We're giving away $1,000 in March!
Click to enter for your chance to win.

Should You Switch to a 5G Network?

5G makes big promises, but it may take a while to deliver on them.
Published
5G

5G is here, and many people are cautiously excited about it. There's good reason to be, as it promises faster internet speeds, better wireless connectivity, and technological applications for everything from gaming to self-driving cars. Some major players have already launched early versions of the technology, and this year is going to see a parade of rollouts from others.

So should you go all-in on 5G in 2019? It's a complicated question, and there are several factors to consider. Read on to learn where the technology currently is — and isn't — and when you should start lining up for your new 5G smartphone.

What Is 5G?

Every decade or so, wireless networks get an upgrade to better meet the technological demands of the time. 5G is the fifth generation of that wireless technology, and it must adhere to a set of global specifications developed by an organization called 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP.

This fifth generation of wireless technology should provide faster speeds, lower latency, and greater connectivity.

Some 5G technology launched in late 2018, with more expected throughout this year and further expansion planned for 2020. The switch to 5G will require carriers to upgrade their transmission equipment, and consumers will need to upgrade their devices to be compatible with the new-and-improved network.

What Are the Benefits of 5G?

5G promises to usher in a new wave of innovation, but it'll also offer consumers day-to-day improvements in how they connect to the internet. These are the three main benefits 5G is said to have when compared to its predecessors.

Faster Speeds
With 5G, devices will be faster. Instead of minutes, it should take mere seconds to download movies. We'll see higher-quality streaming video and gaming, too. Wireless chip maker Qualcomm predicts initial speeds of 1.4 gigabits per second, which is about 20 times faster than 4G's browsing download speeds.

SEE ALSO: When's the Best Time to Buy the Most Popular Smartphones?

Lower Latency
On 4G networks, we routinely see network communication delays. For example, when doing a Google search or issuing a voice command, there's typically a lag in response time. 5G promises to lower latency, which should improve web browsing and video chat for consumers. However, improving latency has implications far beyond faster internet speeds. It could lead to significant advances in robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and better drone technology. It could also finally make self-driving cars a safe reality.

Greater Connectivity
5G offers a reduction or end to congestion, as the network will have the ability to connect and handle more devices at once. This can mean a much better mobile user experience at crowded events or in big cities.

When Will 5G Be Available?

5G is already here — sort of. Verizon and AT&T have both launched 5G networks, but in an extremely limited capacity. Verizon's 5G Home broadband service debuted in October and is currently available in some areas of Sacramento, CA; Los Angeles; Houston; and Indianapolis for $50 per month for existing customers. (New customers will pay $70 per month.) The company plans to release its mobile network sometime this year. It's worth mentioning that Verizon's network has been criticized for not meeting the full set of standards for 5G — at least, not yet.

5G is here, but availability is extremely limited. Expect networks to reach more cities by the end of the year.

AT&T's 5G mobile network launched in 12 cities in December. However, it can only be accessed with Netgear's Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot, which should be available to the general public this spring and cost $499; a $70-per-month data plan is set to arrive at that time, too. The carrier plans to expand the service to more cities by the end of the year.

T-Mobile and Sprint also have plans to launch 5G networks later this year, but no firm dates have been set.

As far as devices go, Samsung intends to release a 5G smartphone in the spring, plus more by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, LG is working on a phone with Sprint. And Verizon unveiled an add-on for its Motorola Moto Z3 that will make it 5G-compatible, but pricing details aren't available yet. Apple isn't in any rush to release a 5G phone — the company says it'll wait until 2020.

How Much Will 5G Cost?

We don't know a lot yet about what 5G-enabled smartphones or their accompanying mobile plans are going to cost, as the companies providing them haven't divulged much.

SEE ALSO: Are Unlimited Data Plans Ever Worth It?

Costs are likely to be high as new networks and devices are introduced, but they're expected to come down as 5G becomes more widely available and adopted.

Should You Buy a 5G Phone in 2019?

Many of us will have a 5G phone eventually, but there's no reason to rush out and buy the first one that becomes available. For one thing, there will be relatively few places to even jump on a 5G network in 2019. For another, as 5G technology improves, so will the phones that support it.

Another reason to wait: Once again, the industry isn't prepared for the transition. If you remember, when 4G launched in 2010, it was a bit of a mess. The 3G and 4G networks didn't communicate well with each other, and all the switching between available networks ended up causing connectivity issues, as well as massive drains on battery life.

