All mobile communication from the first cluncky "portable phones" to the next generation og 5G enabled phones communicate via radio waves.
Before mobile phones the same waves, mostly in the lower end, have been used for radio communication, TV- and radio broadcast and later for baby alarms, GPS etc.
WiFi also works with radio waves, but we’ll come back to that.
Eletromagnetic radiation at much higher frequencies are visible light (430 – 770 THz) and even higher are x-rays and other types of rays.
The range of radio waves between 300 MHz and 300GHz are referred to as microwaves and this is the range we’ll be discussing here.
When selecting frequencies for radio based communication there are several factors that decide which frequencies to use.
One of them is range and generally spoken, the higher the frequency the shorter the waves can travel and the more difficult it is for the waves to penetrate walls, trees, human tissue etc.
So if you want your waves to travel far, you choose the lowest frequency which is practical for your application.
Distance is not all that matters though.
The higher the frequency the more users can be served at ones and the more data can be sent.
So in general, in lower populated areas the lowest frequency is used and in denser populated areas the higher frequencies are used.
The current 4G network operates at three frequency bands, namely 800MHz, 1,8GHz and 2,6GHz.
The current Wi-Fi is based on the international IEEE 802.11 standard and a lot of different frequences are in use, among others 2,4GHz, 3,7GHz and 5GHz.
Some people are confusing the 5GHz option when they’re connecting to a Wi-Fi network with the coming 5G mobile network.
But even though the two are similar because they both use microwaves in the lower GHz band, they are not the same.
The new 5G standards
Just like 4G, 5G will be operating on different frequencies.
The new 5G standard is called 5G NR and it’s still under development, but a pre-stage version is being deployed in the US by the company Verizon and they aim to be operational in 2019.
The first version of 5G will operate on the same frequencies which are already used by previous standards (called “Frequency Range 1” or just “FR1”).
In Denmark the frequency 3,5GHz has been chosen for FR1 (link to a page in Danish).
When the final version of 5G is ready it can use much higher frequencies in what is referred to as “Frequency Range 2” (FR2) which will, apart from the lower frequencies, operate in frequenciy bands between 24GHz and 39Hz.
It’s still unknown when this standard will be ready and when the equipment for it will be ready.
According to a professor in Antennas, Propagation and Radio Networking at University of Aalborg, Denmark who we’ve spoken with, that will not happen before some time in the next 3-5 years.