ELI5_ 5G / Frequencies / Spectrum

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I just don’t get it… it’s supposed to be waves right? Of different length? Then how come the governments are offering different ranges but they are all still 5G?
Please help…

In: Technology

5g is “the fifth generation of wireless technology.”

It’s not a specific type of machine or science. It’s like how the sixth generation of video game consoles was GameCube, PlayStation 2, and xbox. There’s nothing really tying them together, they just have similar performance (when compared to other generations) and came out around the same time.

ELI5:
Imagine Radio waves as colours. You have many different colours, and you can see the difference between them.

5G is specified as using all the different shades of blue. You can’t have all operators use the same colour, because then how would you know who it belongs to?

So what the government does is sell a specific shade of blue (let’s say navy) to Operator A. Operator A can now use navy without having to fear getting their signals mixed up with the teal-coloured signals from Operator B.

ELI am older than 5:
5G is just the standard on _how_ the information gets sent. The exact frequency is not relevant. So in order to protect against interference every tower/operator uses a frequency slightly offset from 5GHz

Recently went to a technical conference on this so perhaps I can provide some insight:

First things first, the term “5g” is grossly overutilized and means different things depending on who the source is. If you’re hearing it from *any* wireless carrier, you are more than likely being misinformed – with some variance between carriers about who is lying the most. eg: ATT started calling LTE carrier aggregation ‘5ge’ – this is the most bold faced lie. Tmobile and verizon are calling their >29ghz high throughput cellular connections – this is less of a lie but still “not the case”

the 5g standard is really more than anything software virtualization in the cellular sphere, and it changes the way network operators (carriers) share and utilize spectrum.

In the old days, and still currently, carriers would buy frequency blocks in different parts of the country and if not roaming, your phone would connect to them. eg: tmobile and verizon have a lot of 700-750mhz towers, ATT has a lot of 1900 mhz towers, and there was very little crossover between the two excepting roaming agreements.

5g wants to upend this schema in the name of frequency efficiency – so the proposed solution is that all carriers “share” frequency and distribute it in a load balanced manner to all customers in that area. So lets go back to the whole ATT/Tmobile thing. When 5g is activated, your phone will no longer connect to an “ATT tower” it will connect to any tower and you will have what is known as a “Virtual Socket.” The cool thing about this is, using this tech combined with our phones multiple antennas, you can have multiple virtual sockets at various frequencies depending on your bandwidth needs. So again – instead of having a huge pipe to one frequency block, you will have smaller pipes to many frequency blocks. It needs to be stated that *no carriers* in the US have implemented this, as far as I know the only country really making any headway here is china. Anyway – this is what 5g actually is.

Now what you’re talking about are new radios to expand the capacity of network carriers for the purpose of 5g, but not actually 5g itself.

The physics of wave propagation dictate that the higher the frequency of a signal, the higher the path loss over distance – so generally speaking, lower frequency signals (600-700mhz) can penetrate buildings and propagate further than higher frequency signals (1900-2400). new cellular radios are trying to utilize 29000 mhz frequencies are higher – and this is challenging because the path loss is so great. Which is why you are hearing talks of blanketing entire cities in antennas – its the only way to make these >29ghz frequencies usable for data transmission. (fun fact, 6g will make it so every handset and connected device acts as a transceiver for a gigantic mesh network)

so TLDR / ELI5: 5g is a software standard that allows carriers to send you some 700, some 1900, and some 29000 seamlessly to maintain your connection rather than one fat pipe of 700, 1900, or 29000. Everything else you hear about is just technology meant to make 5g better.

PS – the reason we like higher frequency blocks is there are very few devices that utilize it and thus there is more “room” for data transmission. You also see this in Wifi: 2.4ghz is not really any worse than 5ghz for data transmission, but there are way way way more things that aoperate at 2.4 and the available spectrum is smaller. 2.4 operates from 2402 to 2482-ish. only 80mhz of “pipe” to work with. 5ghz operates from 5000mhz to 5800mz. Way more “pipe” to work with – so even though 5ghz has greater path loss, it has much more availability to do some tricks to alleviate that. the 29ghz stuff has 4000-5000mhz available for the pipe.