5G – It’s coming soon, or according to some wireless carriers, it’s here already. The truth is that 5G and its implementation is a very complex subject. Let me see if I can shed a little light on the subject. First a little insight into the vernacular.

The "G" stands for Generation. Each Generation is a set of wireless network standards that can be used by a mobile phone to connect to the internet. As the standards are improved, so is the speed. 1G which was introduced in 1979 offered speeds of a measly 2.4 Kbps (kilobits per second). By the time we got to the current 4G, the speed was approximately 100 Mbps (megabit per second). Remember that one megabit is equal to 1,000 kilobits, so 1 Mbps is 1000 times faster than 1 Kbps. 5G will work at speeds up to 10 Gbps (gigabits per second), which is 100 times faster than 4G.

Don’t get lost in the numbers, all you need to know is that 5G is going to be unbelievably fast. On top of that, 5G will also have much lower network latency or what you might think of as faster response time.

Because of its speed and faster response time and the fact that it can handle more data at once, 5G networks will not just serve cell phones. It is envisioned that it will be used for autonomous cars, new sports transmissions that will make you feel like you are really there, new interactions between doctors and patients, for remote treatments and surgeries, new robotic assembly lines, new ways of easing traffic congestion, and even new entertainment options. 5G is also poised to be used in homes and at some point might even overtake cable as the home internet service of choice providing connectivity for the billions of internet-connected home devices that are moving into our homes. This roll-out of 5G, however, will take years.

Although 5G has some wonderful benefits, there is one drawback. 5G uses high-frequency waves that don't travel as far as current wireless frequencies. Where we now have large cellphone towers spread fairly far apart, 5G needs cell sites that are much closer together. All the large cell phone companies are currently working on their 5G networks. This entails deploying thousands of small antennas or transmitters. They are putting these on current cell towers, utility poles, lampposts, and hundreds of buildings and other structures. 5G may require cell towers or antennas on every street. A widely available 5G network will take hundreds of thousands of transmitters. For some, the plethora of antennas that will be needed for 5G are poising health and privacy issues.

Although some companies like AT&T try to make you think that you already have 5G, that is simply not true. AT&T’s 5G Evolution is simply an enhanced version of 4G. Sprint recently filed a lawsuit against AT&T for their assertion that they already have 5G. You see, there is still a lot of work to be done before true 5G is available.

It is true that many of the major carriers will roll out 5G phones later this year. But 5G service will only be available in certain areas in certain big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. Verison will turn on their 5Gservice on in Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11th. 5G access, however will be limited to a few small areas.

Later this year you will be able to purchase a 5G phone but there will be very limited places that you will be able to get 5G service. Luckily all of the planned 5G phones will be backwardly compatible with 4G, so they will still work properly.

The reason that you hear so much about 5G is that when it is implemented it will make huge leaps in technology and is sure to change our lives.

As you may have heard, we are in a race with the Chinese regarding 5G. This race is for patents as well as for implementation. Right now the Chinese are ahead on both counts. We have the most extensive network of 4G towers that can be upgraded to 5G, but it will take a lot of new cell towers and placement of 5G equipment. American governmental agencies and regulators must understand and expedite this. Our senators and representatives spent the better part of the last several years arguing about net neutrality instead of focusing on moving 5G forward. I understand that they have introduced a new net neutrality law again. If we can get them to focus on 5G which is a technology that will keep us in the lead, we can beat the Chinese. If not we will not only be behind, but will be paying the Chinese patent fees when we decide to finally focus on 5G.