Anyone who attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (or who follows mobile news) is fully aware that 5G is a trending topic. This fifth generation mobile network (hence, 5G) represents a technological breakthrough in terms of super-fast speeds, incredibly low latency and unsurpassed connectivity; it also has the potential to impact everything from cars to homes to businesses. Case in point:

  • Consumers will be able to download a 15GB full-length high-definition movie in six seconds where it currently takes four minutes over 4G
  • All family members will be able to stream 4K content simultaneously without interruptions
  • Gamers will play on a 5G cloud with minimal hardware and latency

It doesn’t end with the home though, the kind of speed and connectivity that 5G provides will extend to businesses, cities, and even autonomous cars.

The major players in this space include AT&T, Verizon, and Samsung; the latter company has announced that in the second half of 2018, people in the U.S. will be among the first to experience commercial 5G services (thanks to a recent agreement between Samsung and Verizon). This rollout is beginning two years earlier than the industry had originally forecasted and in the coming years 30 million people should have access to 5G service. Meanwhile, AT&T confirmed the first smartphones supporting the new wireless service will arrive later this year.

This will make many consumers start asking if their current phone will support 5G (you might remember that 3G phones didn’t support the 4G network). Well, in this case, the answer is a mixed bag of ‘hopefully’ and ‘most likely not.’ Here’s a quick breakdown.

If you bought a brand new phone in the past six months or so, there’s a good chance your phone will work with 5G. According to Tom’s Guide, 5G and 4G are compatible (unlike 3G and 4G), so consumers will still see faster LTE speeds once 5G comes online even if their phone doesn’t support the new standard. However, you won’t be able to connect to a true 5G network.

While 5G appears to be the next thing to disrupt in the wireless industry, it may not cause an immediate tidal wave of returned 4G devices though; especially if consumers see an increase in performance over their LTE network. That said, trade ins are likely to happen in the coming years as more and more 5G devices are introduced and the functionality of 4G devices start to become obsolete.

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