5G cellular networks are already being rolled out around the world. It’s no surprise that the next iPhone will support 5G networks.
By Chand Bellur
December 28, 2019 at 7:09 p.m. PDT
What is a 5G Cellular Network?
Cellular networks have undergone a technical evolution over the past few decades. Part of cellular network development is about technology, but it’s also about dividing up available frequencies.
5G networks operate in three different bands — millimeter wave, mid-band and low-band. Millimeter wave 5G networks are the fastest (1-2 Gbps), but least common. Since they operate between 24 GHz and 72 GHz, cell towers need to be within close proximity, due to the cellular signal’s short wavelength. These networks are simply not feasible, as the infrastructure is difficult to deploy, operate and maintain. The technology is ideal for indoor applications or small outdoor areas.
Mid-band cellular networks are more affordable to build and operate, however, they’re not as fast as millimeter wave technology. Running at 100-400 Mbps, they’re much faster than 4G LTE networks. Operating between the 2.4 GHz to 4.2 GHz frequencies, mid-band networks are the most widely deployed 5G cellular technologies. Existing cell towers can be upgraded to mid-band 5G technology and with a longer wavelength, they can cover more territory.
5G low-band technology is as fast (or slow) as existing 4G networks. Providers such as T-mobile and AT&T have already launched low-band 5G networks. Operating at around 600 MHz to 850 MHz, the longer wavelength allows for better coverage, however, speeds can’t surpass the 4G threshold. Low-band 5G networks all run below 100 Mbps, which is as good as 4G. If anything, they seem to be a failover for remote areas where building more cell towers is not feasible.
Some Smartphones Already Support 5G
With myriad makes and models of smartphones, some manufacturers love the bleeding edge. Rushing into 5G technology attracts early adopters. It also gives them (and their fan boys) bragging rights that they embraced this technology before Apple.
It’s a marketing ploy that works for some, however, Apple still sells the most popular smartphones in the world. The average consumer doesn’t care about 5G technology. They just want something that works and isn’t obsolete in a year.
5G technology for smartphones is still being developed. Existing 5G cellular modems are large and use a lot of power. Apple tends to wait until the technology matures, instead of rushing to market with dubious components. They’re under a microscope and simply can’t get away with flawed products.
Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 5G is the first smartphone capable of using the new 5G network standard. Motorola and LG launched 5G devices shortly after Samsung. Early adopters will spend top dollar to test the technology, benefitting the more casual user.
5G networks are already widely deployed in the US and other industrialized nations. Although early adopters may be getting half-baked components, they’re surely enjoying blazing fast network speed before the masses adopt 5G.
2020 iPhone to Have 5G
At this point, it’s a plain fact, not a rumor, that Apple’s next smartphone will support 5G networking. Missing this opportunity would be the death knell for the Cupertino company.
Apple recently acquired Intel’s cellular modem division. It’s expected that Apple’s next iPhone will use internally developed 5G cellular modems. With Apple’s attention to detail and obsession with tiny, efficient devices, it’s likely to give the next iPhone an edge over competitors.