Can 5G Be Turned Off?

Can 5G Be Turned Off?

By now, most people have heard of 5G and the super-fast internet speed that mobile carriers are advertising it to deliver. While true under optimal conditions, coverage with most carriers is limited to specific areas of select cities due to limitations with high band millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G signals.

5G network capability can be turned off manually by following these steps for the Samsung Galaxy series of phones:

●     Open the settings menu on your device.

●     Select Connections.

●     Select Mobile Networks.

●     Select Network Mode.

●     Choose LTE/3G/2G (auto connect).

Now that you know how to turn off 5G, you may be wondering what sorts of issues you could potentially face, which would prompt you to want to. While possible to simply disable your phone’s ability to connect to 5G and utilize the older 4G LTE network instead, it may not be necessary to do so.

Is Manually Disabling 5G Worth the Trouble?

Even if you live in a rural area without 5G coverage and are using a 5G enabled phone, there isn’t much benefit to manually turning off your phone’s 5G. This is because your phone isn’t constantly searching for a 5G signal. All of our current 5G connections are directly integrated on top of our already existing 4G LTE connections: this is called 5G non-standalone (NSA).

Your phone will search for an available 4G LTE tower, and when it connects, the tower communicates to your phone and tells it whether or not 5G is available. If there is, congratulations, you’re connected to 5G, and if not, your phone stays connected to 4G.

Eventually, we will begin to see 5G SA (standalone) sites start to pop up, but most carriers are still a ways away from implementing them for widespread use.

Problems with Current 5G Networks

While 5G has the potential to revolutionize the way that devices communicate wirelessly, the current networks are still in the very early stages of deployment, and the technology needed to implement them to their fullest potential is still being developed. 

As such, many cellular subscribers living in rural areas either aren’t covered by their provider’s 5G network or have 5G speeds similar to the older 4G LTE network. Meanwhile, those who live in cities with 5G deployment have run into some of the major shortcomings of current mmWave signal technology.

Coverage and Penetration

If a cellular carrier focuses its 5G efforts on maximizing data transfer rates by primarily utilizing the mmWave spectrum, their subscribers can expect data speeds theoretically capable of reaching 5 Gbps, much faster than the average 50 Mbps currently found on 4G LTE. This massive increase in speed comes at the expense of range, though. 

mmWave is only able to cover an area roughly the size of a city block. This lack of range is the primary cause for the restricted coverage of these networks as the necessary infrastructure to blanket an entire city with ultra-fast mmWave 5G signals isn’t currently in place. Not only do mmWave signals lack coverage, but they also lack the ability to penetrate most solid objects, including walls.

The sub-6 GHz 5G spectrum, while not nearly as fast as its mmWave counterpart, is still typically faster than 4G LTE. It also has a much better range and penetration compared to mmWave.

5G Provider Comparison

Even though T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon all offer 5G service, each carrier uses its own combination of low-band, mid-band, and mmWave frequencies:

● Verizon currently only offers mmWave 5G in some areas of 36 cities but is expanding its 5G offerings to include long-reaching low-band frequencies later this year.

● AT&T currently offers a nationwide network of low-band 5G and mmWave in some areas and venues in 35 cities. 

● T-Mobile offers 5g across low-band, mmWave, and mid-band frequencies, which the company acquired when it merged with Sprint, although the website’s coverage map doesn’t specify between the three bands.

Can All Phones Access 5G?

While all current phones have access to 4G networks, the newer 5G signals require special internal antennas to receive them, which only allow new phones specifically made for 5G to connect to it.

Unlocked 5G Phones

Whether you aren’t sure which carrier has the best 5G network to fit your personal needs, or you just don’t want to be tied into a two-year payment plan, you might be considering purchasing an unlocked 5G phone. The key thing to remember when selecting one is ensuring that it is compatible with your preferred carrier’s 5G network and plan.

Here are a few options:

Samsung Galaxy S20 5G$999.99128GB6.2” ScreenSub-6
Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G$1,199.99128GB6.7” ScreenSub-6 and mmWave
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G$1,360.36128GB6.9” ScreenSub-6 and mmWave

4G vs. 5G

While 4G LTE was invented to improve the data speeds from 3G, 5G aims to be better than 4G LTE as a whole, not only far surpassing the data speeds, user capacity, and responsiveness of the previous generations, but also ushering in advancements in a variety of fields.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

With decreased latency to reduce lag, virtual and augmented reality will be able to operate without nausea-inducing choppiness.

Self Driving Cars

With the benefits of low latency, fast data transfer, and future reliability of 5G connections, technologies such as “Vehicle to Everything” (V2X) will become a reality. In basic terms, this allows vehicles to transmit real-time information to each other and any other wirelessly connected device in the area, which is essential for autonomous vehicles to navigate safely.

Mobile Gaming

5G will soon bring mobile gaming up to par with home consoles. Utilizing the ultra-fast data and super-low latency of 5G coupled with cloud gaming services like Microsoft’s Project xCloud, gamers will be able to play many of their favorite Xbox games directly on their phones.

Video Streaming and Conferencing

Buffering and choppy video won’t be a problem for 5G connected devices, especially those connected to mmWave networks, thanks to their ultra-fast speeds.

This report from the World Economic Forum highlights how the current COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for reliable remote video conferencing in the following fields:

●     Home Office: As of July 2020, 57% of working United States citizens have been displaced from their offices and are working from home.

●     Online Learning: Across the globe, schools have invested roughly 15.9% of budgeted funds into virtual classrooms and learning material, up from 3.9% in 2018.

●     Off-site Healthcare: Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, healthcare providers have largely shifted to remote care. Telemedicine visits have increased an astounding 490% com.

Final Thoughts

5G may not be everyone’s cup of tea for the time being due to limitations on carriers’ current networks, developing technologies, and higher costs. For the average cellular consumer, the currently widespread 4G LTE standard provides enough data speed for their everyday use.

Even still, the future outlook on 5G is promising for both consumers and businesses. Many great technologies still lie just beyond our current reach, but will soon revolutionize the field of wireless communication.

James Taylor

With a 1st degree in computer and management sciences, I've been a committed tech and gadget fan for as long as I can remember! From extensive user guides to pointing you in the right direction when it comes to brand-specific device issues, I love solving tech-related problems. When I'm not writing here, I'm probably walking my dog!

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