Sub-6 GHz 5G: Advantages and Disadvantages

Sub-6 GHz 5G: Advantages and Disadvantages

Not all 5G networks and 5G-capable devices are the same. The fifth-generation network standard runs on two different network technologies. These are the Sub-6 GHz 5G technology and mmWave 5G technology. Take note that the so-called C-Band 5G is technically an implementation of the Sub-6 5G standard. Nevertheless, when compared, the former has specific characteristics that provide it with notable advantages over the latter. It also has drawbacks and limitations. This article lists and explains the advantages and disadvantages of Sub-6 GHz 5G technology or the entire sub-6 network specification.

Pros and Applications: The Advantages of Sub-6 GHz 5G Technology

The Sub-6 GHz 5G technology represents the utilization of frequencies below 6 GHz. These frequencies are commonly within the 3.3 GHz and 4.2 GHz range of the electromagnetic spectrum. 4G LTE networks run within the lower limits of the sub-6 GHz range and earlier 4G standards run on frequencies within the Sub-6 GHz 5G specification.

1. Faster than 4G and LTE Network Technologies

Remember that the Sub-6 GHz specification is part of the entire 5G network specification. Hence, one of its advantages is improved overall network performance, as characterized by faster data transmission speed, better latency values, and higher bandwidth capacity.

The theoretical data transmission speed of 5G networks based on the sub-6 specification is between 50 Mbps to 200 Mbps. Network latency is between 20 to 10 milliseconds, while network bandwidth is around 500 Mbps. The real-world performance of LTE networks averages around 50 Mbps with a latency of 20 to 30 milliseconds.

Note that network latency is the time it takes for data to be transferred from one point to another. The bandwidth of a particular network represents the maximum amount of data that can be transferred over either the wired or wireless network in a given time.

2. Better Range and Coverage than mmWave 5G

Another notable feature and benefit of networks based on Sub-6 GHz 5G technology centers on wider network coverage and longer range. The mmWave specification uses high frequencies that cannot travel at longer distances and are more prone to physical obstructions.

Hence, when compared, because the frequencies used in the sub-6 specification are lower than the mmWave specification, they can propagate farther and the signal they bear can travel longer distances. Lower frequencies can also penetrate physical objects like wood and concrete walls better. This translates to a wider coverage area and a longer range.

The benefits of this 5G technology are enhanced further with the application of specific wireless communication and network technologies such as massive MIMO, which expands simultaneous connection capacity, and beamforming, which improves signal quality.

3. Cost-Efficient Infrastructure Requirements

Another advantage of Sub-6 GHz 5G technology is that it can be deployed using existing 3G and 4G or 4G LTE network infrastructures. Most 5G networks based on this technology use existing network towers that are modified to equip them with relevant equipment.

It is important to underscore the fact that designing and deploying mmWave 5G networks requires installing hundreds of smaller cells in a particular area to address range and coverage limitations. This has higher cost implications. The sub-6 specification of 5G is fundamentally easier to deploy and more inexpensive than the mmWave specification.

They are also more suitable in rural areas or locations with dispersed structures and scattered populations. The practicality of this specific 5G technology also makes it ideal to supplement an entire 5G network to ensure maximum network coverage and accessibility.

Cons and Limitations: The Disadvantages of Sub-6 GHz 5G Technology

It is also important to reiterate the fact that 5G networks based on the sub-6 specification use frequencies lower than mmWave 5G networks. The advantages of the mmWave specification come from the utilization of higher frequencies within the spectrum. This is one of the primary reasons behind the notable disadvantages of sub-6 GHz 5G.

1. An Inferior 5G Network than mmWave 5G

A particular mmWave 5G network is faster because it uses higher frequencies between 24 GHz and 300 GHz range. Remember that higher frequencies correspond to shorter wavelengths, which translates further to faster movements of data-bearing signals.

The theoretical data transmission speed of 5G networks based on the mmWave specification is between 200 Mbps to 1 Gbps. It also has a network latency of fewer than 10 milliseconds and a network bandwidth of up to 1 Gbps. This makes it a possible contender to the advantages of wired broadband internet access based on fiber optics technology.

It can be argued that the mmWave specification defines the notable advantages of 5G network connectivity. It is still important to note that the particular sub-6 specification remains faster than the specifications used in LTE and LTE Advance, true 4G, and 3G networks.

2. Limitations of 5G Network Applications

The inferiority of 5G networks based on the sub-6 specification limits the applications of 5G technology. It is true that these networks are faster than the previous generations but fiber-based wired broadband connections outcompete them in terms of network performance.

What the aforementioned means is that users connected to a Sub-6 GHz 5G network would not be able to experience the full benefits of 5G connectivity. These include data-intensive applications and use cases such as high-definition video streaming, high-end gaming and cloud or on-demand gaming, and video conferencing with multiple participants.

It is also impossible to fully utilize emerging and future wireless digital applications and technologies such as massive Internet of Things, smart and automated automotive vehicles, smart cities, and advanced communication devices, among others.

2. Compatibility of 5G-Branded Devices

Some 5G-enabled devices will only run on Sub-6 GHz 5G networks. This is true for entry-level to mid-level smartphones released in 2020 and 2021. Some flagship Android devices from 2022 and 2023 are even not equipped with mmWave 5G modems.

Devices that support only the sub-6 specification would not be able to take full advantage of the features and benefits of 5G network connectivity. Users of these devices also would not be able to access 5G networks in locations or areas that use the mmWave specification. Public places such as stadiums and airports are often equipped with mmWave 5G cell sites.

Other smartphones are compatible to run in both 5G specifications. It is important for a particular consumer who intends to purchase a new device to read and understand the technical or hardware specifications of smartphone options available to him or her.


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