4G vs. 5G: A Comprehensive Comparison

Understanding the differences between 4G and 5G can be confusing, but this post breaks it down for you. Learn about the key differences in speed, coverage, latency, capacity, and potential applications of these two generations of mobile network technology.

Comparison overview

From the first generation of mobile networks (1G) to the currently emerging fifth generation (5G), each new iteration brought with it advancements that significantly improved performance, efficiency, and user experience. The most recent transition from the fourth generation (4G) to 5G is no exception.

The following table provides a comprehensive comparison of 4G and 5G from a technical standpoint. It compares key aspects such as speed, latency, frequency band, connection density, network architecture, bandwidth, multiple-access methods, mobility, spectrum efficiency, core network technology, network slicing availability, edge computing support, use cases, and energy efficiency.

Features4G (LTE-Advanced)5G (New Radio)
SpeedUp to 1 GbpsUp to 20 Gbps
Latency50-100 ms1 ms
Frequency Band2-8 GHzup to 100 GHz
Connection Density2000 devices per 0.38 sq. miles1 million devices per 0.38 sq. miles
Network ArchitectureCentralizedService-based and Distributed
BandwidthUp to 20 MHzUp to 100 MHz (sub-6 GHz), up to 400 MHz (mmWave)
Multiple-AccessOFDMA for Downlink, SC-FDMA for UplinkOFDMA for both Downlink and Uplink
MobilityUp to 350 km/hUp to 500 km/h
Spectrum EfficiencyModerateHigh
TechnologyMIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output)Massive MIMO and Beamforming
Core NetworkEPC (Evolved Packet Core)5GC (5G Core)
Network SlicingNot AvailableAvailable
Edge ComputingNot NativeNative
Use CasesConsumer-oriented broadband accessWide range of use cases from IoT, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, to AR/VR and more
Energy EfficiencyLess efficientMore efficient due to improved network management and data routing

Let’s take a deeper look into the features summarized in the table.


The maximum data transfer rate achievable by the network technology.

Key Takeaways: speed is a fundamental measure of a network’s performance. 5G has the potential to reach speeds of up to 20 Gbps, which is 20 times faster than 4G’s maximum speed of 1 Gbps.

Examples: with 4G, you can download an HD movie in minutes. But with 5G, you could download it in just a few seconds due to the enhanced speed.


The time it takes for data to be transferred from one point to another.

Key Takeaways: lower latency means less delay, which is crucial for real-time applications. 5G aims to reduce latency to 1 ms, compared to 4G’s latency of 50-100 ms.

Examples: low latency of 5G is crucial for autonomous driving where milliseconds can mean the difference between safe operation and a potential collision.

Frequency Band

The range of frequencies over which the network can operate.

Key Takeaways: higher frequency bands can carry more data but have a shorter range. 5G operates at a higher frequency band (up to 100 GHz) compared to 4G (2-8 GHz).

Examples: 5G’s higher frequency bands are used for small, dense areas like city centers, while lower bands are used for broader coverage.

Connection Density

The maximum number of devices that can be simultaneously connected in a specific area.

Key Takeaways: 5G supports a connection density up to 1 million devices per 0.38 square miles, making it much better suited for IoT devices compared to 4G.

Examples: in a smart city scenario, numerous IoT devices (traffic lights, sensors, cameras, etc.) need to be connected simultaneously. Here, 5G’s high connection density would be advantageous.

Network Architecture

The design and layout of the network’s components and their interconnections.

Key Takeaways: 5G uses a distributed, service-based architecture, which is more flexible and efficient than 4G’s centralized architecture.

Examples: in a 5G network, services like network slicing allow for custom networks to be created for specific use-cases, like emergency services or autonomous vehicles.


The capacity of the network to transfer data.

Key Takeaways: 5G offers greater bandwidth than 4G, leading to higher data transfer rates.

Examples: higher bandwidth in 5G allows more users to stream high-quality videos without buffering at the same time.


The method used to allow multiple users to access the network simultaneously.

Key Takeaways: both 4G and 5G use OFDMA for downlink, but 5G also uses it for uplink, providing more efficient usage of the spectrum.

Examples: this feature enables smooth streaming of a live sports event on multiple devices simultaneously.


The maximum speed at which a device can move while still maintaining a connection to the network.

Key Takeaways: 5G supports higher mobility (up to 500 km/h) than 4G (350 km/h).

Examples: this is important for high-speed vehicles, like bullet trains, to maintain consistent internet connectivity.

Spectrum Efficiency

The ability to use the available frequency spectrum effectively.

Key Takeaways: 5G is more spectrum-efficient than 4G, which allows it to support more data transfer within the same spectrum.

Examples: spectrum efficiency of 5G supports more simultaneous connections, leading to better performance in densely populated areas.


The specific technologies used to improve network performance.

Key Takeaways: 5G uses advanced technologies like Massive MIMO and Beamforming for improved performance, capacity, and efficiency.

Examples: massive MIMO used in 5G can support more devices with higher capacity, important in high-traffic areas like stadiums or concerts.

Core Network

The central part of the telecom network that manages data routing and connectivity.

Key Takeaways: 5G uses a more advanced and flexible 5G Core (5GC) compared to 4G’s Evolved Packet Core (EPC).

Examples: 5GC allows for network slicing, which can provide a unique network for specific services or industries.

Network Slicing

The ability to create multiple virtual networks on the same physical infrastructure.

Key Takeaways: network slicing is available in 5G but not in 4G.

Examples: a telecom operator can provide a low-latency slice for gaming, a high-bandwidth slice for video streaming, and a high-reliability slice for critical services.

Edge Computing

Processing data closer to where it’s generated instead of sending it to distant data centers.

Key Takeaways: 5G natively supports edge computing, unlike 4G.

Examples: in autonomous vehicles, quick decision-making is required. With edge computing in 5G, data processing is done near the source, reducing latency and enhancing response times.

Use Cases

The potential applications and scenarios where the technology can be used.

Key Takeaways: while 4G was primarily consumer-oriented for broadband access, 5G supports a wide range of use cases, including IoT, smart cities, autonomous vehicles, AR/VR, and more.

Examples: the broad use case support of 5G allows for innovative applications like remote surgery, smart agriculture, and immersive entertainment experiences.

Energy Efficiency

The amount of data that can be transferred per unit of energy consumed.

Key Takeaways: 5G is more energy-efficient than 4G due to improved network management and data routing.

Examples: this feature is particularly beneficial for battery-powered IoT devices, allowing them to function longer without requiring a recharge.

Continue reading more posts about 5G on our website to stay updated on the latest advancements and insights in this transformative technology.

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