4G vs. 5G: Differences Between Two Mobile Networks

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4G vs. 5G: Differences Between Two Mobile Networks

In recent decades, mobile communications have advanced significantly. We’ve progressed from the GPRS-based internet, which goes by the same name, through 3G’s comparatively high capacity and finally 4G’s actual mobile broadband. Currently, 5G, the fifth generation of mobile communications, is being adopted by numerous nations worldwide. The inevitable question regarding the future of 4G has arisen as a result of this.

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100 Mbps is now possible with 4G. Although the speed varies depending on a number of variables, ordinary customers can anticipate 4G surfing speeds of 10s of Mbps. A different area is 5G. Under ideal circumstances, it can deliver gigabits of speed to our gadgets. According to statistics, South Korea’s average 5G broadband speed is 438 Mbps. On average, this is the largest total that regular users have ever registered. In the meantime, under perfect circumstances, the figure can increase to Gbps. However, the technologies employed in these two distinct mobile standards give them varying levels of performance.

4G is still the default best network for many

But even 4G remains elusive for many people, despite certain areas of the world have already switched to the 5G network and others being close to doing so. In truth, many nations continue to use 4G because they believe it to be the finest mobile broadband option. If we compare the two in terms of the successor’s raw speed, there isn’t much of a comparison.

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But 4G still prevails globally for most broad use cases, coverage, and convenience. What are the primary distinctions between the two various mobile communication standards, then? We examine how 4G and 5G differ in terms of speed, latency, coverage, spectrum, and other factors.

5G soars high vs. 4G in speed

The most anticipated feature of any telecom network is speed. The speed increases by a new factor with every network generation. Not an exception is 5G. It far outweighs 4G. As was already mentioned, 5G can give our gadgets speeds of 100s Mbps. Off 4G, it is not impossible, but it is definitely elusive.

NTC 4G speed

Sweden is in second place with 338.4 Mbps, while South Korea leads the list for average 5G speed with 438 Mbps. The minimum 5G speed is significantly above 100 Mbps. While 4G may typically provide speeds of over 50 Mbps, under unfavorable circumstances, these speeds can drop to as low as 10 Mbps. This is due to the higher frequencies used by 5G networks. It is superior to its predecessor in this crucial way because of this basic distinction.

Verizon 5G test screenshot | Credit: reddit.com/r/verizon

Below 5 ms latency with 5G

Latency is perhaps the most crucial differentiating element in the 4G vs. 5G argument. The response time between our own device and the server is known as latency. Milliseconds are used to measure it. The more quickly the better.

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The performance of 4G in terms of latency is subpar. On 4G, latency varies from 50 to 90 milliseconds. In contrast, 5G offers a remarkable capacity for the delay. The 5G networks provide a latency of less than 5 ms. Its speed is five to ten times slower than that of 4G.

5G provides seamless connectivity for online gaming, streaming, AI, VR, IoT, etc. with nearly perfect latency. Therefore, it will be preferable if the globe adopts 5G for new use cases.

4G still wins in coverage vs.5G

In 5G, coverage is one of the main potential game-changers. High frequencies are used by 5G networks to enable high-speed throughput, although this has an adverse effect on coverage. The three bands used by 5G are high, mid, and low bands. The mmWave or high band (above 6 GHz) only provides coverage up to a few meters away. Only clubs, stadiums, or airports would benefit from this. Although the low-band (600 MHz – 700 MHz band) has excellent coverage, it offers no appreciable speed advantage over 4G, rendering the entire 5G concept outdated. Therefore, operators have started using mid-band frequencies (2 GHz – 6 GHz), which ensure a respectable 5G speed as well as coverage.

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Anyway, in terms of coverage effectiveness, 5G is nothing compared to 4G. Given their potential importance for our connectivity, 5G might not be completely dependable for many. Additionally, this indicates that networks need more base stations for operators than 4G. To provide the ultra-fast mobile broadband experience, they will need to make greater investments.

Another difference is that while 5G is still in its infancy, 4G is already extensively available worldwide. While many are unsure where 5G will go, a lot more people are still using 4G or upgrading to it.

