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Understanding the technology behind your mobile device.

I believe by now almost everyone has seen an ad about upgrading their mobile device to one that is 5G compatible.

Not you? Give it time, especially now that I brought it to your attention.

Is your phone 5G compatible? What does that mean and do I need a 5G device? I am going to answer those questions in this article.

Have you thought about how the data from those devices travels at the speed it does? That is done by the network and made possible by the Gs, the generation of the technology used by the mobile carriers and the devices.

In the early 1980s, 1G was introduced and roughly every 10 years an updated version is released. With each version comes improvements in speed, coverage, and reliability. The advancements in technology continue to happen at an unbelievable pace. The number of connected devices, people, and vehicles increases daily. Mobile networks carried 300 times more traffic in 2021 than they did in 2011 and continue to increase annually.

Why 5G?

The primary reason for needing an upgraded network is to support the growing number of devices that demand internet access, many of them requiring so much bandwidth to function that 4G can’t provide it anymore.

5G uses different kinds of antennas, operates on different radio spectrum frequencies, connects many more devices to the internet, minimizes delays, and delivers ultrafast speeds. 5G uses unique radio frequencies to achieve what 4G cannot. What all of this means is that 5G networks can broadcast ultrafast data to a lot more users, with high precision and little latency.

However, most of these super-high frequencies work only if there’s a clear, direct line of sight between the antenna and the device receiving the signal. What’s more is that some of these high frequencies are easily absorbed by humidity, rain, and other objects, meaning that they don’t travel as far. It’s for these reasons that a strong 5G connection right where you are could decrease down to 4G speeds when you walk just a few feet away.

5G is a lot faster than 4G

Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be moved (uploaded or downloaded) through a network over a given time. This means under ideal conditions, when there are very few if any other devices or interferences to affect the speed, a device could theoretically experience what’s known as peak speeds.

From a peak speed perspective, 5G is 20 times faster than 4G. This means that during the time it took to download just one piece of data with 4G (like a movie), the same could have been downloaded 20 times over a 5G network. Looking at it another way: You could download close to 10 movies before 4G could deliver even the first half of one!

What can 5G do that 4G cannot?

Given the differences in how they perform, it’s clear that 5G is paving a new road to the future for mobile devices and communication, but what does that really mean for you?

The 5G network still lets you send text messages, make phone calls, browse the internet, and stream videos. In fact, nothing you currently do on your phone, with regard to the internet, is taken away when you’re on 5G — they’re just improved.

Websites load faster, online multiplayer games don’t lag as much, there’s smooth and realistic video when using FaceTime, etc. 5G is so fast that everything you do on the internet now that seems relatively quick could appear to be instant.

Where 4G fails at providing all the data needs to a growing number of mobile devices, 5G opens the airwaves for more internet-enabled tech. Vehicles that receive GPS data and other instructions that help them navigate the road, like software updates or traffic alerts and other real-time data, require fast internet to always be on top. It isn’t realistic to think that all of this could be supported by 4G networks.

Where is 5G available?

You can’t yet use all types of 5G networks everywhere you go (like you probably can with 4G) because the rollout is an ongoing process. You can get connected to the faster type in most heavily populated areas, but only the slower kind (or none at all) in most parts of cities or rural communities. This means, even if you have a 5G phone, there are huge areas where you can’t get next-gen-level service.

The release date for 5G isn’t set in stone for every provider or country, but many have been providing it for a few years now and will continue to expand their networks into the future, even as newer technologies make their presence.

See Where Is 5G Available in the US? for specific information.


Don’t let the marketing get to you and make you believe a 5G phone is a must-have right now. In larger cities with 5G networks available, you will see some benefits. Until it is fully rolled out, don’t rush to pay for that upgrade.