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How Are 4G and 5G Different?

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Update time : 2018-02-26 18:26:58
How Are 4G and 5G Different?

5G Works Differently Than 4G

A new type of mobile network wouldn’t be new if it wasn’t, in some way, fundamentally different than existing ones. One fundamental difference is 5G’s use of unique radio frequencies to achieve what 4G networks cannot.

The radio spectrum is broken up into bands, each with unique features as you move up into higher frequencies. 4G networks use frequencies below 6 GHz, but 5G will likely use extremely high frequencies in the 30 GHz to 300 GHz range.

These high frequencies are great for a number of reasons, one of the most important being that they support a huge capacity for fast data. Not only are they less cluttered with existing cellular data, and so can be used in the future for increasing bandwidth demands, they're also highly directional and can be used right next to other wireless signals without causing interference.

This is very different than 4G towers that fire data in all directions, potentially wasting both energy and power to beam radio waves at locations that aren't even requesting access to the internet.

5G also uses shorter wavelengths, which means that antennas can be much smaller than existing antennas while still providing precise directional control.

Since one base station can utilize even more directional antennas, it means that 5G will support over 1,000 more devices per meter than what’s supported by 4G.

What all of this means is that 5G networks will be able to beam ultra-fast data to a lot more users, with high precision and little latency.

However, most of these ultra-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 we can expect lots of small, strategically placed antennas to support 5G, maybe even in every room or building that needs it. There will also probably be many repeating stations to push the radio waves as far as possible to provide long range 5G support.

Another difference between 5G and 4G is that 5G networks will more easily understand the type of data being requested, and will be able to switch into a lower power mode when not in use or when supplying low rates to specific devices, but then switch to a higher powered mode for things like HD video streaming.

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 that 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!

5G has a peak download speed of  20 Gb/s while 4G sits at just 1 Gb/s.

These numbers refer to devices that are not moving, like in a fixed wireless access (FWA) setup where there’s a direct wireless connection between the tower and the user’s device. Speeds vary once you start moving, like in a car or train.

However, these aren't usually referred to as the “normal” speeds that devices experience, since there are often many factors that affect bandwidth. Instead, it’s more important to look at the realistic speeds, or the average measured bandwidth.

5G hasn’t been released yet, so we can’t comment on real-world experiences, but it’s been estimated that 5G will provide everyday download speeds of 100 Mb/s, at a minimum. There are lots of variables that affect speed, but 4G networks often show an average of less than 10 Mb/s, which should make 5G at least 10 times faster than 4G in the real world.