There’s been a lot of talk about 5G. As compared to 4G LTE, 5G is 20 times faster. You can download a full HD movie in less than 10 seconds. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
The 5G revolution is also aimed at delivering virtual-reality experiences and bringing more devices online, from sensors and robots to cars and smart-home gadgets. The next generation of wireless tech is handing out some big promises, so here’s what you need to know about the coming of 5G.
Who will be fi rst to 5G in the US?
Last week, AT&T’s 5G network went live in 12 cities across the country. This limited introduction was available for anyone with 5G devices, although only a tiny percentage of the population possesses the necessary technology.
At the moment, AT&T is claiming the first standards-based mobile 5G network. The premiere 5G device is the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, which adapts the signal into WiFi that your regular electronics can use.
Meanwhile, other service providers are racing to catch up — and cash in.
Verizon announced in early October it was the first to deploy a commercial 5G network with the limited introduction of a 5G home broadband service in parts of Sacramento, Houston, Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
The issue here is that Verizon’s service doesn’t meet the globally recognized 5G standard. Verizon says it will adopt that industry standard in 2019 while rolling out its 5G mobile service for phones. T-Mobile says it is targeting 2020 for full nationwide 5G coverage for its customers.
Don’t get too excited yet. What this really means is that we’re looking at waiting well into 2019 before there are significant deployments of mobile 5G networks.
Will your phone work with 5G?
The short answer is yes, and you should probably start saving up for it because 5G will not be cheap. The Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot (mentioned above) retails for about $500, which is more than twice as expensive as a similar 4G mobile hotspot.
The new device is great news for technophiles with an insatiable hunger for newer, faster gadgets. The effects of 5G should be extraordinary, with unprecedented data rates.
But to take advantage, you’ll have to retire your current devices, even that new $1,000 iPhone XS. Both Motorola and LG announced 5G-capable phones earlier this year, but the hardware won’t be out until 2019.
These early 5G smartphones will also need to work on older networks due to what could be a slow and spotty rollout of 5G.
The Moto Z3, exclusive to Verizon, is an excellent example of this. It’s a 4G phone, and it’s already available. Next year, you will be able to buy a 5G Moto Mod to add onto the phone, so it will work with Verizon’s 5G network.
For people who don’t want to spring for an entirely new phone, they’ll be able to test the 5G waters with mobile hotspots. These small devices will connect to the 5G network, and you’ll then be able to connect your phone or computer to the hotspot. The advantage here is the ability to connect multiple devices to one fast wireless hotspot.
Why is 5G important?
Smartphones are just one small piece of the 5G revolution. The blazing-fast speeds on our phones will be enjoyable, but the real future of 5G is in connecting all the pieces of our world together.
Self-driving cars could talk to each other, making them safer and more reliable. Augmented-reality glasses could give us a new way of looking at the world around us.
We’re getting closer to a more exciting sci-fi-style future, and the seeds for that will be planted as 5G expands into reality in 2019 and then ramps up in 2020. In a decade, we may look back and marvel at how it all began.
Listen to Kim Komando’s show from 1-4 p.m. Sundays on KRMG am740 or fm102.3. Read her columns or get her newsletters at komando.com.