5G Definition & Meaning
5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks, offering higher frequency waves and greater bandwidth on wires and wireless connections. It was first launched in 2019, although the top cellular network providers did not fully implement it. A year and a half later, in late 2020, it was still only employed in small parts across the United States. 4G LTE was still the dominant network as of late 2019 and is generally very reliable.
The main draw of 5G is that, although it won't be as noticeable for a couple of years, its support of more devices on a network and higher-frequency waves will increase IoT connectivity and speed. This means that the Internet of Things will become even more responsive. More devices will connect to a network, and the demand for connected devices is already high. 5G attempts to meet that need.
Three versions of 5G currently exist:
Millimeter wave (mm wave) 5G: this is an extremely fast network version, but it works best in open air and had trouble moving through walls and other hard surfaces when tested. Mm wave 5G was designed for multiple network users in one area, such as a music or athletics venue.
Low-band 5G: this network speed isn't too much higher than 4G LTE, its predecessor, but it is much more reliable and can be more widely deployed.
Mid-band 5G: this finds the middle ground between speed and coverage. However, the military has had a monopoly on it in 5G's early stages. The Trump administration announced in mid-2020 that mid-band 5G would be auctioned, so it will likely become more available for providers sometime in 2021.
Top 5G providers
AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are the three frontrunners in the 5G industry. Verizon announced in spring 2019 that it would be launching a 5G network; since then, all three providers have introduced 5G networks in multiple cities. T-Mobile has installed 5G in hundreds of American cities so far. Sprint was also one of the providers at the top of the list, but it merged with T-Mobile in spring 2020, allowing the two companies to join forces in the 5G network race.
5G and edge computing
Edge computing first processes data on a local server, rather than sending device transmissions to a distant cloud provider. Requests that travel hundreds of miles to a data center will be significantly slower. Instead, edge computing operates from the edge of the network, or the places nearer to users. This means smaller servers installed in a greater variety of locations, including rural areas. Edge computing aims for low latency: when two servers are physically closer, the time that the network requires to transmit data between them decreases. It's one possible feature of 5G that will allow the new networks to provide faster turnaround for requests and greater connectivity between devices.
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