Are you excited to experience 5G service? You’re not alone! Nearly every carrier in the United States (and around the world) has been quick to hype the benefits of this next fifth generation of wireless service. For good reason, too: Users can expect the average 5G download speed to equal approximately 10 times the speed of 4G. As of June 2021, 58 countries had 5G networks, which is up from 38 countries a mere one year before. 5G networks are expected to reach one billion users in just under four years. What this means for you is that if the future hasn’t yet arrived in your area, it likely will – very, very soon.
Considering the significant speed and coverage boost that 5G will ultimately provide, it makes sense that companies would rush to implement this next-generation’s infrastructure, including cell tower upgrades. But since people often compare the new network’s structure to Wi-Fi, what will 5G’s infrastructure actually look like? What’s the difference between a 5G tower vs. a 4G tower?
You can find answers to these questions about the future of 5G right here at The Whiz Cells.
How Does 5G Work?
As you might know, cell phones use radio frequency signals to communicate with cell towers. 5G towers vs. 4G towers operate on different frequencies. Current 4G networks use relatively low radio frequencies compared to the new 5G networks, which take advantage of the extremely high frequencies that were opened up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for civilian use in 2016.
5G’s high frequencies provide many advantages over 4G. They allow faster connections, support more devices without bandwidth problems and have the ability to operate without as much interference as 4G. The increased bandwidth capability allows for larger amounts of data to be transmitted faster than with 4G. In addition, 5G users will also experience low latency, which is how long a signal takes to go from its source to a receiver, and then back again.
For cell phone and device users, 5G means faster speeds, faster streaming and quicker data downloads and uploads. It will also mean the ability to connect more devices than 4G currently accommodates. As a result, many people predict 5G will accelerate the development of more interconnected devices (also referred to Internet of Things, or IoT), such as smart home appliances, security systems and even self-driving cars.
Unfortunately, 5G still has some downsides. In particular, the high radio frequencies 5G use can’t travel as far as the current 4G wavelengths: the super-high frequencies work only if there is a direct line-of-sight signal between an antenna and a device. Furthermore, they struggle to move through objects and are easily buffered by rain, humidity and other conditions. This means 5G will require an enormous expansion of current cell tower infrastructure upgrades in order to function.
How Will 5G Use New Cell Towers?
In order to provide 5G service on a large scale, carriers will need to add many more small cell sites to ensure that those higher radio frequencies can reach those who want it. However, though these small cell technologies perform similar basic functions, they’re not your typical cell tower.
Most consider current cell phone towers to be freestanding behemoths. 5G towers vs. 4G towers mean that smaller devices will be mounted onto lampposts, rooftops, traffic lights and other appropriate spots around cities and towns to ensure line of sight. Small cells are the size of a narrow refrigerator or a large suitcase.
Because 5G uses shorter radio wavelengths, the towers needed to pick them up can be smaller than their predecessors. This makes them easier to place in great numbers. However, these new cell towers are causing conflict between telecom companies and local governments and municipalities. That’s because it is necessary to install them on large amounts of public property.
The location and the appearance of new 5G cell sites in your area will likely depend on your local government’s negotiations with service providers – unless, of course, you live in one of the states that has passed legislation that restricts local oversight of 5G infrastructure. According to The Washington Post, the FCC says that state and local governments cannot “materially prohibit” carriers from offering 5G service. And part of that 5G service is, of course, 5G towers.
Will Traditional Cell Towers Be Replaced?
The answer to this question, at least for now, is “no.” It seems that most traditional cell phone towers will remain active for the foreseeable future.
Some carriers will upgrade existing cell towers for use with 5G signals, effectively integrating current infrastructure into the new system. These existing towers could significantly help transmit signals throughout rural locations where very few objects stand in the way.
However, it’s important to note that existing cell towers may also continue transmitting 4G signals to areas without 5G service. Although companies expect 5G to increase coverage overall, 5G won’t launch everywhere immediately.
Urban areas, such as the cities that companies are currently using as test sites for the new technology, will likely benefit from 5G before more rural areas. Some communities with very low populations may not see 5G service for some time due to the high cost of setting up several smaller 5G “towers” to serve a lower population area. Because of this, existing cell towers and other communication infrastructure will remain essential to keep people connected to the rest of the world.
Eventually, it’s possible that cell phone towers will become obsolete. Some speculate that future advances may include mobile-to-mobile functionality (where individual cell phones will essentially function much like cell phone towers). It sounds like science fiction, but is something that large companies, such as Facebook and Qualcomm, are pursuing. Whatever the future holds, the transition will occur slowly.
What Does 5G Have in Store for the Future?
The widespread switch to 5G wireless connections could alter many aspects of the digital world, as well as the physical landscape. As cell towers become smaller and more omnipresent, we’ll likely also see the development of increasingly sophisticated mobile phones and phone apps that will take advantage of faster download speeds and stronger broadband connections.
As for what comes beyond 5G? For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Time for a Phone Upgrade that Supports 5G?
Are you ready for the future with a 5G-compatible phone? If not, you might want to consider an upgrade. The Whiz Cells offers top dollar for your 4G phones to make way for the newer 5G technology. Our selling process is super-fast and easy. It all begins with registering for a free account with The Whiz Cells. Our Stupid Fast Payment will be in your account as soon as one day after we receive your old device. Contact us if you have questions or check out our FAQ page for more information.