Figuring Out 5G

Posted August 5, 2022 in Communications

Adam Cole

5G is actually here—sort of. There is some confusion about 5G due to mixed messages in advertising, and it is a new technology that is more complex than previous wireless platforms. The speed and coverage of 5G can vary greatly.

Freeway to 5G

1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G led to 5G, which will provide more connectivity than was ever available.

For years, mobile network carriers marketed the features of their services which were basically the same no matter which carrier you were on or where you lived. Your performance varied depending on how far you were from your provider’s cell tower, regardless of the carrier.

Older 3G and 4G worked within a relatively narrow band of frequencies, leaving carriers with somewhat limited choices in deploying their networks. By comparison, 5G covers a broader range of spectrum frequencies.

Flavors of 5G

Wireless communications are radio frequency signals that travel across the electromagnetic spectrum. Do you remember your 8th-grade science class? Me neither. The spectrum refers to the invisible radio frequencies that wireless signals travel over. Those signals are how we access wi-fi across our mobile devices.

To define and best utilize the 5G range of the spectrum, technologists created a descriptive framework that divides 5G into three bands. Each band enables different capabilities and technologies. As with all things in life, there are trade-offs in 5G too. Lower(slower) frequencies reach farther than high (fast) frequencies.

Low-band [below 1 GHz]: Can travel long distances, but not as fast as higher band. A low-band cell site can cover hundreds of square miles and deliver downlink data rates acceptable for streaming HD video. Low-band signals can pass through buildings and offer coverage indoors and outdoors. T-Mobile began rolling out low-band 5G relatively early in December 2019.

Mid-band [1 GHz – 6 GHz]: Strikes a balance between coverage and capacity. Many operators are currently deploying 2.5 GHz in the U.S. It is also known as sub-6GHz spectrum or C-band.

High-band [30 GHz – 300 GHz]: Delivers superfast speeds but can’t travel long distances. On the spectrum, the high band is between microwave and infrared waves.

Clearing up the Confusion

In 2020, Apple launched its first 5G-capable iPhone, and Verizon announced its new 5G Nationwide network. Here’s where the confusion comes in.

Verizon offers two types of 5G services:

  1. 5G Nationwide Network: uses low-band frequencies which is typical for cellphone use
  2. 5G Ultra Wideband network: uses high-band frequencies called mmWave [24 GHz – 40 GHz]. In telecommunications, it is used for high-bandwidth WLANs or short-range personal area networks (PANs). Its use is ideal for short-distance wireless transmission of ultra-high definition video and communications from small, low-power IoT devices.

To clarify, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband is strictly a marketing name used by Verizon. Actual Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a radio technology that uses a broad spectrum of frequencies (wideband) but operates at a very low power level over a short range. Apple’s AirTag and Samsung’s Galaxy SmartTag use UWB, not 5G. UWB is also an ideal solution for precision location-based automation, such as using robotics in automated warehouse supply chain management.

Fast Track to 5G

The use of 5G is becoming ubiquitous. Your business needs the fastest, most reliable connectivity. Contact iTelecom for all your telecommunications needs.