5G vs 4G: What is the difference?

5G vs 4G: What is the difference?
What are the actual differences between the cellular network technology 4G and the newer 5G, which has been gaining traction since 2019? 5G is newer, so it has to be better than 4G, right? It is indeed, but how, and what are the specifics? Let's find out.

5G vs 4G differences, a summarized list:

5G is faster and more reliable than 4G

The 5G standard for cellular networks allows for higher amounts of data to be transmitted as compared to 4G. Data is sent and received faster, and the whole process is more reliable too.

The reason for 5G's faster speeds is its use of more advanced radio technology, and the fact that it employs new, higher radio frequencies that are less likely to face interference from other devices. And while 4G data transmission latency can be as high as 30 milliseconds, 5G's latency will be well under 10 milliseconds, and can be almost 0 in perfect conditions.

The speeds, however, will vary depending on location, network traffic, amount of 5G cell towers and other factors. While the faster 5G networks are likely to beat 4G speeds by 10 times or more, and in the future, could potentially even be hundreds of times faster, in reality, the average user will have access to more reasonable numbers than those. Regardless, they'll but still be impressive when compared to 4G speeds.

We recently tested Verizon's 5G network in New York, if interested – see our results here.

5G can handle significantly more simultaneously connected devices than 4G

While 4G can lose its stability during heavy traffic hours, 5G is said to be able to handle a much higher number of users and devices connected simultaneously – up to a million per .38 square miles as compared to around 2,000 in the case of 4G.

This also means 5G is well futureproof, as there likely will be large numbers of internet-connected devices per home on average in the coming years, such as smart speakers.

5G needs more cell towers than 4G due to its shorter range

5G may be faster and more reliable, but it requires more cell towers and 5G nodes in urban areas, in order to reach everyone and for its signal to not get blocked by the walls of buildings. This means we're likely years away from having optimal 5G speeds in all urban areas of each city.

All that is because 5G is employing what are called millimeter waves, which are higher than what was used for 4G and 3G, and have a much shorter range. In addition, the millimeter waves can't penetrate buildings and thus their signal is easily blocked.

5G has a bigger impact on your phone's battery life than 4G

Your current smartphone likely doesn't have support for 5G, and if so, it never will, as 5G requires specialized hardware. Many new and upcoming flagship smartphones however are indeed 5G-ready. That doesn't just mean that they simply come with a chip that supports 5G, but that they have additionally been tuned with a larger battery and more raw power in order to handle 5G.

The impact 5G's power consumption has on a smartphone's processor and battery life has been noted even by some manufacturers over the last year. In one instance, the general manager of Xiaomi's sub-brand Redmi posted on a Chinese microblogging website that 5G-ready smartphones consume about 20% more power than 4G phones. Thus, the manufacturer had to make certain hardware changes in order to fit a larger battery on its budget 5G Redmi K30 Pro smartphone.

To learn more about 5G and its potential benefits to you and society at large, please refer to the following article: What is 5G? What is my benefit from 5G?

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