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  • (upbeat music)

  • - 5G internet.

  • We've been talking about it for a while

  • and now it's finally starting to arrive.

  • It's a revolutionary kind of internet

  • that promises to change everything from your phone,

  • to home internet, to more futuristic fields

  • like self-driving cars and even remote surgery,

  • but 5G's also been in the headlines lately

  • for a lot of bad reasons with bizarre conspiracy theories

  • and rumors.

  • So, to help clear things up, we're gonna explain to you,

  • what exactly 5G is, how we got here,

  • what the technology behind it is, and any real concerns

  • that might exist around the new technology.

  • (chill music)

  • So, what is 5G?

  • Well, 5G or fifth generation, is the next step

  • in mobile internet technology.

  • It's what all of the next wave of phones and tablets

  • are gonna use for speeds that are even faster

  • than the LTE networks that we already have.

  • Now, our news editor and reviewer, Chris Welch,

  • has actually been testing all these networks

  • for awhile already, so he can actually tell you

  • what it's like to use these speeds today.

  • - Okay, so all the big US carriers are well underway

  • with rolling out 5G, and by the end of this year,

  • you should be able to get it wherever you live in the US,

  • but what 5G means on each carrier is different.

  • Speeds are different, coverage is different,

  • so for the last year I've been testing out all the networks,

  • Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint is now part of that,

  • just to see how fast it is

  • and what a difference it makes in your day to day life.

  • So let me try and explain.

  • Now Verizon's 5G is blazing fast;

  • you can get download speeds of over one gigabyte per second.

  • That's up to 10 times faster

  • than most home wifi connections.

  • You can download a whole season of a TV show

  • in just minutes, but the problem is coverage.

  • Verizon's 5G is very, very spotty.

  • It's there on one street and gone the next,

  • and indoor coverage is pretty much nonexistent.

  • That's because Verizon bases its whole 5G plan,

  • for now, on what's called high band

  • millimeter wave technology.

  • You've seen it in those commercials as ultra wideband 5G.

  • But the issue is, the signal can't travel very far,

  • so in an city where it wants to roll out 5G,

  • Verizon's gotta put up all these nodes all over the city,

  • and that's not really practical to do nationwide,

  • so later on this year, Verizon's also gonna turn on

  • its low-band 5G network,

  • but there the speeds aren't that much faster

  • than what your LTE phone can do today.

  • So for now, Verizon's 5G network isn't really

  • worth upgrading to a new phone for,

  • unless you've got a node like right outside

  • your apartment or your house.

  • T-Mobile has the most comprehensive 5G plan

  • of all the US carriers.

  • It's also using millimeter wave on the high end,

  • plus Sprint's midband spectrum in the middle,

  • and it's own low-band 5G at the base.

  • Now Sprint's midband spectrum is much faster

  • than LTE is today.

  • I was in Texas testing their 5G network

  • and I got speeds of 300 megabytes per second.

  • And unlike with Verizon, I could count on keeping

  • that 5G signal wherever I went.

  • Think of midband as the sweet spot for 5G.

  • It's much faster than phones today,

  • it's not quite as fast as millimeter wave,

  • but it makes a big difference day to day.

  • And last is AT&T which has a similar strategy

  • to Verizon, in that you get the high-band millimeter wave

  • and low-band sub six 5G,

  • but they're missing that middle part of the cake,

  • that midband spectrum, so you'll have really fast speeds

  • in small parts of some cities and somewhat faster speeds

  • than your phone today everywhere else.

  • Now none of this is to be confused with AT&T's fake 5G,

  • which is called 5GE.

  • You've probably seen it in your phone's status bar

  • at times.

  • That's just fast LTE.

  • It's got nothing to do with real 5G

  • that's rolling out right now.

  • These are still the early days of 5G.

  • We've seen less than a dozen phones hit the market

  • that offer these new faster speeds

  • and some of the early ones were very buggy

  • and would overheat in the summer.

  • Now those concerns, along with battery life,

  • have largely been overcome with Qualcomm's latest chips.

  • We've seen those chips in the Galaxy S20, the LG V60,

  • and the OnePlus 8, all really great phones,

  • but we're still waiting for that first iPhone from Apple

  • that has 5G and that's rumored

  • to come later on this fall in 2020.

  • (upbeat music)

  • - So, when we talk about 5G,

  • we're not really talking about anything

  • that's radically different than our current

  • and past mobile technology.

  • Let's put that in perspective.

  • The earliest generation mobile technology, 1G networks,

  • were launched back in the 80s.

  • Unlike the other generations, 1G networks

  • used analog signals and could really only do voice calls.

  • You've probably seen phones that use 1G networks

  • like the Motorola Dynatac, that classic oversized cell phone

  • from 80s movies.

  • 2G networks kicked things up a notch.

  • More bandwidth meant that in addition to calls,

  • users could start sending data, enabling text messages,

  • SMS, and even pictures, MMS.

  • Later versions of 2G phones could even

  • access basic internet, like the most famous 2G device

  • ever sold, the original iPhone.

  • 3G networks offered even more bandwidth

  • and faster speeds, and 4G LTE,

  • which is what most of our current phones use,

  • made truly fast wireless internet a possibility.

  • And 5G, as Chris mentioned earlier,

  • takes things a step beyond even that,

  • with speeds that are faster in some cases than home wifi.

