It is difficult to sort out the promise of 5G from the reality of what it is currently.

It is certain that 5G will change the way we communicate. It offers the high speeds and low latency that were once the exclusive domain of optical fiber broadband, as well as the ability to deliver ubiquitous connections to many more devices.

Worker looking up at 5G tower against a cloudy sky.
Dish Wireless

If you have been underwhelmed by your own experience with 5G, you are not the only one. The new wireless technology is not going well. In the US, carriers have been forced to share the airwaves with older 4G/LTE technology, wrangle with the FCC, and juggle an assortment of low-band, midband, and high frequencies.

The only benefit people had from being on a 5G network was seeing the letters on their phone's status bar. You wouldn't have noticed much improvement over your 4G/LTE service if you weren't a member of the 1% of people who lived or worked within range of ammWave.

The state of 5G in 2022

Things are finally changing for the better Customers are starting to see significant speed increases on their carrier's 5G services as AT&T and T-Mobile roll out new C-band spectrum on their 5G+ and 5G Ultra Wideband networks.

There is a lot more to 5G than just speed. Many of the benefits of 5G work behind the scenes to improve your experience. How fast is your phone? Most people don't need the fastest speeds that 5G offers and it's fun to run speed tests.

5G will make sure that you get the signal you need more often.

Better connectivity

It can be difficult to get decent cellular service at a crowded event. The best 4G/LTE networks can be overwhelmed by thousands of competing mobile phones. Outbound calls take longer to connect or fail entirely, and incoming calls often land in your voicemail rather than ringing through to your phone.

5G technology is able to solve all these problems. 5G is designed from the ground up to handle congestion more efficiently, but it also has another trick up its sleeve: millimeter wave.

3G and 4G networks used to be limited to a narrow band of frequencies. 5G can operate here, but it also has access to a set of higher frequencies called the millimeter wave spectrum. It is possible to handle a lot of connections without breaking a sweat with the 28 GHz and 39 GHz frequencies.

All carriers need to place a few around a stadium, a concert hall, or an airport in order to offer unprecedented internet access. You will get the same performance no matter where you are, with 5G.


If you want to be guaranteed top performance, you need a phone that can connect at these high frequencies. Apple and SAMSUNG's flagships will certainly have you covered, but they are not the only ones.

If you have a 5G phone, you don't have to worry. The C-band frequencies can still deliver better performance on congested networks than the lower spectrum used by 4G.

Lower latency

It's true that 5G has less lag than 4G and 3G, but what does that mean? Digital communications have two aspects to them. While raw download and upload speeds are metrics many like to focus on, they aren't nearly as important for smartphone users

A gamer plays Destiny 2 on a phone via Google Stadia.
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Downloads only show how fast a single stream of data can be delivered. Due to the way digital communications work fast download speeds don't always equal responsive connections. Overhead is needed for each new request sent. An existing connection is needed to download a file or stream a video. Back-and-forth traffic involving web surfing, instant messaging, and online gaming requires many separate connections in each direction.

It might be a good idea to think of a communication network as an interstate highway. You can travel far and fast if you get onto the interstate first. If you make a lot of short trips back and forth, that extra time quickly adds up.

It is worse on traditional 3G and 4G/LTE cellular networks than it is on wired broadband. If you want to ensure that your opponent gets the message as soon as you pull the Trigger, low Latency is important.

The architects of 5G wanted to deliver at least the low level of latency found on wired broadband networks, if not better. When you are on a 5G network, your overall experience of everything from surfing to online gaming should feel better.

5G in the home

5G is revolutionizing how internet is delivered to homes and businesses, despite the fact that most of the news around 5G is focused on phones. A 5G wireless network can be bridged like a traditional broadband network. Everything in your home uses the same technology as before, but instead of running a cable into your home, everything uses 5G.

T-Mobile 5G home internet router on tabletop with a person's hand plugging in the power adapter in the background.

The big three U.S. carriers have made serious inroads into the home internet market. Around the same time it announced a similar offering for small businesses, T-Mobile celebrated 1 million 5G home internet customers.

5G home internet usually offers download speeds of 30mbps to 180mbps, but wired broadband connections still have a leg up. As carriers roll out more 5G infrastructure, these speeds will only get better.

The 5G vision for tomorrow

The promise of 5G technology is just the beginning of what is to come. There are many possibilities because of the bandwidth, low latency, and other technical capabilities of 5G.

Infrastructure needs to be in place before a lot of these things can happen. Right now, we are in the building-out phase. It will take some time before a new generation of smart devices are powered by the 5G network.

Blue panels showing 5G logo at CES booth.

The network needs to be both ubiquitous and bulletproof before it can be used for things like drones and health care devices.

Today's 5G home and business internet services are likely only a stopgap. The day will come when you won't need a home routers at all. Everything from your laptop to your smart TV will be able to connect to the internet over 5G. Researchers are working on solutions to some of the security concerns that need to be addressed before this becomes a reality.

Private 5G networks are popping up in factories, university campuses, shopping malls, and even resort hotels to deliver high- performance internet access to visitors, employees, students, and guests. The smart cities of the future will eventually be powered by 5G.

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