Ads for the latest smartphones are highlighting their 5G connectivity. Wireless carriers are offering deals on these smartphones. So, why all the hype over 5G?

Like previous wireless generations, the full rollout of 5G will take time.

What Is 5G?

5G is shorthand for fifth generation wireless technology. Currently, most of our wireless phones connect using 4G (4th generation) wireless networks. 5G is not just an improvement in the hardware and software that makes up the network. There will also be new products, new technologies, and new applications using the 5G network.

What Improvements Does 5G Provide?

When fully implemented, wireless communication will be much faster than 4G, have the capability to handle more devices, and be more responsive. It will be able to handle not only smartphones and other mobile devices but other types of devices including the Internet of Things. Examples include smart appliances such as thermostats and refrigerators, home security systems, smart home systems, and smart speakers.

5G can work in three bands of airwaves where previous generations worked in only one. The low-band network uses the same airwaves as previous generations. It has a wide coverage area, and it will be faster than 4G. The high-level band will have super fast speeds, but coverage is limited because signals don't travel far and don't penetrate hard surfaces well. The mid-level band balances speed and coverage but its availability is currently limited as these airwaves are used for other purposes such as the military.

Is 5G Available Now?

Like previous wireless generations, the full rollout of 5G will take time. The availability of 5G depends on where you live and what has been implemented. This article from Consumer Reports can help you determine what is available in your area. It also has links to coverage maps for the major carriers.

Are 5G Phones Available?

5G phones are readily available though some of them are very expensive. If you are considering a 5G phone, you will need to consider not only the phone's price but what it will cost to use it since carriers may have 5G specific plans.

Is Now the Time to Upgrade?

It depends. The promise of 5G is in the applications that will be developed. So do your research before buying that 5G phone. These articles will help.

  • This article from PC Mag provides a good overview of 5G.
  • This article from the Brookings Institute provides an in depth look at 5G.