What is the difference between 3G, 4G and 5G?

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With Verizon’s 5G network currently rolling out across a number of cities, you may wonder what the difference is between 4G and 5G.      

The “G” associated with cellular networks stands for generation. 5G is the fifth and newest generation of cellular network technology and it should expand the capacity for mobile networks, allowing more devices to use the network than ever before.

The history and differences of 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G cellular networks

The 1980s brought the first generation—or 1G—of networks with voice-only, analog service. The top speed of data transmission on a 1G network reached around 2.4kbps.

2G Networks

The 2G network began in Finland in 1991, allowing cell phones to move into the digital world. 2G allowed for call and text encryption as well as SMS, picture messaging and MMS. The maximum speed for 2G was about 50kbps.

3G Networks

The advent of a 3G network with more data, video calling and mobile internet began in 1998. What we may now consider a “slow” network in many large municipalities was the height of technology until 4G came along. 3G networks reach 2mbps on stationary or non-moving devices and 384kbps on devices in moving vehicles.

4G Networks

4G, or the current standard of cellular networks, was released in the late 2000s and is 500 times faster than 3G. It has been able to support high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing and much more. When a device is moving, as when you are walking with your phone or are in a car, the top speed can be 10s of mbps, and when the device is stationary, it can be 100s of mbps. The 20MHz bandwidth sector has peak capacity of 400Mbps. However, since users are sharing available sector capacity among others, observable speed experiences by users are typically in 10s -100s of mbps.

As more people get access to mobile devices and the Internet of Things expands, as many as 24 billion devices are expected to need cellular network support by 2024. That’s where 5G comes in.

Key differences between 4G and 5G

One of the biggest differences between 4G and 5G will be peak capacity and latency. For example, peak capacity of 5G UWB sector is in gbps compared to 4G in mbps. Also, the latency, or the time that passes from the moment information is sent from a device until it is used by a receiver, will be greatly reduced on 5G networks, allowing for faster upload and download speeds. Another big difference between 4G and 5G is bandwidth size. 5G should be able to support many more devices of the future, in addition to the network demands of connected vehicles and other devices in the Internet of Things.

What does all of this mean for you as a user and consumer? Greater amounts of information can transfer between devices faster than ever before, so high-density areas like airports and urban areas should experience fast speeds. Thanks to reduced latency and wider bandwidth, you should be able to stream a 4K video in seconds. 5G should be the network that will provide the speed and efficiency that everyone needs.

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