Is 5G Really Faster?

Futuristic 5G Phone Pink and Blue

It’s likely you’ve heard about 5G or at least seen advertisements for the latest buzzword in technology but let us tell you a bit more about it. 5G is the fifth generation in wireless technology and is lightyears faster and more powerful than the 4G you use every day. We know that’s a bold statement, but we wouldn’t be saying it if it wasn’t true. So let’s discuss, is 5G really faster? (Short answer: yes, it is.) 

First and foremost, 5G will not replace 4G or make it obsolete; both technologies will work together to create a seamless experience for all users in the foreseeable future. 5G is going to deliver Gbps speeds and an ultra-low latency that are currently unattainable on our current 4G network. According to Qualcomm, “5G will elevate the mobile network to not only interconnect people, but also interconnect and control machines, objects, and devices. It will deliver new levels of performance and efficiency that will empower new user experiences and connect new industries.” 

Higher Speeds

Speed is the standard for wireless network performance and is usually measured by bits per second. As more data is moved, speeds are measured by kilobits, megabits, gigabits and terabits being the fastest.  

5G is expected to deliver peak speeds under perfect conditions of rates up to 20 Gbps, while the theoretical peak speed for 4G LTE is 1 Gbps. That’s about twenty times faster than the best that 4G can do. 

If you were trying to download a movie, it would take about 27 minutes on a 4G LTE network, and about 35 seconds on a 5G network. Most of the speeds are tested in the most perfect of conditions, but everyday consumers can experience average speeds of 1 Gbps, which is still worlds faster than what we had on 4G LTE! 

Carriers will have to deliver a minimum peak speed for a network to be considered 5G. The peak download speed needs to be 20 Gbps or 20,480 Mbps, and the peak upload speed needs to be 10 Gbps or 10,240 Mbps. In addition, carriers will also need to meet a certain latency requirement. 5G requires a minimum latency of 4 milliseconds. (But more on latency down below.) 

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have been testing their 5G networks since 2018, with plans to rollout nationwide coverage starting in 2020. It will take carriers years to fully push out their 5G networks, but 2020 is when you’ll see a massive push by each. 

5G vs. 4G Speeds

CARRIER
5G Download4G Download
Verizon2 Gbps53.3 Mbps
AT&T1.7 Gbps37.1 Mbps
Sprint724.33 Mbps36.3 Mbps
T-Mobile1.07 Gbps32.5 Mbps 
DISH Network Undetermined Undetermined

As of October 2019, Sprint and T-Mobile have been approved by the FCC to merge as one entity, leaving DISH Network an opportunity to come in as the fourth wireless carrier. As of right now, there is no news regarding DISH’s network speeds or plans, but DISH is required by law to have a 5G-capable network built to serve 70% of the U.S. by 2023 or face a hefty $2 billion fine. 

Super-Low Latency 

While speed is undeniably a huge part of what makes 5G so amazing, the super-low latency is where the chatter really is. 5G’s low latency will usher in a new era of real-time applications, currently non-existent on our current 4G networks. 

Latency is the response time it takes for a network to perform an action. An example could be when you’re playing a game and you’ve told your player to jump, the latency would be measured as the time it took from you clicking the jump button, to when your player actually jumps. 

The current latency requirement for a carrier network to be 5G is just 4 milliseconds, compared to 4G LTE where its 20 milliseconds. In an ideal 5G world, the latency expectation is a mere 1 millisecond. All of these requirements are based on idealistic testing conditions. The average user will likely experience an average latency speed of 10 millisecond, which is still much better than the average latency speed of 50 milliseconds on 4G LTE. Whether you experience peak speeds or not, 5G is still going to respond much faster than 4G. 

5G vs. 4G Latency Speeds
CARRIER
5G4G
Verizon10 ms40-50 ms
AT&T16-20 ms20-25 ms
SprintUndetermined Undetermined
T-MobileUndetermined Undetermined
Dish Network Undetermined Undetermined

AT&T Latency Stats Source: PCMag

Each carrier is required to meet the 5G latency requirements in addition to the speed requirements. Each carrier is still fine-tuning each of their 5G networks as they rollout 5G coverage city by city so not only will the speeds and latency times improve, but more information regarding performance by network will be released.  

Any way you slice it, 5G is going to be incredibly faster in every way than 4G has ever been or will be with its peak 20 Gbps speeds and one millisecond latency. As this technology makes its way into the mainstream of everyday consumers, it will only improve and get even better and more efficient. 5G is going to power new-world applications and services in addition to improving your everyday phone usage. Hurry up and wait though, the 5G rollout is expected to be slow and steady but will definitely be worth the wait. 

Resources:

4G stats by Tom’s Guide

AT&T stat provided by Cnet

T-Mobile stat provided by Tom’s Guide

Sprint stat provided by Fierce Wireless