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Before we start talking about 5G, it might be a good idea to talk about 4G, the previous technology. 4G replaced 3G networks and brought more emphasis on data speeds. 4G technology played an important role in creating the application economy and brought about a fundamental shift in the way the Internet was accessed.
In a way, 5G can be seen as 4G technology on steroids. But not only will it give you a much faster internet connection, it will also pave the way for a host of new use cases from cloud gaming to autonomous connected vehicles.
While 5G speed gets most of the headlines, latency will play an important role in driving many of the new technologies supporting 5G. Latency refers to the delay between a data transfer request and the initiation of data transfer. For example, it can be the time between when you click on a link and when the network starts sending you the data contained in it.
According to TechTarget, 4G network latency is between 60 and 98 milliseconds. 5G technology should theoretically bring it below 5 milliseconds, maybe even around one millisecond.
“Spectrum” refers to the radio frequency bands that are allocated to various telecommunications companies and industries. Think of it like how you can tune into different frequencies with a radio.
But unlike a radio, your phone will automatically “tune in” to the spectrum according to your carrier. In general, higher frequency spectrum means faster data connectivity, but it comes at the cost of range. The lower frequency spectrum loses speed, but makes up for it with better range.
Millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G
Millimeter wave or mmWave refers to the very high frequency spectrum of 5G. It usually ranges between 24 gigahertz and 100 gigahertz. If someone is talking about really fast broadband speeds, chances are they are referring to mmWave.
As you might have guessed, these really fast mmWave speeds come with the trade-off of poor range. mmWave technology is also notoriously unstable and prone to interference, making it difficult to get a stable connection. In its current form, mmWave technology is closer to WiFi than cellular networks in the real world.
As the name suggests, Lowband refers to low-frequency spectra. Telecom operators across the country are currently using low frequency bands for the 3G and 4G networks that are currently available. These low frequency spectrums are really useful because they can travel much longer distances without much interference. But then they are also only capable of lower speeds.
Mid-band frequency spectrums lie in the space between mmWave and low-band frequencies. It provides a good compromise between the long range of low-band frequencies and the high speed of mmWave 5G.
Less than 6GHz 5G
Sub-6 gigahertz 5G is a catch-all term for low-band mid-band 5G frequencies that fall below 6 gigahertz. It basically applies to all non-mmWave 5G spectrum
MIMO means “multiple input, multiple output”. MIMO means that phones have multiple antennas that allow them to simultaneously send multiple data signals on the same frequency. This allows phones and other devices to have a higher bandwidth connection to the Internet. For example, a 4×4 MIMO phone will have four antennas for 4 simultaneous data streams.
5G network aggregation
Network aggregation refers to a situation where telecom operators take different 5G frequency bands and bundle them together so that phones with the capability can tune into the least congested and therefore fastest.
Network segmentation refers to the situation where small parts of certain spectrums are reserved for specific kinds of devices depending on their connection needs. For example, a cell tower can provide a lower bandwidth and slower connection to a smart meter in a building while offering a higher performance, faster and lower latency 5G connection to an autonomous car that transmits high-resolution sensor data.