In the simplest terms, 5G is a new cellular standard. Phone carriers have jumped to a new wireless standard roughly every decade. About 10 years ago, 4G, the fourth-generation network, arrived with significantly faster speeds and stronger reliability than 3G. About a decade before that, 3G arrived and was much faster and more robust than 2G. You get the picture.
What will I do with 5G?
The benefits will probably feel subtle and significant.
Lower latency is crucial to future mobile applications. It could make virtual reality work more smoothly — like if you were watching a virtual-reality broadcast of a live sports game and wanted to look around the stadium.
Reduced lag may also improve gaming: If you were playing a shooting game with friends online, there would be less delay between button presses and your actions in the game.
A reduction in latency will also help internet-connected devices talk to one another immediately. That is why technologists are looking to 5G deployment as a crucial step toward a world of autonomous cars. If one car is 5G equipped and so is the other, they can tell each other when they are braking. Or if the vehicle is signaling to turn right, it can communicate the turn to cars behind it so they can slow down or switch lanes.
Will 5G be faster than Wi-Fi?
In some cases, yes. While Wi-Fi is also very fast, it pulls data from a broadband connection, which is susceptible to degraded performance when others nearby are using it. By design, 5G transmits high amounts of data more efficiently, so it is expected to significantly mitigate network congestion. There is a high likelihood that you will get a consistently strong, faster connection on 5G.
Do I need a new phone to get 5G?
Yes. You will have to buy a new phone with a 5G modem to connect with the new network technologies.
Most current 5G-compatible phones are expensive: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, for example, costs $1,300. But as the technology becomes more common in the next few years, prices should drop.