Does 5G Have Better Coverage? Unveiling the Truth Behind the Hype

Picture of Dan Omalley

Dan Omalley

Expert in 5G

I guess you have already been introduced to 5G, as people are even talking a lot about it. But why do they? Is it because it offers better speed, latency, and capacity over 4G? Or something else?

Having good internet coverage with online services is essential for any business. If it is better, you will experience a stronger wireless connection. In this case, the 5G or 5th generation network coverage is the hotcake. It has become a prior choice to previous gens’ weak networks.

The debate about 5G’s exposure is consistent since many of us are still using the 4G network. Besides, lots of questions are appearing like this, “Does 5G have better coverage than 4G?”

If you have the same question, I welcome you to read this blog (with a bit of your attention). You will figure out whether to remain stuck with the previous generation’s network or upgrade to 5G.

5G coverage refers to its network availability in a particular area. If you are in this area, you can access the internet through your phone or other IoT devices faster and flawlessly. However, it is still hard to get 5G coverage worldwide – not even in the whole United States. Yet the operators are expanding it to make it easily accessible.

Some interference factors work behind the range of 5G coverage. These can include:

Frequency Range

5G network has different bands depending on its range and coverage: low, mid, and high. These frequencies offer versatile pros and cons. For instance, low-band 5G offers the best range and coverage. But it lacks speed than high-band 5G. Alternatively, high-band 5G has the shortest range.

Cell Tower Placement & Density

In simple words, the more cell towers there are in an area, the better the 5G coverage will be. But here is a twist: building and maintaining cell towers is expensive and time-consuming. That’s why some places have more cell towers than others.

Network Planning and Optimization for Different Applications

How or for what purpose do you use the 5G network? This is because different applications require different levels of 5G coverage and performance. For instance, if you love streaming or gaming, you need faster speeds and low latency for reliable performance. Similarly, smart devices like sensors and controllers may require less power and longer battery life.

Physical Obstructions

Physical obstructions can limit the reach of the 5G signal. However, it can be mitigated by leveraging small-cell technology to increase coverage and speed.

Comparison of 4G and 5G Coverage

5G technology offers faster speeds, lower latency, and improved capacity than previous generations of mobile networks. So, does that mean you will get better coverage than 4G?

Let me give you some brief ideas:

In the United States, 5G coverage is still expanding. T-Mobile is in the lead in terms of coverage area (in all 50 states). But their speeds are slower than Verizon’s, as the source says.

Alternatively, Verizon has less 5G coverage but with faster speeds. As for 4G LTE coverage, it remains more widespread than 5G, with around 70% coverage than 5G’s 12% to 53% (source). The coverage maps for both 4G and 5G vary among the major carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Well, it is not always like – 5G offers better coverage than 4G. Sometimes, 4G can perform more satisfying than 5G. However, if you consider its benefits, you may consider “5G is better than 4G.”

Can You Get Better Service with 5G over 4G?

5G makes a vast difference from its predecessors, whether you are a user or a provider. Using this network, you can get better services like these:

Nybsys’s plug-and-play devices

These devices can give you speeds of around 1,000 Mbps and delays of under ten milliseconds. It means you can download a movie in just a few seconds or play online games without any lag.

AT&T’s 5G+

This superfast network can give you speeds of up to 2,000 Mbps in certain areas where they’ve set up special equipment that operates on really high frequencies.

China Mobile’s 5G Network

It can reach over 90% of the people in 47 cities with lightning-fast speeds of up to 1,200 Mbps. They use different frequencies like low, medium, and high to make sure they work well in all kinds of places.

Benefits of 5G Coverage

If you are using a 4G network, you may see significant improvements in speeds, latency, and reliability by shifting to 5G. After all, it is the ultimate choice for the IT sector in 2023.

  • 5G coverage provides increased speed, with peak speeds expected to be up to 100 times faster than 4G networks.
  • Lower latency supports new applications that leverage the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • The improved network capacity and energy efficiency serve the communication needs for billions of connected devices.
  • 5G provides more bandwidth per channel, up to 20 times more than 4G.

Challenges in 5G Coverage Implementation

You should know the challenges of setting up 5G network to find the answer to “Does 5G have better coverage?”

Higher Frequencies and Their Problems

Indeed, high frequencies transmit data faster than 4G. But they only travel a little and can be obstructed by stuff like walls and trees. It means high-band 5G can preferably work better in small areas like stadiums, airports, or downtown areas.

In such areas, you can find multiple base stations and users. Besides, not all countries or areas have these high frequencies available for 5G due to rules and regulations.

Line-Of-Sight Requirements and Obstacles

5G smarter antennas can direct signals to the places you need. Also, they can avoid any interference from other sources. It improves the signal quality and reduces interference. But here is a catch – there should be a clear line of sight between the base stations and users.

