Apple recently announced its first 5G iPhone shortly after Google launched its own $500 5G phone.
But before jumping on any manufacture’s 5G offering, it would be wise for consumers to make sure 5G technology is actually available in their area.
Despite launching the 5G network in April 2019, the major U.S. carriers still have a long way to go before covering the U.S. in 5G architecture. If you call up this map of 5G’s current availability, you will probably be surprised at the sparsity of coverage.
The slow going has largely been due to the cost as well as the legal challenges (i.e., local zoning approval) of setting up the infrastructure to support 5G in the U.S.
The problem is that small cell base stations in a 5G infrastructure require a considerable amount of construction. These antennas take up less real estate and are designed for device-dense areas, such as urban settings, and to blend in with the existing landscape.
Small cell antennas transmit and receive the higher band radio frequency spectrum with millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies. High-band frequencies can carry more information faster but over shorter distances. As such, they do not cover much area and must be densely arranged.
Beamforming is used to help expand the mmWave signal’s reach. Radio signals are made into focused beams directed at the target. The goal is to maximize signal quality while avoiding interference from other radio waves.
The RAN is a key element of cellular communications and plays a role in covering medium and large geographic areas in 5G networks. 5G RAN focuses on mid- and lower-band radio frequencies like sub-6 GHz frequencies that can cover a larger area but carry less data. That is why this part of 5G infrastructure will be more often used for less populated areas where there is less network congestion allowing for higher speeds with a more dispersed infrastructure.
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