Engineers developed the software and the circuitry to make 5G possible. Business marketers are the ones who explain to the public how it all works.
This is where things get complicated.
As with the previous generation of wireless services, mobile carriers have pinned a confusing array of brand names on 5G services. Each type reveals a tradeoff: Some 5G signals can be found across large swathes of the United States, but have yet to deliver significantly better internet speeds than their 4G counterparts. Other 5G connections are extremely fast but difficult to find outside of stadiums and business districts. For anyone confused by the many flavors of 5G, here’s a quick guide:
What this means: AT&T uses this simple label to describe most of its next-generation cellular coverage. It applies to service in the low and medium frequencies of the operator. Signals carried on low frequencies provide the slowest connections in the 5G universe but travel the farthest. High frequency signals transmit more data at a faster rate but do not travel very far. Mid frequencies are a balance between speed and distance. Tests by research firm OpenSignal show that AT & T’s 5G service is about twice as fast as its 4G service, well below the ultimate capacity of 5G.
Where he is: AT&T claims that this 5G service is available to more than 240 million people in the U.S. Customers at home, at work, or on the move will see this tag most of the time they have a 5G connection.
What this means: The plus sign means very high frequency transmissions that carry a lot of data at high speeds over short distances. This supercharged connection, also known as the millimeter wave for its very dense waveform, can download data much faster than 5G services on lower frequencies and makes 4G look like a line. switched.
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The carrier uses this technology in partnerships with businesses, governments and academia seeking high-speed links on their properties.
Where he is: According to AT&T, high-frequency 5G service is “best suited for high traffic areas such as stadiums, arenas, entertainment districts, airports and campuses.” The company says 5G + currently covers parts of 38 cities.
Extended 5G range
What this means: T-Mobile applies this label to service on low frequencies. As with other carriers, this means that while this service isn’t the fastest type of 5G connection, it generally offers some improvement over 4G speeds.
Where he is: T-Mobile Says Extended Coverage Reaches 295 Million People In US
5G Ultra capacity
What this means: This name applies to T-Mobile service using medium and high frequencies. This means downloads that are generally faster than those carried on the lower end of the radio spectrum used by the company’s extended-range service and much faster than 4G service.
Where he is: The carrier says 140 million people are under the umbrella of 5G Ultra Capacity, a number it says will grow to 200 million by the end of this year.
What this means: Verizon applies this label to all of its 5G services in the low and middle bands of the radio spectrum. Like AT & T’s base 5G label, Verizon’s 5G Nationwide service is about twice as fast as its 4G service, according to OpenSignal, and is the one most customers will see in most places, especially during of their travels.
Where he is: America’s Largest Carrier Verizon Says Nationwide 5G Service Covers 230 Million People In The United States
The company is installing new equipment capable of delivering the 5G service much more. Some of these machines could be in service as early as December.
Ultra wideband 5G
What this means: It’s Verizon’s name for its high-frequency millimeter-wave 5G service, which broadcasts large volumes of information at high speeds.
OpenSignal research shows that this service downloads more than 20 times faster than a typical 4G download.
The company uses these frequencies both for mobile devices and to bridge the gap between telephone poles and home routers in some areas, instead of wired connections.
Where he is: This service is mainly available in city centers, stadiums and some suburban areas.
Verizon has parts of more than 70 cities covered by its Ultra Wideband technology.
Mr. FitzGerald is a Wall Street Journal reporter in Washington, DC. He can be reached at [email protected]
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