If there is any obstruction in the line of sight, it can weaken the signal or cause it to be lost. Moreover, the smaller coverage profile of 5G necessitates the deployment of a larger array of antennas and the use of beamforming to overcome obstacles.

Interference and Network Congestion

5G mid-bands are good as they strike a good balance between coverage and performance. However, it's worth noting that other wireless networks and devices also utilize them. For instance, Wi-Fi networks and mid-band 5G networks in the USA use the same frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). So they can interfere with each other.

Security & Weather Conditions

Security and weather conditions are significant concerns in deploying the 5G network.  The increased number of components and access points can lead to a larger digital attack surface. Besides, wireless signals rely on weather conditions, like temperature, humidity, rain, snow, fog, or dust.

These conditions can impact how the signals travel through the air. For instance, rain can mess with the signal (especially for high frequencies), and fog can mess up the signal (especially for low frequencies). Similarly, snow can weaken the signal (especially for medium frequencies).

The Role of Infrastructure in Expanding 5G Coverage

A big part of making 5G coverage better is having a lot of network infrastructure available and set up. Yeah, that’s true. Infrastructure is super important for ensuring that 5G coverage gets better and upgraded.

Infrastructure Investment

The expansion requires significant infrastructure investment with many elements of 5G technology building on existing 4G networks. It includes the need for small-cell technology in densely populated areas to increase network capacity.

Planning & Design

The planning and design of a 5G infrastructure should also consider end-to-end transformation. It may include the readiness assessment of the current infrastructure to analyze gaps and requirements.

Small Cells and DAS

The use of small cells and distributed antenna systems (DAS) is quite common in the United States. Small cells are like these little base stations with low power. Hence, they can give coverage to a small area, like a building or a street.

DAS are like networks of antennas to expand coverage over a more extensive area, like a college campus or a sports stadium. Together, small cells and DAS improve 5G coverage by increasing the number of cells, reducing interference, improving the signal, and taking some of the traffic off the big cells.

Repeaters and Relay Devices

You can use repeaters to boost and resend wireless signals to expand coverage for a specific area. Also, there are relay devices to pick up and pass on wireless signals to another base station or user device. Both devices can improve 5G coverage by getting past obstacles, filling in areas with no coverage, or extending the range.

Spectrum Allocation

Particularly, the mobile operators focus on acquiring 3.5 gigahertz bands in the short-to-medium term. It is followed by 26 gigahertz and 28 gigahertz bands.

Geographic Disparities in 5G Coverage: Does 5G Have Better Coverage Than 4G?

While you deploy 5G, you should be confident enough to spread it to all areas and people. I am not suggesting just the big cities and developed nations.

You’ll see significant differences in 5G coverage between cities and rural regions and between different parts of the world. These gaps can really impact the quality and availability of 5G services and the opportunities and benefits that 5G can bring to different sectors and communities.

Urban vs. Rural Coverage Discrepancies

It is evident that 5G service is expanding in urban areas. The users love the higher frequency bands more than 4G networks. But many rural communities are still struggling to access 4G LTE service, with 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans on Tribal land affected.

A 2018 survey found that 24% of adults in rural areas reported high-speed internet access as a major problem in their local communities. It is compared to 13% of urban adults and 9% of suburban adults.

In 2019, the penetration rate for fixed broadband in rural areas in the US was 63%, compared to 75% in urban and 79% in suburban areas (source).

According to a report from Opensignal, the average availability of 5G in cities was 22.6% in the second quarter of 2023, while it was 16.4% in rural areas. The report also found that the difference in 5G availability between cities and rural areas varied across countries. Some countries like South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan had a more negligible difference, while others like Germany, France, and Italy had a more considerable difference.

However, by 2025, it is projected that 5G networks will cover one-third of the world’s population (source). Despite this, there are still significant coverage gaps in rural areas, particularly in less developed countries where 17% of the rural population has no mobile coverage at all (source).

Global Variations in 5G Deployment and Coverage

The speed and extent of 5G rollout vary worldwide.

Europe

5G deployment is processing in Europe, with the majority of countries having launched commercial 5G services. Besides, nearly two-thirds of operators in the region have launched 5G networks (source).

However, the uptake of 5G in Europe accounts for only 2.8% of the total mobile connections, which is significantly lower compared to countries like the United States and South Korea.

The European Commission adopted a 5G action plan in 2016 to ensure the early deployment of 5G infrastructure across Europe, with the objective of launching 5G services in all EU Member States by the end of 2020 (source). By 2025, it is expected that there will be 311 million 5G connections across Europe, representing a 44% adoption rate (source).

