5G vs 4G: What's the Difference?

5G vs 4G: What's the Difference?

If you own a smartphone, you’re likely to use a mobile network as part of the experience. Wireless technology has progressed to the point where five versions exist, so what are the differences between them?

In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at 5G and seeing how it compares to 4G in key areas, such as speed, data usage and overall efficiency.

If you’re keen on picking up a 5G-compatible phone for yourself or someone else, our dedicated range has multiple handsets to choose from.

5G is considerably faster than 4G

5G is demonstrably better than 4G in most areas. One of the biggest and most notable differences between them is speed.

Whilst 4G has a maximum download speed of 300 Mbps, 5G can achieve download speeds of 10 Gbps; this means that with 5G, you can stream media, interact with apps and play games faster than on a 4G network, with reduced buffering and lagging.

Not only will you be able to stream media in higher resolutions with 5G, but you can also download content, movies and TV shows faster than with a 4G connection. For example, if you download a full-length film on 4G to your mobile phone, this will take around 2-3 minutes on average. Upgrade to 5G and this will be done in just 4-40 secondsreducing the download time by 10% on average.


5G has a lower latency with less buffering

Latency is the time it takes for a network to respond to a request, and 5G improves on this front compared to its 4G predecessor. 4G has a latency of ~50 milliseconds, whilst 5G’s latency stands at 1 millisecond - that's **50x better **than 4G.

This makes 5G phones super-speedy, with minimal buffering. 5G phones are therefore far superior for media streaming and gaming, since you won’t need to wait as long for your phone to respond to commands.


5G uses higher frequencies

Another advantage of 5G is its increased capacity. Mobile networks use radio waves to transfer data, but 5G uses higher frequencies than 4G to do this. In fact, 5G utilises extremely high frequencies between 30 and 300GHz, compared to 4G which transmits data via frequencies below 6GHz.

What does this mean? Well, higher frequencies mean larger bandwidths, and larger bandwidths mean more capacity to transmit data, like when using apps, streaming or downloading media. This doesn’t mean 5G uses up more data on a fundamental level, but with faster speeds and greater capacity, you might be more inclined to download a 4K film over a HD one for example. As a result, it’s important to know your data plan and what its limits might be.

The higher frequencies of 5G can also be used next to other wireless signals without causing interference; 5G therefore functions better in high-traffic, highly-crowded areas.

4G is available in more places

4G is more widely available, but 5G is expected to fully cover the UK by 2028. It can be accessed via a large number of networks, such as:

iD Mobile
• EE
• O2
• BT
• Sky Mobile
• Tesco Mobile
• Giffgaff
• Virgin Mobile
• ASDA Mobile
• Lebara
• CM Link
• Lyca
• Smarty
• Talkmobile

In terms of locations, 5G can be used in over 110 cities and towns including London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Hull and Leeds.


As you’ve seen, 5G offers significant advantages over 4G networks. If you’re wondering whether your current phone supports 5G, we have another handy guide to help you find out.