It may have taken some time, but 5G is finally starting to take off in the US. Late last year, T-Mobile was the first to, which it has since expanded and bolstered with its recently acquired Sprint spectrum. AT&T has continued to expand its 5G footprint as it works to have
Verizon, the first US carrier to, now reaches 35 cities with its fast, high-frequency millimeter-wave service and plans to expand its millimeter-wave to 60 cities in 2020. It also plans to bring a wider 5G network on other bands to its users later this year.
Next-generation networks from all the major carriers are set to expand in the coming months, laying the foundation for advancements such as replacing home broadband, remote surgery and self-driving cars that are expected to dominate the next decade.
But with all that activity by competing carriers, there’s a myriad of different names for 5G — some of which aren’t actually 5G.
The carriers have had a history of twisting their stories when it comes to wireless technology. When 4G was just coming around,and opted to rebrand their 3G networks to take advantage of the hype. Ultimately the industry settled on 4G LTE. One technology, one name.
Differing technologies and approaches for presenting 5G, however, have made this upcoming revolution more confusing than it should be. Here’s a guide to help make sense of it all. (And if you’re curious, here’s what has to happen.)
Know the three flavors
When it comes to actual 5G, there are three different versions that you should know about. While all are accepted as 5G — and Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have pledged to use multiple flavors going forward for more robust networks — each will give you different experiences.
The first flavor is known as millimeter-wave (or mmWave). This technology has been deployed over the course of the last year by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, though it’s most notable for being the.
Millimeter-wave: High speed, but with a downside
Using a much higher frequency than prior cellular networks, millimeter-wave allows for a blazing-fast connection that. The downside? That higher frequency and penetrating buildings, glass or even leaves. It also has had .
In effect, these coverage areas may be no bigger than an intersection, so think of it, for now, as a souped-up Wi-Fi hotspot. One solution is to string more cellular radios, but in many places, that isn’t an option.
Low-band: Lots of range, but lower speeds
Low-band 5G is the foundation for both AT&T and T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G offerings. While faster than 4G LTE, these networks don’t offer the same crazy speeds that higher-frequency technologies like millimeter-wave can provide. The good news, however, is that this network functions similarly to 4G networks in terms of coverage, allowing it to blanket large areas with service. It should also work fine indoors.
T-Mobile currently covers over 225 million people with its low-band 5G network, while AT&T covers over 120 million people with its low-band 5G network. Last year Verizon announced.
Midband: The middle ground of speed and coverage
In between the two, midband is the middle area of 5G: faster than the low band, but with more coverage than millimeter wave. This is the technologyand one of the key reasons T-Mobile worked so hard to purchase the struggling carrier. In acquiring Sprint, T-Mobile says that it will now be able to offer a network featuring all three flavors of 5G.
Since completing its Sprint acquisition in April, T-Mobile has turned on new, with one tester in New York tweeting out that he has seen download speeds over 1Gbps, much faster than carrier’s low-band 5G service which generally is the same speed as a good 4G LTE connection.
While T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have low-band spectrum, midband has previously been used by the military, making it a scarce resource despite its cellular benefits.
But that could soon change. An, the first time a significant amount of the spectrum will become available for commercial use, is expected to garner interest from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
It’s important to note that no one band of spectrum is inherently better or worse than another. The carriers are hoping to incorporate all three types of spectrum for a more comprehensive network.
Three flavors, plenty of different names
As you’d expect in an industry used to blanketing the airwaves with commercials, there are several different ways carriers are referring to the different flavors of 5G.
AT&T is the worst offender, with three flavors: 5GE, 5G and 5G Plus.
5GE, short for 5G Evolution, ($599 at Apple), Galaxy S10 or Pixel 4 that shows 5GE isn’t compatible with the new next-generation network., so no, your iPhone 11
The National Advertising Review Boardwhich the carrier says it will do. AT&T still, however, plans to continue using the icon on its devices.
The regular “5G,” meanwhile, is real 5G but only on the midband and low-band flavors. AT&T’s use of “5G Plus” will be for the carrier’s millimeter-wave service.
Verizon calls its current millimeter-wave 5G network “5G Ultra Wideband” or “5G UWB.” While it’s not as complicated as AT&T’s approach, it could run into some confusion thanks to Apple’s embrace of the similarly named. Unlike Verizon’s UWB, Apple’s version isn’t related to cellular, but is a technology used to track find other similarly equipped devices. Apple’s version of UWB is .
T-Mobile, which is the only carrier to currently have all three flavors of 5G active, keeps one, simple name: 5G.
“Our customers will see a simple 5G icon when connecting to the next-generation wireless network, regardless of which spectrum they’re using,” said a T-Mobile spokesman.