5G's Mainstream Moment: What That Means for You

(StatePoint) 5G is all over the news. So, what is it, anyway?

In the wireless industry, the term 5G has been around for several years. Like 3G and 4G LTE before it, 5G is the next generation technology that many of today’s newest smartphones use to access the internet, run apps and send and receive data.

As the experts at T-Mobile explain, each new generation, or “G,” has been noticeably faster than its predecessor, and 5G is the most massive leap yet. 5G is also improving wireless coverage in many rural and underserved areas and works better indoors.

With the ability to deliver faster download speeds, real-time responses, and improved connectivity, 5G has the potential to vastly improve just about everything we enjoy today, from entertainment and gaming to education and public safety. And 5G unlocks potential scenarios such as downloading full-length HD movies to your device in mere seconds; teaching interactive lessons via virtual or augmented reality; or getting real-time data on driving conditions as you cruise along the highway. The possibilities are endless.

Why 5G’s All Over the News

5G has most recently been in the headlines because Apple just announced the iPhone 12, its newest smartphone and the company's first with 5G technology. 5G phones have been widely available in the U.S. since 2019 from Samsung, LG and OnePlus, but the much-heralded arrival of Apple’s iPhone 12 is the next major milestone to make 5G mainstream.

The iPhone has been the best-selling smartphone in the world since its introduction in 2007 and its long-running popularity means the iPhone 12 will be the first 5G phone for a lot of U.S. consumers. Now that every major smartphone company has 5G phones, and the wireless industry’s largest 5G networks are expanding, the 5G era has now truly arrived.

Not All 5G is Created Equal

5G networks in the U.S. are built using three different spectrum layers: low-, mid- and high-band. Each layer is different but very important, and T-Mobile is the only wireless company with clear, dedicated spectrum for all three. Here’s how it works:

• Low-brand spectrum (such as 600MHz 5G) is a firm base layer. It travels far and wide and is better at penetrating into buildings and through walls, and is best for bringing 5G to more places across the U.S., including rural America. Many of these deployments are built on existing wireless infrastructure, such as towers. T-Mobile is using its 600 MHz spectrump to deliver the first and largest nationwide 5G network, and today covers more than 260 million people across nearly 1.4 million square miles.

• Mid-band spectrum (such as 2.5 GHz) is the “Goldilocks” of 5G spectrum because it covers a broad area and delivers the fast speeds associated with 5G. This sweet spot for 5G is also built out using existing network sites and towers. With a massive supply dedicated to just 5G, T-Mobile is the only wireless operator putting mid-band 5G spectrum to use. That means more lanes on the wireless highway, dedicated to 5G, and allowing super-fast download speeds averaging around 300 megabits-per-second — that’s more than 7.5 times faster than 4G LTE today — with peaks of up to 1 gigabit-per-second.

• High-band spectrum (millimeter wave, 24-100 GHz range) is great for covering small, dense city blocks with 5G – but not at scale – and, using small cell-type equipment, can deliver top-end several gigabit-per-second speeds, but the signal doesn’t travel far and gets blocked easily by things like trees, windows and buildings, and even the occasional umbrella. High-band, millimeter wave spectrum should be a complement to the other 5G spectrum bands - the cherry on top of the 5G experience - but not the 5G sundae itself.

Using all three spectrum bands, U.S. wireless customers will have the best overall 5G experience no matter where they work, play or travel – that means customers get coverage and performance. If you’re ready to upgrade to a 5G phone, be sure to check all the wireless providers in your area to see which one has the best 5G network based on the spectrum bands being used for 5G in your area, and those which are compatible with your 5G smartphone. To learn more about T-Mobile, and the company's 5G network, visit www.t-mobile.com.

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