With many carrier Deals available on 5G smartphones, such as the iPhone 13, owners of older mobile devices may be interested in upgrading. If you’ve been holding your phone for a few years, now might be the time to start thinking about switching to 5G. However, 5G phones can sometimes be more expensive than the alternatives, so before you take that step, here’s how to find out if you can even take advantage of 5G.
What are the benefits of 5G?
Before we get to where you can find a 5G signal, it’s worth asking if you need it. Which seems silly, right? faster speeds? Who does not need that? Except for 5G, for now at least, you might not. Especially if you already have a fast wireless connection.
In the US, the major carriers have been rolling out their 4G LTE network for the better part of a decade. As a result, the speeds they can carry are already very fast. In most places, the average user can pull about 30 to 50 Mbps. This is not very far from the average internet speed at home. Average is the keyword, as home and wireless Internet connections can be largely subjective. So if you are used to getting different results, you will have to include this in your needs.
However, 30-50Mbps is usually enough to stream high-quality video, play music, download apps, and do most other common tasks. 5G speeds will eventually enable things like connect every car or street sign to the internet. But it lacks the same obvious use case of your phone that you want to do but can’t yet. Game streaming services like xCloud can benefit from 5G, but they are still new services.
Before you buy a 5G phone because it has “higher speeds,” ask if there’s something you need with those faster speeds. Planning to do a lot of game streaming? Are you in an area where Netflix streaming is not working well? (Even still, see below.) Do you usually need to upload large files like video that require the maximum speed you can get? If so, you may have use of 5G, but even then it can be a bumpy road to get it.
Does my phone support 5G?
This question is more complex than it appears. If your phone is marketed as a “5G” phone, it probably supports some version of 5G. Although that’s not necessarily the case, as AT&T showed when it started using the misleading “5G E” label on phones that were just minor improvements to 4G phones. At the time, the company had not launched a 5G network at all.
Even among phones that are accurately described as 5G — like the Galaxy A32 5G, iPhone 13, and Pixel 6 — the problem isn’t entirely clear. The problem includes support for the so-called millimeter wave (mmWave). This refers to a portion of the wireless spectrum that is very fast but does not travel very far and has difficulty penetrating buildings, without having to delve into the technology. The scope is so limited that in crowded city areas, supports often have to be added on a building by building basis.