You may have heard about 5G, but do you know what it actually is or what it means for Canadians?
In short, 5G is the next generation of network technology. It is incredibly fast, so it can accommodate many more connected devices than its predecessors. Due to this remarkable innovation, a glut of new tech products will be enabled and available for users.
While 5G networks have been available in the US since 2018, you might be wondering if they’re accessible in Canada. After all, sometimes the true north—as strong and free as it may be—can be a little late to the game compared to our southern neighbours.
The fact is, you can access a 5G network in Canada, although the options are limited. Currently, we only have three national providers: Rogers Wireless, Bell Mobility, and Telus Mobility. We’ll look at these service options later.
5G wireless networks are top-of-mind for companies wanting to stay ahead of the curve. Beyond that, there’s almost a “moon landing” vibe to making these capabilities available throughout countries. Whoever does it first will have major bragging rights and reap substantial economic benefits.
Let’s examine some specifics of 5G technology and how Canadians can take advantage of this exciting innovation.
How are 4G and 5G different?
Compared to 4G LTE networks, 5G technology is substantially faster and can accommodate many more devices. Additionally, 5G offers a wider number of channels for more data and lower latency, leading to enhanced responsiveness.
While 5G’s improvements over the previous wireless generation are undeniable, it still relies on 4G LTE. For instance, 4G networks and coverage are still necessary for 5G phones to function. Keep in mind, there are no standards for 5G voice calls yet, so calls must rely on the older technology.
How fast is 5G?
GSMA, a wireless industry trade group, believes that the quickest 5G networks should be at least 10x faster than 4G LTE. Predictions from some industry experts suggest that 5G might be 100x quicker than its predecessor.
What does this mean in practical terms for your user experience? Consider this: it’s projected that with 5G speed levels, downloading a two-hour movie would take about 10 seconds. With 4G networks, it would take seven minutes to download.
We should note that location, network traffic, and other factors all impact speed. Still, compared to the days of dial-up—when it seemed to take forever to download a movie—this evolution is mind blowing.
Will I need a new phone?
Unfortunately, in Canada, 5G networks can’t be accessed by upgrading your 4G device. Therefore, a new phone is necessary if you want to use a 5G service.
It’s worth noting that Motorola’s Moto z3 and Moto z4 smartphones can upgrade to 5G from 4G in the US. A “moto mod” is placed on the back of these devices, providing access to the Verizon 5G network.
Sadly, we’ll reiterate that the above feature is only available in the US. Maybe the future will bring something similar to the birthplace of Wayne Gretzky, Jim Carrey, and Celine Dion.
Furthermore, provided they possess compatible hardware, many cell phone towers can be upgraded to 5G. The radio signals used by cell towers are described as a “spectrum”—it’s akin to FM radio channels. At this point, since they share the same broadcast spectrum, 5G towers use 4G LTE radio antennas.
As the tech evolves, connectivity with next-gen features, such as more radio channels and higher frequencies, will be improved by 5G networks.
What do 5G networks mean for me?
The most exciting prospect of 5G networks is the services they’ll streamline, making life better. While many of these advancements have not yet occurred, we’ll highlight what a 5G future may look like.
It could lead to drones collaborating seamlessly to perform search and rescues, fire assessments, and traffic monitoring. There would be wireless communication with each drone and ground base stations over 5G networks. Similarly, autonomous vehicles can communicate with each other via 5G, reading live map and traffic data.
Are you a mobile gamer? By leveraging a 5G network, your gameplay won’t fall victim to latency or delays when you’re pressing buttons and making moves.
When it comes to watching mobile videos, 5G connectivity will eliminate annoying glitches and buffering hiccups. Plus, you’ll experience clearer video calls free from jerkiness.
Lastly, real-time health monitoring will drastically improve with 5G networks available on wearable fitness devices. Your doctors will receive alerts the moment an emergency occurs.
5G Canada Service Providers
As mentioned earlier, with 5G still in its infancy, there are currently only 3 providers in the Canadian market. We’ll discuss them below.
Rogers’ 5G network is the largest of its kind in Canada. In early 2020, Rogers introduced its first live 5G New Radio (NR) network in downtown Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
Currently, according to the Rogers website, its 5G network capabilities extend to 130 cities and towns, and is available to over 10 million Canadians.
Bell has already reached major markets with its 5G capabilities. It’s available in select areas of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, and the Greater Toronto Area.
This past June, Telus activated its 5G service in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. Currently, the company has plans to expand these capabilities to more rural areas.
How does 5G work?
Within a 5G network, signals are transmitted over new radio frequencies. For this to work, radios and other equipment on cell towers must be updated.
Depending on a wireless provider’s infrastructure, a 5G network can be built using the following methods:
- Low-band network: This method is only 20% faster than 4G, but boasts a wide coverage area.
- High-band network: Here, the signal doesn’t travel well and struggles to penetrate hard surfaces, but speeds are lightning-fast.
- Mid-band network: This 5G method is the ideal blend of speed and coverage.
When carriers construct a rapid speed 5G network, they must install several cell sites, each the size of a pizza box. These are affixed to light poles, walls, or towers, all generally near each other.
Is 5G Safe?
Despite the contentious points raised by conspiracy theorists about 5G, the tech is safe. The issues propagated tend to revolve around harmful radiation, yet no scientific proof of such problems exists.
In fact, the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) states that 5G is entirely safe. The caveat is that certain operating guidelines must be followed, but this should not be an issue since various processes are rigorously monitored by appropriate parties.
The guidelines noted above were crafted and refined for over 7 years. An in-depth review of scientific literature and workshops, combined with thorough public consultations, helped develop these mandated processes.
Interestingly, the ICNIRP had previous guidelines dating back to 1998. The organization still thinks these older standards would be suitable for 5G. In any case, bolstered protections have been implemented to address all 5G-types, up to the highest frequency spectrum.
In the United Kingdom, Ofcom, a communication regulator, conducted tests to further verify 5G network safety. These tests showed that electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions from 5G represent only a tiny fraction of the highest safe levels. At all sites, the maximum measurement was 1.5% of those levels.
Amid COVID-19, further baseless concerns about 5G have gained traction. Again, this is simply the hysteria of conspiracy theorists, with no supporting evidence. There is absolutely no connection between the pandemic and 5G. Perpetuating such a myth is the only thing that causes harm.
To be honest, 4G LTE is already impressive, especially when you look back two decades ago. Who would have predicted today’s digital transformation at a time when a simple phone call could disrupt your internet connection?
Still, as we become accustomed to these marvellous technologies, we desire more—which will come with 5G. While 5G is only in its infancy, widespread adoption will occur eventually, and the Internet will take its next bold step in the digital evolution.
Ask yourself this: do you want to be ahead of the curve and leverage these networks now, or do you want to wait and be late to the party? It’s your choice, but we suggest learning more about how 5G can vastly improve your life.