5G: Get the Lowdown on the Latest Phone Tech

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of chatter about 5G — at one point, Verizon said it was going to usher in another industrial revolution. And while Henry Ford hasn’t jumped out of our phones quite yet, the speeds you can get on 5G (in the right areas) are fast.

So, what exactly is 5G? Should you switch? Is it safe? How many G’s do you actually need? Let’s break it all down.

What is 5G? And do we care?

The G in 5G — like 4G and 3G that came before — stands for “generation,” so this is the fifth generation of wireless technology. 1G was the analog cellular signal tech used to make bag phones (remember bag phones?) work while 2G marked the switch to a digital signal protocol. Since 2G, the generations have been defined by how the wireless signal is interpreted, broadcast and ultimately received. The main differentiator has been speed.

This pattern continues with 5G. It is a complex study in radio wavelengths, signal power, bandwidth and distance, but the bottom line is this: 5G is a faster, more stable, almost lag-free protocol.

What does this all mean?

Well, when it comes to what consumers do already, it means quicker downloads; crisper, more consistent video calling; and a mobile web browsing experience on par with broadband. Where it gets exciting is what it can do for future consumer products and services. Because 5G is so fast and stable, it has the potential to power a Jetsons-esque future complete with fleets of automated delivery drones, flying robot firefighters and autonomous cars.

While it might be 5-10 years before we see the big impact of 5G, phones that can tap into it are already pretty ubiquitous.

Should I switch?

If you’re the kind of consumer that already has the latest phone, you’ve already switched to 5G. The Apple iPhone 13, Samsung Galaxy A32 and S22, and the Pixel 5a and 6 are all taking advantage of 5G. There are plenty of phones on the market that support 5G, the top-of-the-line phones are top-of-the-line phones for a reason: They support all three bands of 5G.

It’s a lot of science, but 5G comes in three different flavors — low-band, mid-band, and high-band, and it has to do with distance from the tower. A low-band 5G signal goes the farthest, but has the slowest speeds. A high-band 5G signal has the shortest range (about 800 feet), but has the fastest speeds. A mid-band 5G signal falls … you guessed it … in between the low-band and high-band signal in both distance and speed.

Top-tier phones have built-in radios that can take advantage of all three bands. While this looks great, high-band 5G has only 3% nationwide coverage as of now — being able to take advantage of it is nice but not strictly necessary. If you do want to switch, make sure you at least get a device that can receive a mid-band 5G signal. It’s the most widely developed throughout the US and offers speeds that far surpass 4G without the distance limitations of a high-band signal. Any device that supports high-band will support mid-band.

Home Internet?

In addition to phones, 5G is bringing much-needed competition to the home Internet market. Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T (and a bunch of smaller, local providers) are tapping into the 5G network to bring fast, wireless Internet into the home. Instead of plugging a cable into a modem and router, a router picks up the 5G signal out of the air and broadcasts it to your home.

5G home Internet has a lot of promise, but 5G rollout is still in its infancy, and what you get will depend — highly — on where you are located. In a metropolitan area? You’ll more than likely get a dedicated 5G signal and have a great time. In a not-so-metropolitan area? You’ll more than likely be put on a hybrid 4G/5G signal that will cut into your speeds and connectivity.

Before you jump into the 5G home Internet pool, you are definitely going to want to do a lot of homework on what’s available in your area and whether or not you’re going to get a dedicated 5G signal.

Is it safe? Spoiler alert: Yes.

Like most things that are widely discussion online, 5G has made the rounds in conspiracy theory circles, and you may have heard some nasty rumors about its safety. Let us put the rumors to rest. 5G signals are completely safe for humans to be around.

The wireless signals that comprise 5G have all been routinely used in telecommunications for decades — some since the early 1950s. The bottom line is this: 5G is safe. That is, unless you count how quickly you can post about your neighbors on Nextdoor with the speeds it offers.

While 5G is exciting and holds promise for all kinds of future innovations, it’s still new. Not all devices are compatible, and it’s not available in every location.

For home Internet, there’s still no better option than fiber. And for high-speed fiber Internet, there’s no better option than GoNetspeed. Check your address or get in touch with our super-friendly Customer Service team to get started today.