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What is 5G, and how fast is it?

You could not escape the 5G hype at CES 2018 and the same holds true for 2019. All – from Samsung and Intel to mobile operators and smartphone companies – you want to know how amazing 5G will be. Samsung called it "wireless fiber", promising super-fast low latency internet everywhere. 5G is supposed to be faster than a typical home cable connection today … and it's also wireless.

What is 5G?

RELATED: What is 4G LTE?

5G is the industry standard that will replace the current widespread 4G LTE standard, just as 4G replaced 3G. 5G is just for the "fifth generation" ̵

1; it is the fifth generation of this standard.

This standard is designed to be much faster than the current 4G LTE technology. It's not just about speeding up smartphone internet connections. It's about enabling faster wireless internet everywhere for everything from connected cars to smarthome and internet of things for things (IoT).

In the future, your smartphone and any other device you have with mobile connection will use 5G instead of 4G LTE technology that they usually use today.

How fast will 5G be?

RELATED: The best (actually useful) technology we saw at CES 2018

Tech companies promise a lot from 5G. While 4G peaks at a theoretical 100 megabits per second (Mbps), 5G peaks at 10 giga bits per second (Gbps). This means that 5G is a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology, with its theoretical maximum speed.

For example, the consumer technology association pointed out that at this rate, you can download a TV-hour movie in just 3.6 seconds at 5G, for 6 minutes at 4G or 26 hours at 3G.

It's not just throughput either. 5G promises to significantly reduce latency, which means faster loading times and improved response when doing almost anything on the internet. Specifically, the specification promises a maximum latency of 4ms on 5G versus 20ms on 4G LTE today.

At these speeds, 5G turns the current home cable connection to the internet and is more comparable to fiber. Fixed Internet companies like Comcast, Cox and others can face serious competition, especially when they are the only option for fast internet in a given area. Wireless carriers can deliver an alternative without adding physical leads to each home.

Presenters wanted us to think of 5G which enables super-fast, virtually unlimited internet everywhere, and to all devices. Of course, in the real world, internet providers set up data capsules. For example, even if your wireless operator gave you a 100 GB data cap, which is much larger than most plans today, you can blow it in a minute and 20 seconds at the maximum theoretical rate of 100 Gbps. It is unclear what canister carrier will ultimately introduce and how much it will affect its use.

How does 5G Work work?

5G utilizes much technology to achieve these fast speeds. There is not just an innovation at stake. IEEE Spectrum Magazine does a great job of explaining many technical details in deeper, but here is a brief summary.

The new standard will use a brand new band of radio spectrum from 4G. 5G will benefit from "millimeter waves" transmitted at frequencies between 30 and 300 GHz compared to the bands below 6 GHz used previously. These were previously used only for communication between satellites and radar systems. But millimeter waves cannot easily travel through buildings or other fixed objects, so 5G will also benefit from "small-cell" -minature miniature-based stations that can be placed about every 250 meters in dense urban areas. These would provide much better coverage in such places.

These base stations also use "massive MIMO". MIMO stands for "Multiple input multiple output". You can even have a wireless router with MIMO technology, which means it has several antennas that it can use to talk to multiple wireless devices at the same time rather than quickly switching between them. Massive MIMO will use dozens of antennas on a single base station. They will also utilize beam shaping to better control the signals, control the wireless signal in a beam pointing to the device, and reduce the interference of other devices.

5G base stations will also run at full duplex which means they can transmit and receive simultaneously, at the same frequency. Today, they have to switch between transmission and listening modes, slowing things down. It's just a snapshot of some of the technology incorporated to make 5G so fast.

When will it be available?

In the United States, Verizon will start rolling out a non-standard version of 5G in the second half of 2018, using it for home access in five cities. Mobile phones that support 5G would not be able to connect, but it will not be for phones, anyway, as a way to offer wireless internet access fast.

AT & T promises to start rolling out 5G for phones in late 2018, but real widespread 5G expansion is unlikely to begin until 2019. T-Mobile has promised to start deploying 2019 with "nationwide coverage" 2020. Sprint announced that it will start using 5G by the end of 2019. With schedules Just like these, 5G technology is unlikely to be widespread until 2020, at the very earliest.

Qualcomm, which makes chips used in many Android phones, has promised 5G phones for 2019. And yes, you need to get a new phone and other mobile devices supporting 5G, just as mobile carriers need to replace their hardware to support 5G.

You will hear much more about 5G in the next few years when the expansion actually begins, but the Hype machine is already running. Take the maximum theoretical rates with salt grains and be prepared to wait a few years for extensive coverage, but be excited – the wireless internet is getting much faster.

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