4G or 5G – What are the differences and which is the best?

4G or 5G – What are the differences and which is the best?
4G or 5G – What are the differences and which is the best?

Today, each generation evolves upon the best qualities of its predecessors and thrives in ways earlier generations couldn’t. This way, new generations respond to the issues created by older generations.

This is quite relevant for versions of mobile networking and cellular technology. In the case of 4G wireless vs. 5G wireless, 5G aims not only to surpass 4G network capabilities but also to address and exceed 4G’s goals for speeds, latency and density.

The 4G era has seen the innovation of various networking trends, such as IoT growth, growing numbers of smartphones, and remote and mobile workforces. All these advanced immensely in recent years, creating a need to support faster speeds and greater cell density. Today 5G, which many pundits hope will address the issues 4G, has been introduced.

Before jumping to any other details about 5G, you should understand the differences between 4G vs. 5G network architectures. And determine how both architectures could affect business operations. The feature takes a deep dive into those differences and discusses what these key differentiators mean for organizations and people at large.

What is the difference between LTE, 4G and 5G

What is the difference between LTE, 4G and 5G
What is the difference between LTE, 4G and 5G

4G is a wireless predecessor of 5G and the fourth generation of mobile network technology. Introduced in the 2010s, 4G ruled as the latest, most innovative generation of cellular technology and reached its maturity within the decade. Some of 4G’s features included enhanced cell density, improved VoIP capabilities and greater bandwidth.

LTE which is also called Long-Term Evolution was introduced as a 4G standard during 4G’s era. LTE is the golden, international standard for wireless broadband and it sets the cornerstone of 5G networks. Both 4G and LTE support many traffic types, something earlier generations struggled to do and which 5G must now improve upon.

5G (Fifth-generation wireless) is the latest generation of cellular network technology. Small, early deployments began in the late 2010s, but 5G will not reach ubiquity until the mid-2020s. Touted benefits of 5G include faster network speeds and real-time communication capabilities.

How does 5G work?

How does 5G work
How does 5G work

5th generation wireless is packed with many new features and potentials, including network slicing, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), and massive multiple input.

5G also follows a new standard called 5G New Radio (NR) that aims to replace LTE. 5G NR will build off LTE’s best capabilities and bring new benefits, such as increased energy savings for connected devices and enhanced connectivity.

Apart from this, 5G can operate on a new high-frequency spectrum — millimetre wave (mmWave) — which operates on wavelengths between 30 GHz and 300 GHz, compared to 4G LTE’s wavelengths of under 6 GHz. Because of the mmWave spectrum, 5G requires new small cell base stations to operate and function.

The key differences between 4G vs. 5G network architecture include the following:

The key differences between 4G vs. 5G network architecture include the following:
The key differences between 4G vs. 5G network architecture include the following:
  • potential download speeds
  • latency
  • base stations
  • OFDM encoding
  • cell density

1. Potential download speeds 

While 4G introduced many VoIP capabilities, 5G builds upon and enhances those promises of quick potential download speeds. 4G’s download speeds hit 1 Gbps, and 5G’s goal is to increase that tenfold for maximum download speeds of 10 Gbps.

2. Latency

The biggest difference between 4G and 5G is latency. 5G promises low latency under 5 milliseconds, while 4G latency ranges from 60 ms to 98 ms. In addition, with lower latency comes advancements in other areas, such as faster download speeds.

3. Base stations

Another key difference between 4G vs. 5G is the most common base station is needed to transmit signals. Like its earlier generations, 4G transmits signals from cell towers. Although 5G uses small cell technology, due to its faster speeds and mmWave frequency bands, carriers will deploy high-band 5G in small cells about the size of lunch boxes in multiple locations. 5G will still use cell towers for its lower frequency spectrums.

Carriers must deploy small cells in various areas due to the mmWave frequency. While the frequency is higher than cellular technology has seen so far, mmWave has weaker signals that travel across shorter distances. Small cell stations must be placed frequently in 5G-capable areas to ensure the signals reach users and businesses.

