Is 5G available to you? Here's how to find out
With many carriers deals available on 5G smartphones, such as the iPhone 13, owners of older mobile devices may be interested in updating. If you’ve been holding on to your phone for a few years, now might be the time to start thinking about switching to 5G. However, sometimes 5G phones can be more expensive than the other options, so before you take the plunge, here's how to find out if you can even use 5G.
What are the benefits of 5G?
Before we get to where you can get a 5G signal, it's worth asking if you need it. That feels silly, right? Faster speed? Who wouldn't need that? Except with 5G, for now at least, you probably won't. Especially if you already have a fast wireless connection.
In the U.S., major carriers have been deploying their 4G LTE network for the better part of a decade. As a result, the distances they can carry are already very fast. In most places, the average user can slow down around 30 to 50 Mbps. This is not too far from the average home internet speed. Fair the key word, because both home and wireless internet connections can be personally obedient. So if you are used to getting different results, you need to incorporate that into your needs.
However, 30 to 50 Mbps is usually enough to stream high quality video, play music, download apps, and perform most other common tasks. Eventually 5G speed will enable things like connecting every car or street sign to the internet. But it lacks the one obvious use case for your phone that you want to make but still can't. Games streaming from services like xCloud may benefit from 5G, but these are still new services.
Before you buy a 5G phone because “speeds are faster,” ask if there is anything you need for those higher speeds. Do you plan to do a lot of game streaming? Are you in an area where Netflix streaming is not working well? (Even then, see below.) Do you need to upload large files like video that require as much speed as you can? If so, you may be using 5G, but even then it may be a bumpy road to get.
Does my phone support 5G?
This question is more complicated than it seems. If your phone is marketed as a "5G" phone, it may support 5G version. While that is not the case, as AT&T pointed out when it started using a false “5G E” label on phones there were only a few improvements on 4G phones. At the time, the company had not rolled out their 5G network at all.
Even among phones that are rightly described as 5G, though - like the Galaxy A32 5G, the iPhone 13, and the Pixel 6 - the issue is not entirely clear. The problem involves support for something called a millimeter wave (mmWave). Without getting too technical, this refers to a portion of the wireless spectrum that is very fast but does not travel very far and has difficulty entering buildings. The range is so limited and often in densely populated areas, it needs to be blocked.