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4G versus 5G: Should You Convert?

Are you interested in taking out a new mobile phone plus data subscription? If so, should you make sure that the new phone is compatible with the 5G network? Or, is the widespread adoption of the 5G mobile data network still far enough off to ignore for the time being?

By way of answering this question, let’s first look at a succinct definition of 4G and 5G, determine the differences between these technologies, and finally, look at how far off the adoption of 5G is.

Cellular network technology: A succinct definition

Before we consider the specifics of the 4G and 5G mobile technologies, let’s look at a succinct definition of cellular or mobile network technology. notes that it is a “communication network where the last link is wireless.”

This network is distributed over land areas known as cells, each supplied with between one and three fixed-location base station receiver stations. And when joined together, these individual cells provide cell phone and data coverage over a large geographic area. Currently, mobile phone users can communicate with other cell phone users around the world.

Each cell uses a different set of frequencies from other cells to ensure the quality transmission of data, voice, and other types of content.

What is 4G?

4G is the fourth generation or iteration of the mobile broadband network technology described above. And, each generation is an improvement on the generation before. For example, 4G offers faster mobile broadband network connectivity than 3G. This enables data to travel between devices at faster rate than before.

The website notes that, for a network to be advertised as 4G, it must offer “peak data rates of at least 100Mb per second for high mobility communications… and at least 1GB per second for low mobility communications.”

By way of explanation, high mobility communications include mobile network users in cars, trains, and busses. In other words, they are moving quickly through the area covered by the 4G networks.

On the other hand, low mobility communication is a user who is travelling slowly through the cellular network area. These users include pedestrians and people who are not moving at all.

What is 5G?

It stands to reason that the 5G network is the fifth-generation mobile phone network technology. Heidi Vella of stated in her article published in May 2019, that it is “expected to be a step-change in mobile networking - promising exponentially faster download speeds and data-sharing in real time.”

5G includes the following upgrades:

• A new digital system for converting bytes of data over air.
• A new radio interface that uses much higher radio frequencies than used by the earlier iterations of this mobile network technology.

Therefore, 5G can transfer more data through the air at faster speeds, simultaneously reducing the latency and congestion.

In practice, more devices are supported over the same air space. Statistics show that 4G supports 4 000 devices per square kilometre, while 5G can support up to 1 million devices in the same air space. Therefore, mobile data users can stream videos, podcasts, browse the Internet, and make voice calls without interruption.

Final thoughts

While this technology is currently being tested, it is not yet available for public consumption. Tentative global adoption dates being touted are only in 2024. Therefore, you do not need to ensure that your new mobile phone is 5G compatible, yet.

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