(BPT) – After seemingly years of breathless hype, 5G network technology has finally arrived across much of the country. Delivering increased connection speeds and improved call quality, 5G is the new state-of-the-art for wireless users, and both cellular providers and device manufacturers are rushing to convince customers to hop aboard this new “superfast” train.
But for the average cellphone user, how important is it to make the switch to a 5G compatible device right now? Here are the key things to consider when making that decision.
What does 5G mean?
First, it’s important to understand what 5G means. The “G” stands for “Generation” — meaning, simply, this is the fifth generation of mobile networks since the industry started. It is a new global wireless standard, following 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks that preceded it. The technological advancements of 5G (providing higher data speeds during peak usage times, reducing lag time, etc.) were driven by the need to keep pace with the explosive growth of wireless use since the last standard (4G) was rolled out in 2010.
What will 5G replace?
Mobile networks have a limited amount of bandwidth to operate on. This means that when a new “Generation” of technology is rolled out, an older one has to be turned off to make room for it on the network. In the case of 5G, it will be replacing the oldest “Generation” which was still in use, 3G. 3G networks have been in use since 2001, and providers expect them to be out of service by the end of 2021.
What does your current device use?
Whether or not you need to act quickly to replace your wireless device depends entirely on how old it is. If you are still using a flip phone or smartphone that connects to wireless networks using 3G technology, you can expect a year or less of use before you will be unable to make or receive calls, or connect to mobile data, with it.
If you have a phone purchased in the last few years that uses 4G, you won’t need to make a change anytime soon. As we see from 3G, the lifespan of each “Generation” of wireless technology lasts for around 20 years, so you’ll likely be able to stay connected using 4G for at least another 10 years (though your phone itself may not perform satisfactorily for that long).
How do you use your device?
For most users, the faster speeds provided by 5G networks will be noticeable primarily when performing data-heavy tasks with your phone, like streaming high definition video or downloading large files. If these are important to you, upgrading to a 5G device will be a definite benefit. However, if you are satisfied with the performance of your current phone using 4G networks, this standard will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Who’s your carrier?
Wireless carriers have taken a variety of approaches to the arrival of 5G, with many offering incentives for customers to upgrade to newer devices. Their customer service is key to helping you understand your needs and what they have available. For instance, Consumer Cellular, which J.D. Power has named #1 for customer service among non-contract carriers nine times in a row, has begun offering 5G compatible phones in a variety of price ranges. The company focuses largely on customers ages 50 and up, and has helped successfully steer them through technology transitions for 25 years.
As with any new technology, an informed consumer is a happy consumer. By understanding what 5G means, and what benefits it can provide, you’ll be able to make a decision that will ensure you have the wireless service that’s right for you.