The next generation of wireless technology, known as 5G, has finally arrived in the United States. It has already begun paving the way for breakthroughs such as remote surgery and self-driving cars, ideas we once dreamed of but which might become a reality in a short time. But, for the time being, most locations’ speeds are too slow to make those promises a reality.
Among the 15 main 5G markets, the United States has some of the highest coverage and the slowest average speed. And until there is a greater demand for 5G, wireless carriers are hesitant to invest billions of dollars in new antennas and towers to improve their networks. To comprehend how 5G will improve, you must first understand what 5G is, then we can explain why you might still be buffering even when on 5G service.
How Is 5G Different?
Before we dive into just why your internet is on the slow and buffering side, we need to break down what 5G is. The fifth-generation mobile network is called 5G, and it is the new global wireless standard after 1G through 4G networks. 5G is the latest iteration of internet service, and it allows us to connect nearly everyone and everything. Without these networks, we would not be able to continue to improve.
5G wireless technology is designed to provide more gigabits per second, improve data speeds for ultra-low latency, offer greater dependability and network capacity, and a more consistent user experience. Higher performance and efficiency allow for new user experiences and industry connections. However, 5G is still a relatively new technology, and the network is not yet widely available. This fact is especially true in rural and underdeveloped areas.
This generation of mobile networks is expected to have a far more significant influence than earlier network generations. The new 5G network’s development opportunities extend beyond traditional mobile networking companies to industries like the automotive industry, meaning self-driving cars may soon be a reality rather than a dream. Many emergent and new applications will continue to be defined in the future, and only time will tell how significant the “5G effect” on the economy will be.
Why Am I Still Buffering Even on 5G Service?
To break it down a little more and understand why buffering still happens, you need to realize that 5G networks consist of three distinct ‘bands’ of wavelengths. The Low-band spectrum, which operates at frequencies below 1 GHz, has miles-long coverage regions but download speeds comparable to current 4G LTE speeds. This spectrum is the foundation layer that allows cellular providers to display maps of 5G coverage across large country areas. A High-band spectrum, often known as wideband, can transmit large amounts of data across short distances. However, more antennae are required to maintain a more extended range, meaning this spectrum is better suited for cities, though trees or buildings can obstruct it. What this means for you is that even though you might be in a 5G network, you might not be experiencing the full breadth of what it can offer simply due to not being accessed to the higher frequencies.
The reality is that the framework needed to make the technology work simply isn’t set up. There would have to be a lot of changes made to the network as a whole to get the kind of low-latency streaming promised by 5G. Aside from the radio link between your 5G phone and the local cell tower, there’s much more equipment to upgrade, including the cell tower themselves, as well as the cell tower’s link to the carrier’s “core network,” and the network’s connectivity to the internet. Nonstandalone (NSA) networks, a combination of 4G and 5G, are often used in today’s cell towers, enabling 5G’s rapid data transfer speeds via a phone’s radio link while maintaining 4G network control restrictions.
If changes and upgrades are made for the 5G networks, that naturally sidelines the slower 4G that most individuals are still on. And while some companies are slowly making the switch, there is a lot of money involved in these upgrades, which makes many hesitate before making the necessary changes.
All of this suggests that 5G is constantly evolving, and while you may experience some lag and buffer now, you might not in a few years. The deployment of 5G networks is still ongoing, and it may be a few years before it is fully available. This fact remains especially true outside of cities where the number of people using the network would offset the cost of upgrades needed to make it work in the first place. Companies that combine mid-band with high-band in urban locations and low-band in rural areas will be best positioned for the best experience.
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