The Workings of 5G

2021 has long been earmarked as the year that 5G network capability was going to really start to factor into the digital connectivity future like it’s been predicted to. We’re just a few weeks in, but in the 3rd week of January next year we’re going to have plenty to say on what this year was like when it came to 5G. 5G phones are already being readily bought by those who need to be the first to have a whole digital device experience, and we know it’s going to be huge in as far as IoT technology is concerned.

Not hard to see why all of this resonates big time with those of us here at 4GoodHosting, and like any other Canadian web hosting provider it just so happens that we’re in an industry that is going to be in the front row for all of this. And while we’re dynamite with reliable web hosting in Canada, we freely admit we’re not the science types. We imagine most of you are the same way, no matter how digital savvy you are with devices and speeds. But who doesn’t like a quick overview of how things work?

So that’s what we’ll do here. Discuss the wavelength workings of 5G so you can know what’s actually happening to make your iPhone 12 or Galaxy S20 capable of what it does in the near future.

Different 5G Spectrum Bands

Low-band, mid-band, and millimeter wave are 3 different segments of the electromagnetic spectrum. All three are within the radio wave range, but part of the spectrum is also light, gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves, and much more.

Low-band: 600MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz

Mid-band: 2.5GHz, 3.5GHz, 3.7-4.2GHz

Millimeter wave (high-band): 24GHz, 28GHz, 37GHz, 39GHz, 47GHz

Things are crowded in the radio wave range of the spectrum. Nowadays much of radio spectrum is being dedicated to mobile devices, but it also hosts broadcast TV, HAM radio, and aircraft communication, and more. Radio spectrum ranges from 30 Hertz to 300GHz — 1 GHz being equal to 1 billion Hertz. That’s a very large range, so it makes sense that spectrum at the far ends of it can act in different manners.

Low-band is spectrum on the lower side, known with longer wavelengths than spectrum on the higher side. This makes it more robust and able to travel longer distances, but at the expense of bandwidth. Waves become shorter and shorter through the mid-band frequencies, gaining bandwidth but losing transmission distance and finally reaching millimeter wave.

Millimeter Wave Primary

A millimeter wave is the smallest size of a wavelength, and can range from around 10 millimeters to 1 millimeter. It’s an extremely effective swath of spectrum because of its large bandwidth, but it’s also very sensitive to external variables. Things like walls, trees, or even just rain. Current low-band antennas are fine for covering several miles or more across large patches of city, residential areas, or rural expanses, but mmWave can be used for small, targeted deployments like inside an airport or stadium.

This is called Fixed wireless and its what most carriers are attempting with 5G. It’s already very readily available on many major network providers. Another very promising aspect about mmWave for both telecommunications companies and consumers is the opportunity for larger channels of spectrum, which should work out to the significant speed benefits most people are looking to forward with 5G.

Information Freeway

Tapping into mmWave was a pivotal breakthrough leading to 5G wireless, and it allows for some blazing fast, multi-gigabit speeds. mmWave has the potential to really turn the web into an information freeway that’s super fast. Beam-forming is going to be a huge part of that, by focusing spectrum and shooting it directly at recipients. Major telecoms will be snapping up large contiguous sections of mmWave spectrum to create their super expressway networks.

However, if you do benefit from mmWave in the next year or so it will probably be an intermittent experience on mobile, and likely one heck of a drain on your battery.

Mids and Lows

Improvements will be more incremental wit 5G on mid-bands and low-bands. The new wireless technology is more efficient than 4G LTE on existing bands, but not by much. 5G is also designed to piggyback an existing 4G network, and improving on 4G speeds. As carriers gradually upgrade their equipment it should become dominant, making for networks with much more consistently high speeds.

We should still expect the first few years of 5G to be bumpy though. But it looks great and in the not-too-distant future we should start to see it start to pick up speed.

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