5G and What it Means for Travelers

Cellular tower in front of an evening sky

Is 5G really such a big deal?

Short answer, yes! Speeds will be significantly higher than 4G LTE. The top possible speed from a 4G LTE connection is around 100 megabits per second. 5G, however, tops out around 10 gigabytes per second! Of course, that is the highest possible speed and not something that we should regularly expect. Still, it is a massive improvement to 4G LTE and will become more important as the network expands.

How large is the 5G network?

Currently, each major cellular provider has 5G capacity. The problem is, the network is still very much in its infancy. Verizon and AT&T’s next-gen network coverage is only in small areas of major cities. T-Mobile has the most robust 5G network so far, though it too is severely lacking. The purchase of Band 71 has greatly expanded T-Mobile’s 5G footprint, but it has a ways to go. Currently, T-Mobile is the 5G leader and has the best strategy for long-term nationwide availability. Though Verizon has begun expanding their capacity, they have also severely limited their speeds to 4G LTE in many areas. In some areas, 5G connections are causing people to have slower speeds.

The Verizon coverage map shows 4G LTE as light red, and 5G as dark red.

Can I get a 5G connection on my cellular router?

Possibly, but probably not. While there are some cellular routers that are able to, including many that MobilSat provides, they are very expensive enterprise-grade routers meant for business use. At this point, there are very few good options for a consumer cellular router on the 5th Generation network. Not to mention, the network is not built out enough to make it worthwhile for mobile travelers.

One notable exception to this is the Inseego router recently released by T-Mobile. Just announced December of 2020, the Inseego does have the ability to access 5G. Unfortunately, the only network the device can be paired with is T-Mobile and it does not have multiple SIM slots. The reviews are not promising, with a 2.8 star average on T-Mobile and a 1 star average on Google Reviews.

 When will 5G replace 4G LTE?

That is a good question- one that all of us would like to know the answer to. While nobody can say exactly how long it’ll be until the 5G network is developed enough for widespread adoption, there are some hints as to when this will occur.

T-Mobile has been very vocal about their plans for 5G. On their own 5G landing page, T-Mobile explains that “5G isn’t replacing 4G anytime soon. In fact, they will coexist and work together.” The process of building out a next-generation network is a long-term, multiyear project, and adoption will include a heavy reliance on the previous generation of devices and service. Still, T-Mobile is hopeful to have 5G capacity in most towns and cities by the end of 2021.

The T-Mobile 5G implementation strategy, found here.

Should I wait until 5G routers are available?

Good news, 5G and 5G-ready routers are already available! Depending on your travel and usage habits, they may be a good idea or may be unnecessary. The network will expand over time, but it will take a while. It is definitely the network of the future, but the future is not here yet.

Our recommendation is to go with your best current option, assuming that widespread next-gen availability is still 3-5 years down the road. 4G LTE is not going anywhere anytime soon. Especially for frequent remote travelers, the 5G network is still in its infancy. T-Mobile’s plan is compelling and will likely cover more remote areas, but that will be the last phase of a multi-year implementation plan.

For now, you will have to make do with what you have, which is still outstanding in most parts of the US. When it comes to harnessing 4G LTE, MobilSat Cellular works to provide the absolute best connection possible using equipment optimized for use while traveling. It is the current perfect solution for our remote and travelling customers and will remain for the foreseeable future. Of course, MobilSat Cellular is in the business of adapting as technology changes. Once 5G is a better fit for remote connectivity and the equipment doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, MobilSat Cellular will happily begin providing it to customers.

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