5G vs 4G Technology

What are the main differences between 4G and 5G technology?

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Sep 14, 2022

5G (fifth-generation) technology is the successor to 4G/LTE cellular technology. Telecom operators began deploying 5G networks worldwide from 2019 and the number of 5G networks have been consistently increasing over the last couple of years. 5G technology was designed and developed with significant advancements over 4G-LTE. It introduced the use of higher frequencies, improved data rates and lower latency and also aims to be advantageous in applications such as healthcare, industries, gaming, virtual reality and much more. However, as is the case with most advancements, there are always some tradeoffs, these come in the form of cost and complexity. This article has compared the two technologies and highlighted the advantages/disadvantages that each one brings.

Frequencies Used (mmWave)

While the previous 4G-LTE networks were limited to a sub-section of Sub-6 GHz frequencies, 5G aims to utilize the entire sub-6 GHz frequencies along with the introduction of high frequency millimeter waves (mmWave). 5G networks operate in two frequency ranges: Frequency Range 1 (FR1) and Frequency Range 2 (FR2). The introduction of new and higher frequencies with 5G play a significant role in providing improved connectivity as it allows higher bandwidths to be used. Introduction of new frequency bands also provides options for telecom operators to use different frequency bands for their networks according to specific terrain/demographic/applications. Click here to view 5G NR frequency bands.

Data Rates

With 5G comes data rates which go in the gigabit range with maximum theoretical data speed going beyond 10 Gbps. This is a huge increase when compared to 4G-LTE, which have maximum data rate at around 300-400 Mbps. Operators have already achieved real-world data rates which are already more than 10x of what 4G-LTE could manage using Standalone (SA) 5G networks, and it is only going to increase with time.


5G promises lower latency than 4G-LTE along with a dedicated mode (URLLC) to support critical applications requiring ultra-low latency. URLLC provide ultra-reliable, low latency for critical or emergency applications which do not necessarily require high data rates. Verizon had reported that their 5G network achieves a latency of lower than 30 ms, which is a massive improvement compared to the existing 4G network which takes over 53 ms. Click here to learn more about why low latency is important for 5G.

New Applications

The three use cases defined by 3GPP for 5G networks are:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB): It is aimed at providing higher data rates and improved latency for everyday applications such as streaming HD media, AR, VR, gaming, etc.
  • Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC): This use case has been developed specifically for critical applications that does not necessarily require very high data rates but need highly reliable network with the lower latency. Autonomous vehicles and emergency services are some of the applications which will benefit from URLLC. Click here to more about the need for low-latency in 5G.
  • Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC): mMTC is designed for applications which require a very large number of nodes or devices to inter-connected. Industrial IoT setups, such as smart factories, are ideal scenarios where mMTC will provide high productivity and efficiency as these factories have thousands of devices that need to communicate with each other.


As mentioned earlier, these big advancements over 4G-LTE will bear a cost, and range is one of the first victims of these advancements. mmWave signals provide extremely fast data rates, reaching up to and beyond 1 Gbps however, mmWave signals undergo heavy attenuation in the atmosphere and have significantly lower range and penetration power compared to their sub-6 GHz friends. mmWave signals can be practically used for up to 500 m from the tower.


Along with lower range, use of mmWave for 5G networks also increases the cost of development and operations when compared to 4G-LTE networks. mmWave signals require new and improved electronics systems along the entire chain, from test & measurement to deployment and user end (UE) devices. One of the best real-world examples is smartphones that support mmWave 5G cost more than similar smartphones which do not.

4G vs 5G Key Differences





Sub-6 GHz

Sub-6 GHz


Data Rates

Theoretical: 300 – 400 Mbps

Real World: <50 Mbps

Theoretical: 10 – 50 Gbps

Real World: 1-3 Gbps+ (so far)


Theoretical: 10 ms

Real World: 30-60 ms

Theoretical: 1 ms

Real World: <30 ms


Few Kilometres (LoS)

Few Kilometres (LoS for Sub-6 GHz)

Up to 500m (mmWave)

Connection Density

Up to 0.1 million devices per square kilometer

Up to 1 million devices per square kilometer

Channel Bandwidth

20 MHz

50 – 100 MHz

New Technologies


Massive MIMO


OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing)

Carrier Aggregation

Up to 5 CCs (Component Carriers)

Up to 16 CCs (Component Carriers)


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