5G networks will be 10 times faster than 4G LTE, but we shouldn't get too excited yet


  • 5G will be super fast and create possibilities for wireless VR experiences, driverless cars, and medical advances. 
  • But the millimeter waves that 5G uses has a short range, which means network providers will need to develop a whole new, costly infrastructure. 
  • 5G is currently available in very limited areas with very few devices on the market that are compatible. 
  • Watch the video above to get more information about the hurdles 5G needs to overcome.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Michelle Yan: 5G is coming. Well, technically it’s here. Kinda? Maybe? Slowly? This fifth-generation cellular network is 10 times faster than 4G LTE. That means instead of waiting five minutes to download a movie on Netflix in 4G, it will take just 30 seconds on 5G. So it could even replace your home’s current high-speed internet service.

The new standard means devices can communicate with each other with no lag. You know how when you write with a pen, you see it as it happens? That’s zero latency. That’s pretty much what 5G can do: no waiting. That opens up the possibility for things like wireless VR experiences and more reliable driverless cars thanks to the ability to analyze and process data at faster speeds. It’s an exciting time for faster, more connected devices. But there are some obstacles 5G needs to overcome before we can really reap all of its amazing benefits.

First, we need a whole new infrastructure. Your cell phone provider, for example, will need to install a lot of new equipment for this new technology because 5G uses a totally different wavelength than the 4G standard your phone currently uses. The 5G standard uses millimeter waves, which are a lot shorter than the wavelengths 4G uses. The shorter wavelength means 5G can carry a lot of data much faster than 4G, but it also means a much shorter range. 4G wavelengths have a range of about 10 miles. 5G wavelengths have a range of about 1,000 feet, not even 2% of 4G’s range. So to ensure a reliable 5G signal, there needs to be a lot of 5G cell towers and antennas everywhere. We’re talking on every lamppost, traffic light, etc. because even trees can block 5G signals.

Antonio Villas-Boas: 5G isn’t gonna be cheap. You know, each node, or mini cell tower, needs some kind of connection to it, and that means laying down fiber optic cables, and, you know, it’s still an undertaking, and it’s definitely not in the millions. It’s definitely in the billions, possibly hundreds of billions.

Michelle: Not only will this cost billions of dollars, but there’s also pushback from many local communities.

Antonio: One of the biggest problems they face is actually local governments, local communities, who don’t want these carriers to build towers or antennas all over the place. Or maybe they’re afraid of the health risks, which is another big concern.

Michelle: Some are concerned that 5G radiation may cause cancer. The FCC so far has said that there aren’t any problems or concerns with 5G radiation, but they have said they still need to do more research. Despite all that, Verizon already rolled out the beginnings of its 5G network to parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. AT&T currently has about 19 cities with 5G capabilities, and Sprint and T-Mobile say they’ll be releasing their 5G network sometime in 2019.

So while 5G is being rolled out, it is very slow and in limited areas, and non-city and rural areas will be more difficult to cover since 5G has such a short range. But let’s say your internet provider successfully installed all the equipment around you. You still need devices that can run 5G. So far we’re only seeing a few that can do that.

Antonio: In the US, the only smartphones that we know about that have 5G is the Moto Z3 if you buy the extra Moto mod. There’s also the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and also the LG V50 ThinQ.

Michelle: And you can expect 5G phones to cost you about $200 to $300 more than one without 5G. Verizon and Starry are also getting a head start in bringing 5G to your home internet. So if you’re one of the few people who have access to 5G right now, enjoy it.

Antonio: One of the things I’m really excited about with 5G, 5G is said to be a super open highway with many, many more lanes than the 4G LTE highway. Which means a lot less congestion, even during peak hours. I do estimate that eventually even 5G will be congested with the number of people connecting to it and also the extra stuff that’s gonna be used for 5G. At which point, we’re gonna have to step over to 6G.

Michelle: So while all the carriers are already starting to tout their 5G capabilities, don’t get too excited because it’s still going to be a few years before you can really take advantage of it.

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