What is 5G? Allow us to explain

Mint Fox holding a smartphone giving a thumbs up with 5G and cityscape in the background

It seems nowadays everywhere you look there’s an ad from a wireless company mentioning their 5G. If you’re used to paying for service from big wireless, hearing something that sounds like “5 Gs” may make you think of monthly bills, but 5G is actually the newest generation of wireless technology (5G stands for “fifth generation”). So, it’s easy enough to say that it’s what comes after 4G, but there’s more to it than that.

Upside down Mint Fox peeking over a wall with the text 5G vs 4G What's the Difference below

What’s the difference between 5G and 4G LTE?

5G is faster than 4G, of course. But the real benefits of 5G are stronger connectivity, better coverage and more reliability. 5G is capable of handling more devices, meaning much less spotty service. And yes, eventually it will be consistently 10x faster than 4G (which sounds kinda wild when you think about how fast 4G is on most phones already). Of course, getting into all the specific differences between 5G and 4G LTE takes more than just a paragraph, so if you want to get super into the weeds about it, we got you covered

How does 5G work?

Like most wireless communications systems, 5G uses radio frequencies to carry information through the air. 5G just uses much higher frequencies that are less cluttered, allowing more information to be transmitted at a much faster rate.  

Not all 5G is created equal though. All cellular networks run on frequency bands, and 5G is unique as there are three different versions that operate on three different frequency bands. Let’s dig into that next.

Three rows featuring low, mid, and high band 5G waves over cityscapes

All the Different 5Gs

Low Band (600 MHz)  

  • This 5G signal travels farthest, even through buildings and walls
  • About 20% faster than 4G 
  • This is the band Mint Mobile uses for a majority of its network because it’s the most beneficial to the most users

Medium Band (2.5 GHz)  

  • Mid-range signal, far more prevalent in recent years especially in major cities 
  • About 2 – 4x faster than 4G
  • This is the band Mint Mobile uses for a lot of its network 

High Band (millimeter wave) 

  • Millimeter wave is the “extremely high frequency” band, from 30 to 300 GHz
  • The “fastest” 5G signal, but also the least reliable on its own
  • Easily disrupted by weather, buildings, trees, etc
  • Some big wireless providers started their 5G offerings here, smh
  • Available in certain areas if you have a 5G phone that supports this frequency band

Overlapping frequency bands

As 5G has become more prevalent, some networks (like Mint Mobile’s) have begun leveraging Medium Band and High Band 5G together to deliver faster speeds and offer greater capacity with ultra low latency and ultra high data throughputs. 

Do I need a 5G phone to get 5G? 

Yes, to take advantage of 5G, you need to have a 5G capable phone (you can check yours here) and you need to be in a 5G coverage area. The iPhone 12, iPhone SE (3rd generation) and iPhone 13 all support 5G cellular networks, and surely all future iPhones will for some time. Many new Android phones support 5G as well. Feel free to check out all the 5G phones Mint Mobile has to offer

In regards to coverage, Mint Mobile just happens to operate on the nation’s largest 5G network, so there’s that. You can see if your home is in a 5G area using our 5G coverage map. Also, 5G phones support 4G too, so if you ever end up outside a 5G coverage area, your phone will automatically switch to the strongest network signal available. You’ll always know what kind of coverage you’re getting, because your phone will display a 5G icon when receiving a 5G signal.