Many people are still baffled by 5G, and for good reason: The next-generation wireless standard has only started to hit the market, and most people have yet to see the technology touch their lives.
At the same time, 5G has crept into increasingly consequential debates about politics, national security and investing. So it’s time to learn.
To that end, we put together the most common questions people ask—or should ask—about the technology. For all those people who have been waiting to catch up, now is the time.
What is 5G and how is it different from current 4G wireless services?
5G’s big selling point is speed. It achieves that speed by using a bigger chunk of the radio spectrum—which phones use to transmit signals—than most 4G services. A phone can download a full-length movie in about 15 seconds on 5G—which stands for “fifth generation” mobile technology—compared with roughly six minutes on 4G.
How much faster is 5G?
Networks will be about 20 times faster than 4G networks on average, meaning you could download Avengers: Endgame in the time it takes Thanos to snap his fingers. Latency could be as low as 1 ms, compared with 50 ms for 4G.
Will I need a new phone to use 5G?
Yes. Smartphone makers like Samsung and Motorola are already rolling out 5G-compatible phones, and Apple is expected to follow suit soon. You can still use your current smartphone on 4G networks until you are ready to upgrade.
Where can I use 5G today?
The four major wireless carriers are introducing 5G coverage in dozens of cities in 2019 and 2020, including Atlanta, Denver and Washington. 5G coverage within cities may be limited at first, however, with only certain neighborhoods getting access.
Who else will benefit from 5G?
The technology could revolutionize businesses from agriculture to manufacturing. Factory owners could use it to control their robots. Farmers could use it to keep tabs on autonomous smart tractors. Carmakers see it as a key technology for self-driving cars, helping such vehicles “talk” to one another about road conditions, hazards and more. And like other groundbreaking technologies before it, 5G promises to unleash a wave of innovative new startups and services we can’t foresee.
This is all you needed to know about this fast network.