OFDM encoding

It is used to split different wireless signals into specific channels to avoid interference, which also provides greater bandwidth. As OFDM encodes data on different frequencies, this can bolster 4G and 5G download speeds, as these networks have their own signal channels rather than a shared one between them. 4G uses 20 MHz channels, whereas 5G uses 100 MHz to 800 MHz channels.

Cell density

Small cell technology allows 5G to provide more cell density and enhance network capacity. While these were also promises of 4G, 5G will hopefully succeed where its predecessor falls short, as 4G never completely met its high goals for general speeds. With 5G, networks will be denser, which means they have more potential to support more users and connected devices, leading to increased mobile device and connection capacity.

Despite the touted advancements of 5G, its promises won’t arrive on day one. Carriers will take time to work out the flaws and discrepancies 5G could create. Organizations shouldn’t immediately expect the best of the best, network engineer Lee Badman said.

Should you buy a 5G phone?

Should you buy a 5G phone?
Should you buy a 5G phone?

You can find the models in the iPhone 12 and 13 series, as well as the 2022 iPhone SE as they all support 5G. The iPhone 11, the 2020 iPhone SE, and older models don’t. 5G connectivity may also decide if you would like to buy a newer iPhone. These unlocked phones have both C-band and T-Mobile’s 5G bands. They work great on all three carriers’ upcoming 5G networks offering you maximum flexibility.

FAQ about 4G vs 5G

1. What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of wireless telecom technology. It’s about to replace 4G as the predominant network for cellular companies and phone manufacturers. It’s can hit speeds upwards of 1 Gbps (1,000 Mpbs) and uses technology like beamforming and massive MIMO to deliver wireless signals with less interference and more efficiency.

2. What are the disadvantages of 5G?

The primary disadvantage of 5G is that it has very limited availability, due to its early stage for now. 5G networks are not available in many parts of the United States, especially in rural areas and small towns. Wherever you can get 5G, it is only accessed with a costly 5G phone—and you’ll still spend the majority of your phone time on a 4G LTE network.

This will, of course, change in the coming years, as cellular carriers expand their 5G networks and prices drop on 5G phones.

3. Will 5G work on 4G phones?

5G cannot work on a 4G phone. For this, need a phone that’s built to catch cellular frequencies that fall within the typical 5G spectrum, including sub–6 GHz, C-band, and millimetre-wave radio bands.

4. What phones support 5G?

There are only a handful of 5G phones on the market today. Although phone manufacturers have been steadily releasing more types.

5. Here are the ones that can support 5G

  • iPhone 12. The superbly designed new iPhone comes in a variety of styles and setups.
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G. A luxurious phone that gives you millimetre-wave 5G speeds and an enticing display.
  • OnePlus 8 Pro 5G. It’s all about the features and cameras on this generously appointed beast of a device.
  • Samsung Galaxy A71 5G. The go-to pick for budget 5G phones—just, be careful because it doesn’t give you millimeter-wave speeds.

6. What frequency is 5G?

Low- and mid-band versions of 5G use some of the same frequency bands as 4G, ranging between 600 MHz–4.2 GHz. It does have a high band, which uses millimetre-wave bands in the range of 25–39 GHz.

7. Why is 5G bad?

5G is not bad, but the introduction of 5G has triggered widespread health fears and rumours about the effects it could have on the public.

Medical professionals and scientists have confirmed that 5G does not pose any kind of public health risk. It cannot give you cancer or burn your skin. Millimeter-wave 5G signals do not penetrate the skin and are not transmitted at a high enough wattage to have any impact on your body.

8. What is 5G NR?

It is a type of radio interface that allows you to connect to a 5G network. The NR means New Radio and it basically refers to the new spectrum of frequencies that 5G uses to provide an internet connection over a phone or other cellular device.

Although some have compared 5G NR to terms like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, in reality, the term is somewhat outdated.

About the author

Kamal Kaur