  • But the key thing is that all these technologies

  • aren't fundamentally different.

  • They're all based on the same science,

  • which means that it's time to talk

  • about the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • This is the EM spectrum, the diagram of the different types

  • of electromagnetic radiation that exists.

  • EM radiation is what we call a wave of photons

  • traveling through space and all EM radiation,

  • be it AM radio waves, X-rays, infrared,

  • or even visible light fall somewhere

  • on the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • The difference between harmful X-ray radiation

  • and benign AM radio, is simply the amount of energy it has.

  • Now, on the right end of the spectrum

  • are low energy radio and microwaves,

  • which are characterized by low frequency

  • and long wave lengths.

  • As we travel up the spectrum, wave lengths get smaller,

  • frequencies get higher, and the amount of energy

  • being transmitted gets higher too.

  • AM radio, for example,

  • broadcasts between 540 and 1600 kilohertz.

  • It's low energy, but those low wave lengths

  • can travel incredibly far, up to 100 miles.

  • And depending on atmospheric conditions,

  • they can potentially span the globe

  • by bouncing off the atmosphere.

  • But again, quality suffers.

  • - [Announcer] We hear sound originating at that very moment,

  • hundreds, or even thousands of miles away.

  • - Go up the spectrum though, to FM radio

  • which broadcasts at between 88 and 108 megahertz,

  • and you've got more bandwidth,

  • which allows for higher quality broadcasts,

  • but your usable range decreases.

  • It's the same basic idea with cellular data.

  • New generations allow us to improve

  • our transmission technology,

  • which leads to increased bandwidth and higher frequencies,

  • which in turn leads to faster speeds.

  • But at the core, it's all the same basic technology

  • and the different types of 5G,

  • actually illustrate this really well.

  • For example, take AT&T and T-Mobile's low-band networks

  • which Chris referred to.

  • They're in the 600 megahertz and 850 megahertz bands,

  • effectively the same area of spectrum

  • as existing LTE, but the fact that they're new bands

  • of spectrum that aren't already clogged up

  • with existing customers, combined with new transmission

  • technologies, means that these low-band 5G networks

  • can offer faster speeds than LTE,

  • even though they're basically

  • using the same spectrum bands as LTE.

  • And that low-band nature, also means that they can transmit

  • over a much wider range than other types of 5G.

  • It's why T-Mobile, for example,

  • can claim to have nationwide 5G coverage,

  • while Verizon is stuck to just a few street corners.

  • Next is midband 5G, which is basically just used

  • by Sprint and now T-Mobile, which owns Sprint.

  • Located at the 2.5 gigahertz range of the spectrum,

  • it offers faster speeds than low-band 5G,

  • but it has more limited range.

  • For comparison, 2.5 gigahertz is about the same area

  • of the electromagnetic spectrum as your home wifi.

  • Now midband is middle of the road in almost every respect.

  • It's higher frequency and more bandwidth

  • than low-band 5G, but it's not gonna be quite the speeds

  • and frequency that you'll get from millimeter wave,

  • which is the ultra fast 5G.

  • Now these are located around 30 gigahertz,

  • much higher frequency than any other types of 5G

  • and they offer blazing fast speeds;

  • the ones Chris mentioned earlier from Verizon

  • and in limited areas, T-Mobile, and AT&T,

  • but those radio waves are also really small,

  • between one and 10 millimeters, hence the name,

  • which are actually really bad at passing through objects

  • like walls or buildings, which means that the range

  • is incredibly limited.

  • So even though it offers the fastest 5G speeds,

  • it's also the 5G that you'll probably

  • end up using the least,

  • because that rollout, it's just gonna be really small.

  • But those increases in bandwidth are only part of the story.

  • A lot of the improvements in 5G,

  • come from new transmission technology.

  • Things like carrier aggregation,

  • which combine multiple LTE bands

  • into one data stream for faster speeds,

  • or MIMO antennas, or multiple input multiple output,

  • where we use antenna arrays, made up of lots

  • of little antennas to improve connectivity.

  • (chill music)

  • But is 5G, or really any cellular radiation, safe?

  • Well, there've been a lot of inaccuracies

  • going around about 5G.

  • Some are completely absurd, like the idea that 5G

  • somehow caused the coronavirus,

  • but the simple answer is that 5G is basically the same

  • as any other type of cellular radio technology

  • and we already have a pretty good idea

  • that cellular radiation is not harmful.

  • - Of course people are concerned a little

  • about possible effects of the formation of cancer

  • if you use your mobile phone a lot

  • or if you've been exposed continuously to radiation

  • from cell towers.

  • There's a lot of studies available

  • on that sort of effect, but that's never been proven

  • that indeed there is a carcinogenic effect

  • of expose to radio frequency radiation.

  • There's also concern that exposure

  • to radio frequency fields, for instance the higher fields,

  • the higher frequencies that 5G's got to use,

  • that that may result in adverse affect

  • on the immune system, and that people may be

  • more susceptible for the, for infection

  • by the COVID-19 virus.

  • There's no proof, no indication whatsoever

  • that there's any effects on the immune system

  • from expose to radio frequency fields.

  • - Now, I know that cellular radiation falls

  • into the non-ionizing portion of the spectrum.

  • Can you talk a little more about the differences

  • between non-ionizing and ionizing radiation?

  • -