It's looking like 2020 is going to be when 5G is truly ready for — and available to — the masses.

This time around, devices will still default to 4G, seeking 5G networks only when they need more speed or lower latency. However, you should expect batteries that die quickly and bigger tech than what 4G has made us used to.

If you need to buy a new phone this year and there's a 5G-compatible one that strikes your fancy (and fits into your budget), then feel free to upgrade. But if you can wait, it's looking like 2020 is going to be when 5G is truly ready for — and available to — the masses.

When will you take the 5G plunge, readers? And what's most exciting to you about the technology? Let us know in the comments below!


Contributing Writer

Jessica Hulett is a freelance writer, editor and obsessive seeker of online promo codes. She's been writing professionally for more than 15 years, and was most recently the managing editor of coupon and lifestyle site extrasforme.com.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
You might also like
Leave a comment!

or Register
9 comments
smackfrog
5G is a marketing con by the cellular networks. The truth is LTE can achieve downlink speeds on 1GB/s. And current hardware like the latest iPhone have LTE CAT14 modules which can achieve this.

The reason for 5G is simple, it is cheaper to operate for the carriers. It allows them to cram in more connections per node. Consumers will shell out the money for 5G devices and the carriers will get subsidies for the infrastructure.
vrp
5G is not here. It is *far* from here.

T-Mobile is currently the closest:
https://www.digitaltrends.com/...obile-5g-rollout/

After that is Verizon (Verizon has something to fear for the first time - they won't have the largest network):
https://appleinsider.com/...ting-until-2020-for-5g

And then there is ATT in last place and flat out lying to their customers, and calling their "v2 LTE network" their "5G E" network (which is slower than most carrier's v1 LTE network):
https://www.extremetech.com/...-5g-logo-on-devices
and
https://gizmodo.com/...some-5g-bullshit-1831265660


But all in all, the first phone in the US to support 5G is basically coming out in ~2020...so no...5G is not here.

And remember how long it took when 3G came out for phones to go from 3hr battery life to 5ish, to 8ish, and then with 4G to go from 5ish hours to 8ish, to 10-12ish? Yea...
nestormart
Let's not get too excited. Before 4G LTE was actually realized, the industry feverishly proclaimed speeds of up to 300 Mbps. When LTE launched, real-world speeds averaged only about 5 to 12 Mbps for downloads and 2 to 5 Mbps for uploads. Things have improved since then, but you're still not going to see anything approaching that 300 Mbps promise consistently. Cell carriers and phone manufacturers will promise "full-length movie downloads in seconds" to get you to buy newer phones and switch to this or that carrier but we have yet to see the real-world speed results.
wangweilin
5G? I just got the latest update to my Samsung s8+ and now there is a 5Ge icon on the status bar....woohoo! Whatever...
CinciShopper
I'm curious to know what people are paying for bandwidth in their neck of the woods. I pay $49/month for Spectrum's 200 mbps connection which gives me a speed of about 230 mbps on speedtest.net. This is the slowest speed they offer in my area. Cincinnati Bell offers a 100 mbps connection all the way up to a 1 Gig connection. The 500 mpbs connection costs $99/month bundled with TV and phone.

I get about 30 to 40 mbps download speed from most of the cell towers around Cincinnati thru Verizon.

Oh yea.. 5G? I don't see it coming available like 4G is now for the next 5 years. Ask me then.
boilers
This is war people! We are duty bound to use USAmerican 5G to thwart the Chinese!
;)
HandsomePete42
Nope. I'll wait until they force me to do it or it is reasonably priced. As with almost everything today it will most likely not live up to the hype and only be a slight upgrade or you can't really tell the difference.
nimer
I'm excited about 5G, and can't wait for it. Not for my phone, but I want a viable alternative to the greedy cable company that's really my only option for internet.

I live 5 minutes from New York City, on the Jersey side, while cable companies complete in the city (and most of Jersey), my area is limited to one cable company. A decade ago Verizon Fios came, but the cable company ran a fear campaign and managed to prevent them from installing their infrastructure in buildings, again, keeping themselves as the exclusive option.

I can't wait for 5G because finally there will be legit competition for home internet, I'm sure I'm not the only one.
NoJack
No... 5G is not here.

We still don't have the real 4G spec deployed, just the watered down version that marketing groups wanted so they could sell more phones.

Not to mention if you live outside of a large city your speeds are closer to 3G instead of 4G.