At CES, the big consumer electronics show in Las Vegas this week, the carriers are insisting that 2020 will be a turning point for 5G. AT&T and Verizon say they expect their 5G networks to be accessible nationwide this year. In addition, the carriers say at least 15 smartphones will be 5G compatible this year, more than triple the number last year.
In the simplest terms, 5G is a new cellular standard. Phone carriers have jumped to a new wireless standard roughly every decade. About 10 years ago, 4G, the fourth-generation network, arrived with significantly faster speeds and stronger reliability than 3G. About a decade before that, 3G arrived and was much faster and more robust than 2G.
There are two versions of 5G to look at
The much-hyped, ultrafast variant of 5G is known as “millimeter wave,” It lets carriers transmit data at incredibly fast speeds — the kind that would let you download an entire movie in a few seconds.
Instead, this year our cellular networks will broadly shift to a version of 5G that is less exciting. Will have speeds that are only slightly faster than current 4G networks. The main benefit will be a reduction of lag known as latency.