Asia

5G network coverage is expanding in Asia. South Korea, China, and Japan are leading the way in the deployment. In Southeast Asia, the 5G network in Sabah has reached almost 50% coverage of populated areas as of September 2023 (source).

In India, Reliance Jio claims to have achieved nationwide coverage with 5G (source). However, there is a wide disparity in 5G availability among markets worldwide. A second wave of 5G is expected in 2023, with 30 countries, including several in Asia, scheduled to launch services.

North & South America

In North America, the 5G rollout is ongoing, with major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, and UScellular providing coverage in various locations across the United States. Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wide Band, for instance, is available in various places within 1,700 cities.

In Canada, Rogers Communications has been investing in 5G and currently covers over 1,500 communities. By 2024, it is projected that around half of the total telecom industry in developed countries such as North America will be 5G-enabled (source).

Australia

In Australia, Telstra’s 5G network coverage now includes over 85% of the population, with a goal of reaching 95% by 2025 (source). The coverage spans major cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart.

However, there is a concern over a large disparity in the 5G rollout between cities and more rural areas, with the focus predominantly on major cities. There are currently no 5G deployments in the Northern Territory. However, the progress of 5G deployment in Australia is more advanced compared to some countries, and it is expected to accelerate.

Initiatives to Bridge the 5G Coverage Gap in 2023

To tackle the differences in 5G coverage across different regions, governments, operators, vendors, and other groups have taken up several initiatives to enhance and broaden 5G networks in areas that have been overlooked. You can check out some examples of these initiatives below.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF)

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US has set aside $8.5 billion for RDOF. Its goal is to provide high-speed internet access to more than six million homes and businesses in rural areas across the United States. Additionally, the FCC will hold another round of the auction in 2023. This round will focus on areas with limited broadband coverage and not selected in the first round. The second phase is going to have a budget of $4.4 billion.

5G Fund for Rural America

The FCC has changed the name of the Rural 5G Fund (R5F) to the 5G Fund for Rural America. They also bumped up its budget to a whopping $10 billion. It plans to kick off the first phase of the fund in 2023, allocating $8 billion for areas that don't have access to 4G LTE or 5G mobile broadband service without subsidies. On the flip side, the second phase will set aside $2 billion for areas requiring extra network development or usage assistance.

EU-Wide 5G Coverage by 2030

The European Union has a new goal of achieving 5G coverage across the entire EU by 2030 instead of just covering all populated areas with 5G. This is part of their Digital Decade vision. This means that 5G should be available everywhere in the USA, including in remote and rural areas and along major transportation routes.

Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)

The EU has launched the CEF program, which is all about helping develop digital infrastructure across the EU, including 5G networks. Additionally, the European Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) aims to support innovation and digitalization in agriculture using 5G-enabled solutions.

National Rural Broadband Network

China has been really ramping up its 5G networks all over the country, and they've already set up more than 2.3 million base stations by the end of 2023. It started a test program to construct a nationwide rural broadband network using satellite communications and wireless technologies, including 5G. The pilot project aims to give broadband access to more than 200 million people living in rural areas by 2025.

Regional Connectivity Program (RCP)

Australia has started the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP), which gives $130 million for projects that enhance broadband services in regional and remote areas, as a part of its Digital Transformation Strategy. This means that broadband should be available and affordable for everyone in the United States, including in remote and rural areas and along major transportation routes.

$32.5 million Digital Tech Hub

Australia's Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) helps with different technologies like fixed wireless, satellite, mobile, and fiber optic solutions. The RCP also has a Digital Tech Hub worth $32.5 million. It offers online resources and advice to help communities in the region access digital services and technologies. The RCP also backs innovation and digitalization in agriculture with 5G-enabled solutions, like the Smart Farms Initiative. This initiative aims to improve farm productivity and sustainability.

India’s Fast 5G Rollout in 2023

India has made some major strides in getting 5G networks up and running all over the country. As of March 2023, there are already more than 115,000 sites emitting 5G signals. India's 5G rollout is super fast, one of the quickest in the world! In just six months, they've already brought 5G to over 600 cities. It started a bunch of pilot projects and initiatives to show how superb 5G can be. One of them is the SmartAgriHubs project, which brings together farmers, agri-food businesses, researchers, and tech companies to create a network of digital innovation hubs.

Technological Advancements and Future Prospects

Does 5G make a difference? Yes, 5G networks are already doing excellent with speed, capacity, latency, and reliability. However, there’s still more room for improvement and new ideas. Ongoing research and development efforts are looking into new ways to improve 5G coverage and performance and getting ready for the next generation of wireless technologies after 5G.

Ongoing Research and Development to Enhance 5G Coverage

How will 5G get better? One of the critical areas of research and development to improve 5G coverage is to use new spectrum bands and technologies that can make 5G signals travel further and work better.

