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What are the Differences Between 4G and 5G?

What are the Differences Between 4G and 5G?

Published by Maaz at Turtleback on Aug 9th 2021

Whether accidentally or on purpose, the cellular industry performs a major upgrade to its wireless infrastructure. 3G was big in the 2000s, while mobile phones were dominated by 4G in the last decade.

In 2019, major US carriers started to introduce 5G, which rose many questions in people’s minds, including:

  • What’s the difference between 4G and 5G?
  • Is 5G really dangerous?
  • Will 4G eventually get shut down too?

Read on to find the answers to your queries related to 4G and 5G!

The Key Differences Between 4G and 5G

Two of the game-changing apps of the last decade, Uber and Lyft, would not have been practical without 4G. Soon, the world will see ridesharing cars navigating themselves – no human required: 5G will make it possible.

Here are the details of the major differences between the two networking technologies, 4G and 5G:

Speed

Most people think of high (or lightning fast!) speeds when it comes to 5G. And it makes sense: The cellular industry always introduces a generation that is faster than the one before.

The same goes for 5G: It has the potential to be 100 times faster than 4G. It means you can download a two-hour movie in under 10 seconds, which would take about 7 minutes on 4G.

Apart from movie streaming and app downloads, it finds applications in manufacturing and monitoring product quality as well.

Theoretically, 5G speed is around 20 Gbps. For now, people experience speeds from 50 Mbps to 3 Gbps. When you compare it to 4G’s claimed speeds of up to 100 Mbps and real-world speeds of 35 Mbps, 5G obviously has a competitive advantage.

But there’s more to it than that. Most 5G networks are built on a high-band spectrum, which has super-high-frequency airwaves. 5G offers three frequency bands, and hence, different speeds.

  1. Low-band 5G uses the same frequency as 4G does while offering moderately faster speeds of 50-250 Mbps.
  2. Mid-band 5G operates in the 2.5-3.7 GHz range and offers speeds between 100-900 Mbps.
  3. High-band 5G is the most talked-about 5G band as it offers tested speeds of 3Gbps.

As these signals are of very high frequency, they have a hard time getting through walls, windows, lampposts, and other hard surfaces. To compensate for those challenges, carriers are installing tons of small cell sites to light poles, walls or towers, often in relatively small proximity to one another. This is why most carriers are building the 5G infrastructure city by city – once the city is full of those small cells, the network can work.

Capacity

Suppose you are at a baseball game and you want to post a picture on social media about being at the big game or you want to download a song, but you can’t even open a simple webpage because it’s small area with a bunch of people.

If you are in a place where too many devices try to use the network, it can cause congestion. The network is not built to handle this many devices, causing slow data speeds and longer lag time for downloads.

Fortunately, 5G will solve this issue because it offers far more capacity than 4G. That means faster data speeds even if a lot of devices are connected to the network.

This capacity is not just limited to mobile devices. Experts suggest that could create increased bandwidth for the "internet of things" era, filled with connected doorbell cams, smart locks, street lamps and more.

Latency

Speed and latency are often confused with each other, but they do have a small but significant difference.

Speed is the time it takes for your phone to download the contents of a webpage (or to connect with a server that’s sending it information.)

Latency is the time between sending a piece of information from device A to device B and the device B receiving that information. It’s measured in milliseconds, so it does look significantly small. However, all those milliseconds add up when you are dealing with higher amounts of data, such as a long video.

4G already offers low latency, but 5G will make it almost zero. It will have applications in areas such as remote real-time gaming – one can play a game with people from other countries without seeing any lag in the gameplay.

It will be critical in future technologies, such as self-driving cars. The cars will send signals about the surroundings to a computer in the cloud, have the computer analyze the situation, and receive instructions about how to respond. All of this communication needs to be extremely fast if we want safe self-driving vehicles.

Will 4G Eventually Get Shut Down Too?

Now let’s talk about reliability. If we want to experience the fast speeds, high capacity, and low latency of 5G, we should have a high-band spectrum. But this high-band spectrum isn’t very reliable. Even if you are in a city where 5G is deployed, your device will find it hard to stay connected to the network.

So there’s a fair chance that we’ll see a mix of 4G and 5G even as 5G becomes more and more common. When you are in the range of a 5G tower, you’ll experience extremely fast speeds. When you are not, you’ll again see 4G speeds.

T-Mobile recently achieved a nationwide 5G network. This infrastructure is built on a low-band spectrum instead of a high-band spectrum. It will cover much wider areas and show a better penetration through walls and trees.

However, we won’t see the dramatic benefits of 5G we've been told about. A T-Mobile spokesperson said that their network provides, on average, a 20% increase in download speeds compared to 4G LTE. That’s far less than the 100 times-faster-than-4G speeds on high-frequency 5G networks.

Over time, both lower and higher frequency 5G will cover much of the US and we’ll get the best of both worlds.

As far as the question of 4G getting shut down is concerned, that’s not happening anytime soon. Of course, it will happen someday. But not in the near future.

4G is a more cost-effective choice so companies won’t replace it anytime soon.

The first commercial launch of 3G took place on October 01, 2001, and that of 4G took place on December 14, 2009. Now, Verizon has decided to shut down its 3G network at the end of 2022. It took almost 13 years for 3G to shut down after the launch of 4G. Similarly, 4G will also take almost a decade to get shut down.

Is 5G Safe?

Speed and safety are the two factors most talked-about when it comes to 5G. People have concerns about the network's radio frequency and whether or not it is safe. Specifically, can it cause cancer because of radiation exposure?

It’s not a  sure fire conspiracy theory. There have been studies that indicate some health issues related to 5G. For example, a WHO report from 2011 suggested that cellphone radiation should be listed as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." A 2016 study commissioned by the US government indicated a link between radio frequency radiation and cancer in rats. And phones like the iPhone and Galaxy may exceed the radiation limits allowed by the FCC.

With that being said, we don’t have evidence of a direct link between cancer and cell phone radiation. Put it another way, some people overstate this complicated matter. Think about it: We encounter many carcinogenic hazards every day, such as diesel fuel and aloe vera. The 2016 study we mentioned above involved a higher level of radiation than the one humans would come across from their cellphones.

At the same time, we know that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a proposal to deem cellphones, including ones that use 5G, as safe. A recent study conducted at the Oregon State University found that the effects of 5G radiation on zebrafish were not harmful.

Why Are People Being Forced to Upgrade Their Flip Phones From 3G to 4G?

That’s because 3G is going to disappear in February of 2022. All major carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon will soon shut down their 3G operations. Shutting it means that there will be more space for 4G and 5G. The day 3G gets shut down, your 3G phone will not work. In order to support 5G, including the faster speeds and features that come with it, cellphone services must cut out older technology. The loss of 3G is simply a necessary evil in order to improve and continue advancing technologilcally within the realm of mobile communication technology.

The Best Way to Protect Your Phone (Regardless of Its Network)

Eventually, everyone will have to switch to 4G and then 5G. But safety will be a common concern for all phones!

The Turtleback holster offers the ultimate safety from dirt, dust, and accidental falls. A heavy-duty metal clip on the holster allows you to attach the phone to your side, so you can pick up calls immediately. Plus, it’s extremely stylish!

Whether you’re a Blue-Collar worker or a stay-at-home parent, the Turtleback Holster is the perfect protective gear for your cellphone.

Shop Holsters By Your Phone’s Model Now!

References:

CNN: The big differences between 4G and 5G

Digi: 2G, 3G, 4G LTE Network Shutdown Updates

The Verge: AT&T Customer Upgrade Email 3G Shutdown 2022

CNET: 5G myths, debunked