4G gets no ultra-high frequency & offers solid coverage

The incredible promise of 5G is due to its utilization of mmWave, or ultra-high frequency. 5G can reach milestone Gbps of speed over short distances thanks to the frequency above 28 GHz. However, mmWave bands are not native to 4G. It operates in lower-frequency bands like 800/900/1800/1900/2300/2600 MHz. It has its own benefits. While higher radio waves fail to penetrate physical obstructions like glass, lower frequencies are more efficient in covering greater distances. A 4G signal can travel tens of kilometers, something that 5G waves couldn’t really do.

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Operators, however, also provide 5G in low bands, below 1 GHz, as a solution. The US is a good illustration of it. The catch is that it doesn’t much outperform 4G, rendering high-speed broadband useless in its entirety.

Small cells, an answer for a potent network reach!

Since 5G employs high-band (mmWave) frequencies, tiny cells help reduce the possibility of signal loss. In order to keep their consumers connected, the operators will need to install tiny cells at numerous locations. As a result, the greatest number of users inside the coverage area will be able to maintain a good signal.

Utilizing tiny cells is crucial since 5G uses higher frequencies than 4G. Small cells assist bridge the gaps created by high-frequency signals’ difficulty propagating over greater distances. Superfast connectivity is beneficial to have available in stadiums, campuses, and retail centers. Small cells are also compatible with 4G, however, 4G does not require a high-band spectrum, whereas 5G requires one.  Small cells in the 5G network allow companies to deliver high-speed data to more phone users.

Frequency (Carrier) Bandwidth

A 4G carrier employs a maximum 20 MHz channel for data transmission when comparing 4G to 5G. Its successor, 5G, uses channels between 100 MHz and 800 MHz. Due to the significant difference in channel capacity, 5G can transfer signals more effectively and at a higher capacity. Another area where the successor completely outperforms the predecessor is in this one.

5G offers a higher density for devices vs. 4G

Every square kilometer of a network can support ten times more connected devices with 5G. In contrast, a 4G network may support up to 100,000 active devices per square kilometer. However, with the introduction of fifth-generation mobile towers, the number will increase to a staggering 1 million devices. Your smartphones, automobiles, future drones, and Internet of Things devices will all have much better connectivity and utility than when they are connected to a 4G network.

In conclusion, 5G will contribute to the development of a more effective and reliable network of interconnected devices, which is crucial for a smart urban settlement.

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 Use cases (Applications) of 5G vs 4G

Communications are advancing significantly as speed multiplies and the smallest latency is available. We can quickly download multiple GBs of video over a 5G network. The network will make it easy to watch or download 4K and 8K content. With faster data available, streaming, online gaming, IoT, and Metaverse will flourish. More people will use telehealth, remote surgery, and even drone delivery.

use case application of 4G and 5G

Additionally, even more, gadgets will remain connected thanks to 5G. The digital economy and transformation will considerably increase the opportunity for nation-states with more use cases and faster data.

In the meantime, 4G is an important technology. It has eliminated the need for videos to buffer. It enables video conferencing, fluently plays HD content, and quickly downloads files of a reasonably large size. Furthermore, 4G has never made browsing difficult. It will continue to be significant for the foreseeable future as long as HD multimedia remains the norm and until IoT, AI, and AR/VR become widely used.

Reality vs. Expectation

The expectation against the idealized notion of what 5G brings to the table is one area to discuss when comparing 4G and 5G. Currently, nations are still building out the network. While 4G technology is still fully functional, operators, developers, and governments are still trying to discover reasons to justify the deployment of 5G. Therefore, gigabit speeds, a completely altered metropolitan scene, and a surrealistically interconnected eco-system are much beyond our current capabilities. There is still worry about coverage and proportionality.

The seeds are growing, nevertheless. Technology is ever-evolving and constantly getting better. We now have mobile broadband thanks to 4G. We were able to watch videos smoothly, play playable games, download files, etc. The metaverse, however, is the main focus of technology.  The internet of things (IoT) is developing, and AI and VR/AR are becoming more prominent. 4G due to its high latency, and lower user density capacity, won’t meet the growing demands of advanced connectivity.