Terahertz (THz) Spectrum

THz means frequencies above 300 gigahertz. It provides breakneck speeds and a lot of bandwidth, but it also has issues with a lot of signal loss and interference. To tackle these challenges, researchers in the USA are working on techniques like ultra-massive MIMO, intelligent reflecting surfaces, and holographic beamforming. These methods aim to enhance the coverage and quality of THz signals.

Sub-1 GHz Spectrum

These frequencies are below 1 GHz, which means they provide extensive coverage and excellent penetration compared to the sub-6 GHz spectrum. However, they have limited bandwidth and can get congested quickly. Researchers are looking into ways to make the most of the sub-1 GHz spectrum in the USA. They are exploring methods like cognitive radio, which lets operators use the spectrum based on availability and demand.

Integrated Access and Backhaul

Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB) is a technology combining access and backhaul functions in a single network solution. It uses the same spectrum and technology to connect both users and base stations. IAB can help out terrestrial networks by cutting down on the need for fiber or microwave connections and also by giving more options and room for growth when setting up a network.

The Potential of 5G Standalone (SA) Network Architecture

The architecture of 5G standalone (SA) networks has become more advanced and widely used in recent years. Many operators and vendors have started offering commercial or trial 5G SA networks and services. 5G SA is all about a brand new 5G packet core architecture. It’s designed to make the most of 5G’s fantastic features, like network slicing, edge computing, super reliable and fast communication (URLLC), and communication with tons of machines (mMTC). 5G SA has a bunch of advantages compared to the current 5G non-standalone (NSA) setup. With NSA, you must connect to 4G and 5G base stations and use the existing 4G core network. Here are some of the advantages.

Quicker and Easier Deployment

5G SA doesn't need any old equipment or compatibility problems, which makes it easier and cheaper to set up. Operators can also roll out 5G Standalone (SA) in new spectrum bands that aren't used by 4G, like mmWave or mid-band frequencies.

Performance and Efficiency

5G SA can give you faster data speeds, less delay, and better reliability compared to 5G Non-Standalone (NSA). This is because SA doesn't require dual connectivity and extra signaling, which can slow things down. It can also let operators create personalized virtual networks.

Flexibility and Scalability

5G SA leverages new technologies such as edge computing, URLLC, mMTC, and NTNs. It can also adapt to changing network conditions and user demands using cloud-native principles and software-defined networking (SDN).

The Impact of 5G Coverage on User Experience

Is 5G really better? One of the most exciting things about 5G coverage is how it’s going to make our experience with different apps and devices even better. With 5G coverage, you can download big files in a matter of seconds, watch high-quality videos without any buffering, and engage with online platforms in real time. You can also enjoy better connectivity and smooth experiences with 5G, as it can handle more devices and users at the same time without any drop in performance.

5G coverage can also make it possible to do new and cool things that we couldn’t do before with older wireless networks. For instance, 5G can totally handle augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps that need a lot of bandwidth and super quick response time to make mind-blowing and lifelike experiences. You can also use 5G to access cloud computing and edge computing services, giving you extra storage, processing, and security features for your data and applications. To show how 5G coverage affects user experience, here are some real-life examples and testimonials from various sectors and industries:

Education

  • Interactive and personalized content.
  • Enhance your level of service in remote places.
  • For example, there was this school in Finland that used 5G to make a VR classroom where students could learn about the solar system in a really cool and exciting way.

Healthcare

  • Telemedicine and remote surgery
  • Making patient care better and more efficient.
  • For instance, there was this hospital in China that used 5G to carry out brain surgery on a patient who was 3,000 kilometers away from the surgeon.
 

Entertainment

  • Improve the quality and range of content delivery and consumption.
  • For instance, there was this music festival in South Korea that used 5G to livestream performances in super high-definition 4K resolution and even offered some cool augmented reality features for the crowd.

Transportation

  • 5G can make travel and getting around safer and more convenient. 
  • For instance, there was this city in Germany that tried out 5G to test self-driving cars that can talk to each other and the infrastructure.

Conclusion

You have almost completed reading this blog. So, what do you think now? Does 5G have better coverage? In short, yes, it does, but with some conditions that need to be met.

Certainly, 5G is a game-changing technology that has way better coverage than its older versions. However, getting full 5G coverage has its own set of challenges and limitations.

You will need to do a lot of work to build up the necessary network infrastructure. Also, making investments, forming collaborations, conducting research and development, and establishing regulations are important.

Will you stop yourself from this superfast network coverage? Or think about the stressful setup and lag like others?

However, if you choose to take 5G coverage, it will give you faster data speeds, less delay, better connectivity, smooth experiences, and new opportunities for various applications and devices.

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