5G has been in the making for almost a decade, and it’s finally becoming a reality. Carriers started rolling out fixed 5G to select cities in 2018, and mobile 5G will start making appearances in cities around the US sometime in 2019. Comprehensive rollouts are expected near 2020.

The four major U.S. cell phone carriers are united by one central priority right now: the roll out of 5G. What they don’t seem concerned with doing is explaining what it is. That’s why we’re going to answer all of your 5G questions below.

What is 5G?

You’ve heard of 4G LTE right? 4G is the current generation—the “G” stands for “generation”.

This 5G technology is not just for smartphones, according to Robert Topol, general manager of Intel’s 5G Business and Technology.

He said 5G is designed to be smarter and better performing than current 4G technology, so it can bring communications, computing and artificial intelligence closer to our daily lives. 5G is about handling more data, whether it’s from a refrigerator, washing machine, vehicle, or drone.

Simply put: 5G is the next generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace, or at least augment, your 4G LTE connection.

How Does 5G Work?

Unlike it’s predecessor, 5G operates on three different spectrum bands.

Low-band spectrum is the primary spectrum band used by carries in the US for LTE, and is quickly becoming depleted. While low-band spectrum offers great coverage area and penetration, peak data speeds top out around 100Mbps.

Mid-band spectrum provides faster coverage and lower latency than on low-band. However, it cannot penetrate buildings as well as low-band spectrum. Peak speeds for mid-band reached up to 1Gbps.

High-band spectrum is what most people think of when they think of 5G. It is also referred to as mmWave. High-band spectrum offers peak speeds up to 10 Gbps and has low latency. The downside? It has a low coverage area and poor building penetration.

AT&T and Verizon are rolling out on high-band spectrum. The 5G coverage will piggyback off LTE while they work on creating their nationwide 5G networks. Since the high-band spectrum trades off penetration and user area for high speed and coverage area, the two companies will reply on small cells.

Small cells are low-power base stations that cover small geographic areas. With small cells, carriers using mmWave for 5G can improve their coverage area, delivering very fast coverage with low latency.

5G has the potential to be used in everything from autonomous vehicles, remote device control, and IoT to healthcare industries and public infrastructure. As the kinks in 5G get worked out, the potential for a faster network and device connectivity are greater than ever before.

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