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4g VS 5g How Are They Different?

Sep. 04, 2022

When 4G launched in 2009, it opened the door for a lot of new possibilities on mobile phones. Now, there’s 5G—the fifth generation of wireless technology—which promises even better performance for cellular customers. 5G networks bring record-breaking new speeds to phones, reduce latency for more responsive gaming and streaming, and pave the way for advancements in the realms of residential Wi-Fi, robots, VR, self-driving cars, and more.


We’ve been keeping close tabs on 5G’s development over the past year, so read on for a breakdown explaining the difference between 4G and 5G networks, speeds, pricing, and more.

Whether you’re looking for 5G internet or wired broadband internet at home, it’s good to know what kind of Wi-Fi is available in your area. Run a search with your zip code below to see what you can find.


4G vs. 5G—How are they different?

Wireless generation

Year introduced

Avg. data speed

Wireless features




Voice calls over mobile phones




Improved sound quality, encrypted communications, SMS messaging



2 Mbps

Global roaming, email, video streaming



30 Mbps

HD streaming, social media, complex gaming, interactive apps like Uber



60 Mbps–1 Gbps

Gigabit speeds, home internet, AI–based networking, automated sensors




5G is different from 4G because it’s the newest form of wireless technology. Mainly it improves speeds and performance for cell phone users. But it also makes cellular carriers more versatile, allowing them to (potentially) use their networks for the home, the car, hospitals, and factories.

5G is the latest in a long line of innovations in wireless technology. To be sure, a 5G network is worlds apart from what was available when the Japanese company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone launched the first cell phone network in 1979.1

Back then, you couldn’t do much on a cell phone—other than, you know, call people. That started to change with the introduction of 3G in 2001, which introduced features like SMS messaging and global roaming. And then smartphones really took off when 4G came about in 2009, followed shortly by the slightly slower 4G LTE.

Pro tip:

Want to know where you can get 5G and who has it? Read our 5G providers page.

While 3G phones topped out at 2 Mbps, 4G—which wireless experts now use interchangeable with 4G LTE—delivered download speeds of around 30 Mbps. It let you stream HD video on a phone, and it opened the door for sophisticated apps like Uber, FaceTime, and Instagram. And of course it also gave us cool new games like Angry Birds and Pokémon GO.

5G is expected to take things even further. Though 5G doesn’t have nearly the same reach right now as 4G—since it’s still an emerging technology—experts have high hopes. Eventually, ultra high-speed 5G networks could facilitate a so-called “internet of everything,” in which decentralized online networks play a central role in work, healthcare, industry, transportation, and home life.8

How fast is 4G vs. 5G?


Avg. 4G speeds2

Avg. 5G speeds3

Avg. 5G millimeter-wave speeds9


28.7 Mbps

56.0 Mbps

618.4 Mbps


35.2 Mbps

51.5 Mbps

245.0 Mbps


31.8 Mbps

118.7 Mbps

312.0 Mbps

On the whole, 5G isn’t that much faster than 4G and LTE yet—but it’s creeping up in speed with each passing month. And some types of 5G (namely millimeter-wave) deliver astounding, near-gigabit speeds in isolated parts of major urban areas.

4G still rules in small towns and rural areas, where 5G networks are relatively thin (or nonexistent). But 5G is getting a strong foothold in many American cities, and speeds range from slightly faster than 4G LTE to exponentially faster by a wide margin.

You can get faster speeds on 5G because 5G networks use higher-frequency radio bands to deliver signals. Some of these bands previously had very little commercial use, so they have larger capacities to carry data over the airwaves.

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

4G is the fourth generation of wireless technology. It uses radio towers to deliver both phone service and wireless internet to mobile devices. 5G pretty much works the same way, but it incorporates new technology and higher radio frequencies.

5G networks also use more base stations to deliver faster speeds at a quicker response time. Eventually some 5G providers plan to decentralize their networks (using a technique called “edge computing”) to make them more flexible and adaptable to many uses.

Although 5G networks mostly rely on 4G and 4G LTE towers right now, cellular companies are working to develop “standalone” 5G networks based on a few core concepts.

· Millimeter waves—extremely high-frequency radio waves that give your mobile device gigabit-plus speeds over short distances.

· Beamforming—high-precision antenna arrays capable of directing wireless signals to individual devices.

· Massive MIMO—bulked-up 5G transmitters designed to deliver wireless data to devices at a much higher capacity.

Not surprisingly, all of this stuff will take time to build up—and it will cost a lot of money for providers too.

What are the different types of 5G?

5G networks come in three different types, which tie to the range each type has and the speeds it can deliver to your phone. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Low-band 5G

Low-band 5G operates on some of the same frequencies as 4G, delivering slightly faster speeds—think 50–60 Mbps—over long distances. It will work best in rural areas where people are more spread out and you can provide service with a handful of cellular towers.

Mid-band 5G

Mid-band 5G incorporates higher-frequency radio bands than 4G, including “C-band” frequencies that have recently been licensed for commercial use by the Federal Communications Commission.4

Mid-band 5G has a shorter range, with transmitters able to reach phones within several miles. But it can deliver significantly faster speeds than 4G. T-Mobile estimated in October 2020 that its mid-band 5G network reaches speeds of about 300 Mbps.5




This is the most advanced version of 5G. It uses what are called “millimeter-wave” radio bands, so named because they’re tiny and operate at an extremely high frequency (25–39 GHz).

Millimeter waves can deliver gigabit-plus speeds over a very short range, usually limited to what’s within the line of sight of a 5G “small cell” transmitter affixed to a nearby utility box or light post. So it works best for densely populated cities and inside buildings.

4G vs. 5G latency

Wireless standard

Latency (in milliseconds)7


30–70 ms


5–20 ms

5G has lower latency compared to 4G. hat means 5G phones are much more responsive when it comes to things like video calls and gaming, minimizing lag and grainy video quality.

Latency (also known as ping rate) is the brief delay that happens when you send a signal from a device to a network server and vice versa. Some small amount of latency is inevitable in all internet connections because of the physical distance between your device and the server that’s giving it an internet connection.

But the lower latency you can get, the better—especially if you need internet to do things that require near-instantaneous connectivity. The lower latency rates of 4G, activities like chatting with someone over a video feed or playing a fast-paced online game become a lot smoother and easier to do.

Wireless tech experts hope that 5G could one day achieve latency rates as low as 1 ms. That would be an incredible milestone, making 5G all the more capable of supporting complex applications like systems for factories and automated cars. But that 1 ms dream is still a long ways away.


4G vs. 5G availability


5G availability (% of cell phone time user connects to 5G)3









Most cell providers have spent years building up 4G infrastructure, but they’ve only just begun building 5G networks. So 4G is pretty much available anywhere—except for remote areas and rural communities with limited cellular access—while 5G’s reach is limited for now to major cities and towns.

Even in places where you can get 5G, you’ll need a 5G phone to access the network—and your phone will revert to 4G when 5G isn’t available. A report in October 2021 from Opensignal pointed out that customers with 5G phones were on a 5G network for only a fraction of the time they were using their phones throughout the day.3


4g VS 5g How Are They Different? 




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