast forward and AT&T and Verizon answered the call, agree to delay their new 5G service near certain airports.

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How 5G Could Impact Your Tech Gadgets

Will you need a new cellular plan? It depends on your operator. AT&T has added 5G+ to most of its unlimited plans. And Verizon started offering new options for phones, homes and businesses that want to optimize the use of the new 5G network.

Here’s what you can do to get your hands on it ASAP:

  • Inspect your gadget: iPhone 12 and 13 will support the new 5G. Like others, including Samsung’s Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro could also support the new technology.

  • Software updates: Gadgets may need a software update to access a carrier’s 5G service. But it is not known when these updates will be rolled out.

  • If you don’t have 5G devices: FCC says “4G devices will continue to work”. If you have an older device, it may only offer 3G service. Check with your carrier if you have any questions.

And before adding new devices to your cart, Menezes recommends people pause and do some research. Because you may not have to buy anything.

“Unless you have a really good reason, you really don’t need to update your devices and pay a lot of money to get 5G. Your next device will get it anyway,” said he declared.

Oh, and your WiFi function is safe and sound, Menezes told us. Because it’s a “different network.”

PS: We know more about how 5G could affect your wallet here.

theSkimm

At a time when connectivity has become crucial for work, study, shopping and everything in between, a new 5G could seriously improve our daily lives. But whether he lives up to the hype is to be determined. And if we know one thing, it’s that there will be a new demand for better and faster service. Can you say, ‘6G?’

Maria del Carmen Corpus, Maria McCallen and Kamini Ramdeen-Chowdhury

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