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4G vs 5G Speed: The Quest for Mobile Supremacy

Updated: April 08,2022

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5G is the fifth generation mobile technology, and it’s slowly replacing its predecessor, 4G. That’s given rise to a 4G vs. 5G speed showdown that extends to the way we live, work, and play. The latter is improving our everyday lives while treating us to lightning-fast download speeds. The high data transfer speeds can be used to enhance new technologies like self-driving cars and assist in the advancement of IoT and other Sci-Fi-level breakthroughs. 

Download Speeds Before 5G

The transition from 3G to 4G already allowed for the development of smartphone applications that weren’t feasible with the third-generation mobile network. The theoretical top speeds of 300 Mbps, and on average, 40 Mbps were a significant improvement compared to 3G average speeds of 2 Mbps. 

While 3G paved the way for email and video streaming communication, 4G took it up a notch. Smartphones nowadays are connected to multiple social media platforms, can easily stream HD videos, allow for multiplayer gaming, and run other complex and interactive applications.  

Theoretically, the speed difference between 4G and 5G extends beyond the technological progress standpoint. 

5G Frequency Range

The current generation of mobile networks like 4G LTE operates on low-frequency bands of up to 6 GHz. The range of frequency is far lower than the one 5G handles. The 5G mobile network handles high-range frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz while also covering the mid and low-range frequencies covered by 4G.

Having infrastructure for substantial data transfers will have an impact on how we use our 5G smartphones. Streaming a 4K video will be as easy as listening to music on your smartphone

The obvious difference between 5G and 4G frequencies is that the former is new. That means it can help you free up bandwidth for lower band frequencies. Meanwhile, 4G can offer crucial support for 5G networks by acting as a bridge between population centers while also continuing to provide quality coverage in areas that aren’t densely populated. 

In case you weren’t planning to upgrade your 4G phone, it’ll still have coverage in zones that are 5G compatible. You may even have increased performance since users are distributed across higher bandwidth. 

4G vs. 5G: Speed Performance

Each generation of mobile networks provided advancements in telecommunications. When the 2G mobile network was launched on the GSM standard, it enabled encrypted conversations between two cellular phones, more efficiency with more users on a limited radio frequency spectrum, and data services. Download speeds were anywhere between 9.6 and 14.4 Kbps. 

3G allowed for video calls, conferences, and streaming. Theoretical top speeds of the 3G network were between 3.1 and 14.4 Mbps. 

The modern 4G network allows users straightforward access to Web 2.0 and seamless social media and HD streaming usage. However, as expected in the 5G vs. 4G showdown, 5G will have the upper hand. Even though 4G has a theoretical top speed of 300 Mbps, in most cases, congestion of the network will reduce your average performance. In theory, the top 5G network speeds range between 10 and 30 Gbps. 

5G Latency

Any gamer that plays on a wireless router will tell you that low latency is an important metric. According to experts, 5G will reduce latency to less than one millisecond, which is a dream come true for any gamer. The average human has a 250 ms latency delay to visual stimuli, and pro gamers can have an even lower response time at 100 ms. 

So, is 5G better than LTE 4G when it comes to latency? It certainly is. While the average 4G latency is around 50 ms, it still wouldn’t allow for the development of new techs, like self-driving cars and remote surgical operations. Moreover, significant improvements can be expected in translation software, VR, and AR gaming.

Different Kinds of 5G

The 5G network will operate on different wavelengths. According to US wireless companies, depending on the frequency, you can expect three types of 5G.

High-Band (mmWave) 5G

The highest frequency, mmWave (millimeter wave) 5G, will produce speeds about ten times that of 4G LTE. In the 5G vs. 4G stand-off, 5G easily takes the title as the mobile network with higher speeds thanks to high-band frequencies. However, the highest performance requires close proximity to the 5G antenna. And even moving a block away will significantly diminish the performance. 

Mid-Band 5G

In the mid-band range, the 5G network is six times faster than 4G LTE but with a greater range than mmWave.

Low-Band 5G

The third category of 5G is the slowest, only 20% faster than 4G LTE. However, it will have better performance and coverage than 4G because it operates in lower wavelengths, allowing the signal to travel further and through obstacles. 

4G vs. 5G: Speed Isn’t Everything

While mobile technology advancements are undeniable, some hurdles need to be crossed to improve the smartphone experience for users. 

Since physical obstructions reduce the efficiency of 5G, more infrastructure is required. Therefore, the cost of the highest performance will have to be a compromise between high-speeds and coverage. Most likely, rural areas won’t see 5G telecommunication companies targeting them while rolling out this mobile technology. 

Unsurprisingly, 5G is more resource-intensive for phones than 4G. So how much faster is 5G at draining your battery? Let's just say that smartphone users won’t be happy with how quickly this new technology reduces battery life. Some users also reported that their phones are having trouble with cooling while connected to 5G. Having a 5G smartphone with a removable battery can help solve this issue, along with a portable power bank as well. 

Unfortunately, upload on 5G doesn't match lightning-fast download speeds. While uploads are fast at almost 100 Mbps, they are still far from being multiple Gigabits per second. 


How fast is 5G compared to 4G?

While making the 5G vs. 4G comparison, you can expect the former to be anywhere from 1.2 to 10 times faster. Theoretically, in ideal conditions, those speeds could go even higher. 

How fast is 5G speed in Mbps?

Theoretically, top 5G speeds can hit up to 30mbps. The average user could potentially download up to 3.75 GB of data per second and a complete 4K movie in less than 30 seconds. 

Is 5G 1000 times faster than 4G?

In the 4G vs. 5G speed showdown, the latter comes away with download times that are up to ten times faster. The performance of the 5G network is even better when it comes to latency. Any input from users won’t have anything more than a one millisecond delay in ideal conditions. 

What does the G in 5G stand for?

The G in 5G stands for generation. The newest mobile network technology is the fifth in a row. The first generation of wireless phones that were produced at the start of the 1980s is referred to as 1G phones, even though they were connected to the analog landline.  

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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.

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