The rollout of 5G, the latest generation of cellular network technology, has hit some speed bumps on the road to becoming the connectivity standard. While 5G delivers blazing fast speeds and ultra-low latency on paper, real-world performance has often failed to live up to the hype. As a result, some carriers are falling back on the tried and true 4G LTE networks.
Why the switch from 5G to 4G?
There are a few key reasons why 5G adoption has been slower than anticipated, leading some users and carriers to opt for 4G instead:
- Limited coverage – 5G networks have not been built out widely yet, especially in rural areas. 4G provides more consistent coverage.
- Spotty signals – 5G signals have trouble penetrating buildings and traveling long distances. Reverting to 4G ensures more reliable connections.
- Few 5G-enabled devices – While growing, the percentage of devices that can tap into 5G is still low. 4G LTE works across all modern cell phones.
- Underwhelming real-world speeds – Heightened expectations for 5G are falling short where deployed. Consistent 4G speeds often outperform spotty 5G.
- Greater power demands – The energy-intensive 5G hardware drains device batteries faster. Falling back on 4G conserves power.
- Costs – Upgrading networks and devices to handle 5G is expensive. Carriers need to serve 4G and 5G simultaneously during the transition.
Table comparing key aspects of 4G LTE and 5G networks:
|Peak Download Speed
As shown above, 5G outperforms 4G significantly on paper. But limitations in practice have prevented it from eclipsing 4G in real-world consumer experiences so far.
When will 5G live up to its potential?
Industry experts expect 5G networks and devices to continue evolving and improving over the next 3-5 years. Widespread 5G coverage, especially in rural areas, likely won’t arrive until 2025 or later. Still, consumers in select metro areas should see 5G performance boosts in the coming year.
The 3GPP, the global wireless standards body, continues adding enhancements to 5G technology too. Future iterations will boost speeds, reduce latency, improve coverage and reliability. Smartphones launching in 2023/2024 will tap into these advancements more effectively.
In time, upgraded networks, devices, antennas, and spectrum will allow 5G to fulfil its world-changing potential. But for now, 4G often still does the job effectively for most users.
- Real-world 5G has often failed to meet performance expectations so far
- Limited coverage, spotty signals, few enabled devices restrict 5G adoption
- Consistent 4G LTE outperforms 5G in many usage scenarios presently
- Carriers are leaning on robust 4G networks during lengthy 5G rollout
- Ongoing 5G upgrades will unlock speed, latency, coverage improvements
- But viable worldwide 5G deployment remains years away
Early 5G networks have not lived up to the hype surrounding blazing fast speeds and near-instant responsiveness. Spotty coverage, underwhelming real-world performance, device limitations and other teething problems have restricted adoption. As a result, many carriers are continuing to leverage their reliable 4G LTE networks to serve customers consistently.
Over the next 3-5 years, upgrades to 5G technology and infrastructure should enhance connectivity, coverage, and device support. Once fully deployed, 5G will bring about exciting new use cases like smart cities, autonomous vehicles, highly responsive gaming, and more. But for now, 4G remains the most practical connectivity solution for the majority of consumers.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the speed differences between 4G and 5G?
4G LTE offers peak download speeds up to 1 Gbps while 5G can theoretically hit 10 Gbps and beyond. However, real-world 5G speeds are often much lower presently.
- Why does 5G drain my battery faster?
5G devices require more advanced hardware and signal processing, consuming extra battery life. Managing these power demands remains an ongoing challenge.
- Is 5G dangerous to human health?
There is no firm evidence that 5G transmissions are unsafe. The radiation levels fall well below thresholds considered hazardous.
- When will rural areas get 5G coverage?
Bringing 5G connectivity to rural regions with lower population density remains economically tricky for carriers. Most estimates point to mass 5G rural deployment in 2025 and beyond.
- How much faster is 5G?
Early benchmarks of 5G networks show average download speeds 10-30% faster than typical 4G LTE in many regions. These modest gains often don’t justify spotty coverage and limited device/app support presently.
- Should I buy a 5G phone in 2023?
As carriers continue building out 5G networks, upcoming phones in 2023 will tap into these advancements more effectively thanks to enhanced modems and antennas. 2023 flagships could provide the best 5G value.
- What frequency does 5G use?
5G uses a blend of frequencies across low-band, mid-band and high-band millimeter wave spectrum. Different frequency propagation characteristics make each band suitable for various uses.
- How many 5G towers are in my area?
The number of 5G cell towers is rising in metro areas but remains limited elsewhere. Searching “[city name] 5G coverage map” will show a carrier’s current 5G towers near you. Coverage is still highly localized.
- Is 5G worth it in 2022?
In areas with sufficient 5G signal density, some may benefit from marginally faster speeds and lower latency. But for many, 4G LTE still remains the most sensible option until coverage improves.
- What’s the disadvantage of 5G?
The main present disadvantages include limited coverage, spotty signals indoors/rural areas, device connectivity inconsistencies, carriers still building out networks, and high power demands draining batteries faster.
- Do I have to change my SIM card for 5G?
Most existing SIM cards are forward compatible, allowing device hardware upgrades to access 5G signals without a SIM swap. But some carriers do provide upgraded SIMs to tap into specific 5G bands as networks grow.
- How do I enable 5G on my phone?
If your phone supports 5G, enable it by swiping down from the top of your screen, tapping the cellular/network icon, and selecting “5G On”. Your carrier must also provide 5G in your location for connections.
- Should I buy a 5G router?
If you have 5G home internet service available in your area, compatible routers can provide very fast WiFi speeds. But double check 5G coverage maps first given limited deployment presently.
- What is the range of 5G frequency?
The 5G spectrum includes frequencies from 600MHz to nearly 100GHz. Lower bands under 6GHz provide good building penetration and range but slower speeds. mmWave high-bands offer incredible speeds at short distances.
- Can I use 5G without a contract?
Some network providers do offer prepaid 5G SIM cards on a month-to-month basis, usually at premium prices. Most carriers push 5G via standard phone subscription plans.
- How quickly is 5G expanding?
All major US carriers now offer 5G service in select areas covering 40-70% of the population, focusing first on dense urban metros. But widespread contiguous national coverage remains several years off for most.
- Is 5G worth the upgrade?
For those routinely frustrated by sluggish 4G speeds, early adopting 5G could provide a welcome boost when signals permit. But for many others, 4G LTE continues offering the most practical blend of affordability, reliability and performance for now.