A man climbing a cell tower

Let’s Talk About 5G: How It Works 🤔

In this installment of our Introduction to 5G, we’ll be explaining how this new form of communication functions and how it compares to our existing network.

Let’s Talk About 5G

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

First things first, let’s explain how wireless communication works in the real world. All wireless phones and devices operate along the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum is the complete range of all types of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and that radiation is just energy that travels outward in all directions at the speed of light. A lamp, for instance, will trasnmit EMR within a segment of that spectrum (what we see as visible light) and our eyes can interpret that transmission. On the lower end of that spectrum are radio waves which power technologies like AM/FM radio, television broadcasts, WiFi and cellular phones. Radio and micro waves are similar to visible light in that they operate on the same spectrum, just on a lower frequency (30Hz to 300GHz).

Differences: Current and 5G

Bandwidth

Much like our existing 3G/4G infrastructure, 5G is a type network used to transfer data between devices. Each one of these networks operate within a specific range on the electromagnetic spectrum. For decades, we’ve been using the same range for the majority of our devices: 1GHz to 6GHz. As technology progresses, the increasing amount of wireless devices we have are all competing with each other for the same limited bandwidth. The new 5G network is designed to operate within a much larger range above 6GHz all the way up to 100GHz! That’s a substantial increase in the amount of bandwidth in which our devices will now be given for a variety of applications.

Range

Our current 3G/4G signal can travel over longer distances as they operate on a lower frequency which gives them extended range. However, 5G devices will operate on much higher frequencies and those signals can’t travel the distances that lower 3G/4G frequencies can. To work around this, the infrastructure for this new network will require a combination of our existing towers and a much smaller, more condensed grid of “mini” towers every block as these waves aren’t able to penetrate foliage and inclement weather.

Also, most 4G devices were designed to be backwards-compatible with older networks. However, 5G is not meant to be merely an incremental update to existing mobile communication standards. Having said that, your new 5G phone will also still likely work with legacy networks via additional antennas as the transition rolls out.

If you’re having trouble connecting to any of your existing networks, be sure to stop by one of The Fix Hut’s four shops and have one of our technicians check it out. Antennas are usually replaceable, affordable and the turnaround time is quick. Call us if you have any questions!

Worth Noting

There has been much discussion surrounding the potential health hazards regarding the increased exposure to radio/microwaves that 5G will bring. These frequencies for communication have been in use for quite some time, though they’ve never been used on the same scale which we anticipate will be the case with 5G. The arguments for that debate are well beyond the scope of this post, so here are some links to some differing opinions on the matter: