Don't worry if you've never heard of 5G wireless connections (they barely even exist yet). And the ones that do aren't even official 5G connections because no one can decide on what that even means yet.
But 5G is coming, and many wireless carriers and technology companies are already investing in the new technology. So here are five facts to know about 5G.
- 5G wireless will be available by 2020, or even a bit earlier. Verizon Communications (VZ 0.48%), Alphabet's (GOOG -0.22%) (GOOGL -0.29%) Google, and AT&T (T -0.19%) are already testing 5G technologies right now. Google is testing solar-powered drones that can stay up in the sky for as long as five years and beam down 5G signals to users. AT&T and Verizon are taking a more traditional approach and are currently using 5G signals near their respective headquarters. Verizon says it will roll out tests in Boston, New York and San Francisco later this year.
- But there aren't any set standards for 5G yet. The international wireless standards body, 3GPP, is still determine the specifications, along with Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, Cisco Systems, and Verizon. The next generation of wave radio transmissions standards are likely to be set by 2018.
- 5G will be lightning fast. Verizon says that its 5G network will likely be 200 times faster than the 5Mbps speeds many of its users get on 4G LTE. That means 5G speeds will hit 1 Gbps, which is currently the fastest speed you can get from Google Fiber. At that rate, you'll be able to download an HD movie in seven seconds. Speeds are expected to increase even higher than 1Gbps as well, as 5G evolves.
- 5G will likely be the next major fight for wireless carriers, and no one wants to be left out. The major U.S. carriers are all closing the gap on their 4G LTE coverage and speeds, which means they'll likely latch onto their 5G networks to differentiate themselves. AT&T was dismissive about any type of 5G talk just a few months ago, but is now very open about its 5G plans. The company's about-face shows just how much carriers don't want to be seen as falling behind.
- 5G will cost more than 4G LTE connections, but probably not much more. According to research by the University of Bridgeport, carriers will likely keep costs around the same as they are now, but you'll get much faster speeds. That's because carriers reduce the price of data by a little bit each year. Huawei and Nokia believe 5G will cost more than 4G LTE, but say that the carriers won't be able to charge too much more than the current rates.
While U.S. wireless customers still trail other countries for wireless data speeds, 5G wireless may be able to help us catch back up. You can bet that over the next year or so you'll start hearing a lot from your carrier about how it's investing in the next generation of network connections, even if 5G connections are still a few years away.