Historically, when new cellular technology roles out, there are early implementations of networks and devices, which don’t work very well. As the networks expand, the implementations in the devices improve. Finally, as the networks and devices become robust, new applications appear that leverage the faster speeds. This was the case with 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and is the case with the fifth generation of cellular wireless technology: 5G. This entire sequence can take years to become stable, reliable, and widespread.
With each evolution of cellular wireless technology, the wireless channels get bigger (to increase the speed of data), latency is reduced (to improve responsiveness), and the capacity increases (to be able to connect more devices).
So, with that as a background, lets clarify the confusing part. With 5G, there are three options: low, middle, and high.
In practical terms, low-band 5G won’t be much faster than 4G. But it’s spread and capacity are much greater. One low-band 5G tower can cover up to hundreds of square miles. Published download speeds vary greatly, but on average expect around 50Mbit/s.
Mid-band is likely to become the common offering in all major metropolitan areas of the United States. It offers about double the speed of low-band, but towers need to be a few miles apart. This is the sweet spot of 5G. You can expect download speeds to be between 100 and 400 Mbit/s.
High-band is really the ground breaking technology, offering blazing speeds, low latency, and huge capacity. But, distance is very limited. You can expect to see high-band 5G towers in locations that serve huge numbers of people, such as dense urban environments, sporting and concert venues, and conventions centers. Unless you are very lucky to live very close to a high-band 5G tower, you will not be able to take advantage of what it offers. In perfect conditions, download speeds can be 1Gbit/s or even faster.
The emerging deployment of 5G is very exciting and will certainly affect all of us in a positive way. But, be knowledgable about the differences and set your expectations accordingly.