But technology advances quickly. With 5G, developers want to open up new opportunities. Smartphones, a crucial element of a mobile network, are also getting cheaper and more accessible these days. Even the CEO of Nokia hinted at how quickly technology may go by saying that mobile phones won’t be the device when we start utilizing 6G in a few years. This clearly demonstrates how quickly 5G development is occurring in a few selected countries. Although 4G has been helpful to us, 5G’s debut and subsequent boom are unavoidable and for the better.

Which one is for you if both (4G and 5G) are available?

Let’s consider which option, if both were accessible, would be best for you. Which cellular network ought should you be using? With the substantially faster speed that 5G offers, you can use it for demanding use cases like streaming, AI, VR, and the metaverse. If a strong signal is apparent, 5G also delivers enhanced device mobility and consistency. When it becomes available, choose it since it is just more robust and superior to 4G.

However, 4G is adequate to meet your demands if a 5G signal is weak or you don’t want incredibly rapid speeds. The rollout of 5G may also delay the introduction of voice service by carriers. VoLTE, which has been popular on 4G networks, can come in helpful for you at that point.  VoLTE gives you HD sound quality on calls, along with several other features including Video calls. The choice is yours but if speed and efficiency is your need, go for 5G if it is available.

To summarize | 4G vs. 5G

4G Vs 5G Comparison4G5G
Speed (varies among places)50 – 100 Mbps100 – 400 Mbps
Coveragetens of kmfew km (from the lowest 50 meters)
Latency50 – 100 msbelow 5 ms
Spectrum600/700 MHz, 2.5 GHz600 MHz – 6 GHz, above 28 GHz (mmWave)
Applications (Use cases)Video conferencing, File downloads, browsing, IoT, etcHD Streaming, Remote surgery, Automated cars, Drones, Massive IoT, AI, VR/AR, etc.
User density100,000 devices (1 lakh)1 million devices
Summary 4G VS 5G

In conclusion, 5G has the potential to significantly revolutionize society and the economy through a variety of large-scale applications ranging from health and education to automated vehicles, drones, and artificial intelligence. As a new technology, the beginning will be expensive, but it will provide proportionate value to telecoms and the industry as a whole. Many businesses, including the Adani Group in India, are thinking about creating private 5G networks to take advantage of 5G’s high throughput and low latency, which are not attainable with 4G.

While we ponder 5G and its idealized speeds, the reality is that it has not yet been launched in most of the world. The nation-states, however, are already engaged in the creation of 6G.  The next decade will be very interesting to see in mobile communications development.

Frequently asked questions

Is 5G any better than 4G?

5G is up to 100 times faster than 4G

In the right conditions, 5G download speeds can reach 10 gigabits per second. That’s up to 100 times faster than 4G – and certainly the level of performance needed for an increasingly connected society.

Does switching from 4G to 5G make sense?

When using mobile data, you may anticipate faster download speeds, decreased latency (the amount of time it takes for a device to react to information or an action), greater reliability, and more network capacity with 5G. In essence, 5G is quicker, more reliable, and able to connect a lot more devices than 4G.

Does the 5G network support 4G phones?

Yes. There’s no need to panic if you’re one of the 86% of people who are worried that the recent rollouts of 5G networks would render your 4G cellphone useless. Even though they won’t receive the desired 5G speed, 4G phones can nevertheless operate on a 5G network.

Is 4G going to be phased out?

Because the first 4G LTE sunset announcements are anticipated to occur after 2030, businesses can invest with confidence in 4G-based IoT solutions right now and for the foreseeable future.

What phones will stop working in 2022?

Many cell phones, tablets, medical devices, and home security systems using 3G connectivity will be phased out in 2022. Older cell phones that use 3G won’t be able to make emergency calls to 911, either. AT&T announced it will shut down 3G by Feb. 2022.

If you want to contribute more to the hot 4G vs. 5G debate, you can drop your input in the comments below.

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