What is 5G? Answers to Common Questions

What is 5G?

5G stands for 5th generation. That’s because it is the 5th generation of cellular technology. In other words, this is the next big step in the way that people, devices, and businesses can stay connected.1

How is 5G better than 4G?

5G has the potential to deliver faster data, offer lower latency, help save energy, and potentially enable exciting improvements in applications like virtual reality and autonomous cars.1 And just like LTE gave rise to new applications previously unheard of, like app stores, video calling, ridesharing and other innovations, 5G has the potential to unleash a whole new wave of uses that haven’t been thought of yet.

What is latency?

Latency is the term used to describe the amount of time it takes for a connected device to transmit a message and get back a response. A shorter latency means a faster response from one connected device to another. Low latency is especially important for things like online gaming2, where epic wins need quick reaction times.

Will 5G work on any phone?

While you can still get phone service on a phone that it isn’t 5G-capable, you won’t be able to enjoy the extra benefits of 5G service unless you also have a 5G phone. Of course, you’ll also need to have a plan that provides access to 5G service1 and be in a location where 5G coverage is available.  Not every smartphone, tablet or other device will be 5G capable, though more and more 5G compatible devices are launching from many popular device manufacturers.

Will a 5G phone work on any plan?

While 5G phones will function using 4G LTE on a plan that doesn’t provide 5G access, you won’t be able to enjoy 5G quality service.1 For example, if your plan only offers 4G service and you have a 5G phone, your phone will only get a 4G level of service. That’s why it’s so important to also have a wireless plan with 5G access. You should also keep in mind that even if you have both a 5G phone and a rate plan with 5G access, you’ll still need to be in an area where 5G is currently available to enjoy the full 5G experience.

What is 5G good for?

Whenever you use your phone, tablet, or other connected device away from your home internet connection, you are relying on wireless service for any task that requires data. That means that the better your wireless network, the better performance you’ll have for doing everything you love on your connected devices—whether that’s online gaming, streaming videos, or downloading large files. Where 5G is available, it can help you enjoy better speeds1 with your 5G compatible device and rate plan with 5G access. 5G is used in many exciting areas, such as gaming, sports, research, education, and travel. To see a collection of stories on 5G use cases, you might want to visit this website.

Is 5G available now?

Yes, 5G is already available in many places. Here is a coverage map of where AT&T 5G service is available.

Is 5G the same as 5G Wi-Fi?

Some people will describe a certain frequency band used for home internet as “5G Wi-Fi”. This term is a shortcut for saying 5 Gigahertz. While this can be confusing, it’s important to understand that these are two separate technologies, and that 5 Gigahertz Wi-Fi is not the same thing as 5G cellular technology.3

What is the best AT&T plan with 5G access?

While the best phone plan for you that includes 5G access will of course depend on your personal needs and budget, the AT&T Unlimited Elite® plan is our very best plan and includes our best features, like:

  • AT&T ActiveArmorSM advanced security including spam and fraud call blocking, identity monitoring, safe browsing and more.
  • 40GB Hotspot data per line per month
  • Unlimited texting from the U.S. to 200+ countries

How can I tell if 5G is available in my area?

Different wireless carriers will offer 5G coverage in different areas, so you may need to check with your respective carrier. For example, you can go here to check availability for AT&T 5G.

Will 4G devices still work with 5G?

Yes, existing 4G devices will still work as 5G continues to roll out, but they will only receive a 4G level of service.1

Are there any AT&T prepaid plans with 5G access?

Yes, for those looking for the convenience and flexibility of a prepaid cell phone plan, Unlimited from AT&T PREPAID offers 5G service in eligible areas.

AT&T may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy

What does a plan with 5G access cost?

The cost of a wireless plan with 5G access may vary depending on several factors, including your carrier and the number of lines on your account. For example, if you have four lines of your account, each line of AT&T Unlimited Starter*** will cost $35 per line for four lines, after paperless billing and an AutoPay discount, plus taxes and fees.

*** AT&T may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy

What is the different between 5G and 5G+?

AT&T offers customers three different flavors of 5G* service:

  • AT&T 5G using low-band spectrum reaches more than 255 million people in more than 18,000 cities and towns in the U.S.
  • AT&T 5G+ using recently introduced mid-band spectrum sits between our other two bands and provides a great combination of ultra-fast speeds and wide geographic coverage.
  • AT&T 5G+ using high-band spectrum delivers lightning-fast speeds and unprecedented performance in high traffic areas.

AT&T 5G+ is faster and more responsive for the most demanding apps and services, from gaming to streaming to video conferencing.

*AT&T 5G requires compatible plan and device. 5G not available everywhere. 5G+ is offered in limited locations in specific cities. Wireless technology varies by device. Go to att.com/5Gforyou for details.

Learn more about AT&T 5G

Hopefully this article has helped you answer some of your questions about 5G. To learn more about this exciting technology and America’s Most Reliable 5G Network*, you might want to visit this page on AT&T 5Gor go here to see the latest 5G news.

*Based on nationwide GWS drive test data. GWS conducts paid drive tests for AT&T and uses the data in its analysis. AT&T 5G requires compatible plan and device. 5G not available everywhere. Go to att.com/5Gforyou for details.

This article is AT&T sponsored content written by Matt Johnsen, an AT&T employee and a TechBuzz contributor. The statements in this article are his own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies, or opinions of AT&T.


  1. https://www.fcc.gov/5g-faqs
  2. https://www.cnet.com/tech/mobile/5g-latency-why-speeding-up-networks-matters-faq/
  3. https://www.pcmag.com/news/5g-vs-5g-e-vs-5ghz-whats-the-difference
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