What You Need to Know About 5G

This article originally appeared on Consumer Reports by Bree Fowler.

Report says White House may be floating the idea of a national 5G network. So what is 5G and how does it work?

The prospect of a super-fast and secure new wireless network has a lot of people excited, including possibly some members of the Trump administration.

On Sunday, the tech website Axios reported that it had obtained documents revealing that national security officials are considering the possibility of building and operating a national 5G wireless network.

The move would amount to the unprecedented nationalization of part of the country’s mobile communications infrastructure at a time when internet service providers are spending billions to build their own 5G (or fifth generation) networks.

According to Axios, the documents, obtained from a National Security Council member, argue that within three years America needs “to create a secure pathway for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and virtual reality,” as well as “to combat Chinese threats to America’s economic and cyber security.”

But Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai isn’t so keen on the idea. He released a statement Monday morning voicing his opposition, saying that “the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.”

Proponents of 5G describe it as a cloud of connectivity that follows you when you leave your home, allowing for everything from simple conveniences such as the seamless streaming of music to vastly more complicated and high-stakes ideas like “smart” cities and driverless cars.

It’s not just faster than the 4G systems we use now; eventually it might even replace the wired connections that most homes and businesses run on.

Though many challenges still exist, it’s possible that at least some of that vision could become a reality very soon. Both Verizon and AT&T say they plan to roll out limited 5G networks this year, while Sprint and T-Mobile say they have 5G-related projects in the works, too. Samsung will be providing routers and other network hardware for Verizon’s launch.

But what is 5G, how much faster is it, and why is it so crucial to the future of our increasingly connected world?

Here’s what you need to know.

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