What frequency is 5G? Here's what you need to know about the high-speed cellular network generation and its range of frequencies

·3 min read
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Once 5G is fully rolled out by all cellular carriers, it should drastically improve the speed of your network. d3sign/Getty Images
  • Some 5G networks use the 25-39 GHz frequency band, but there are also two other frequencies available.

  • 5G cellular networks are being deployed worldwide and offer substantially higher speeds than existing 4G/LTE networks.

  • Here's what you need to know about the three frequency bands used by 5G and their relative speeds. 

  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

5G is, as the name suggests, the fifth major generation of mobile cellular networks, following in the footsteps of 3G and 4G/LTE. 5G is being deployed by wireless carriers around the world and is available to a limited degree in many major cities (though it will take several years for the system to be fully deployed and widely available).

One of the more confusing aspects of 5G is that it's not broadcast on a single frequency. Instead, there are several frequencies used by 5G networks for different applications. 

What you need to know about 5G frequencies

At its highest speeds, 5G should be able to reach as much as about 2 gigabits per second (Gbps) - two orders of magnitude faster than LTE, which tops out around 35 megabits per second (Mbps).

To get that speed, 5G networks rely on much higher operating frequencies than existing cellular networks, reaching into what is called the millimeter wave band. But because high frequencies have shorter range than lower frequencies, 5G uses a mix of network frequency bands, generally classified as high, medium, and low.

Here is an overview of these frequency bands:

  • Low-band 5G operates between 600-850 MHz. This is similar to what 4G networks currently use and is only moderately faster than 4G, between 50-250 Mbps offering similar coverage areas for each cell tower. Not all cities and regional operators are deploying low-band 5G towers; some are opting to start with mid-band towers. Even so, it's possible for a 5G device to connect to a low-band 5G network and achieve speeds similar to 4G/LTE.                                                                       

  • Mid-band 5G operates in the 2.5-3.7 GHz range and delivers speeds between 100-900 Mbps. While offering less range per cell tower, this type of 5G is going to be the most common implementation of 5G networks for many years to come. It's a reasonable compromise between network speed and range in both medium-density urban areas and less dense rural regions. 

  • High-band 5G is the band that is most commonly associated with 5G. Operating at 25-39 GHz, this is known as "millimeter wave" spectrum and delivers gigabit speeds (currently tested as high as 1.8 Gbps). The tradeoff is that millimeter wave transmitters have very limited range and require the deployment of many small transmitters, so it's only viable in urban areas where transmitters can be near closely spaced homes and buildings. 

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