A hand holds up a mobile device with an animated 5G emblem hovering about its surface

5G vs. 4G – A Side-by-Side Comparison

As 5G continues its gradual rollout, a question lingers: What exactly are the performance differences between 5G vs. 4G?

We first addressed 5G – its current status and future direction – in a previous blog post. At the time, there were more questions than answers. We saw concerns about bandwidth and how it could affect battery life. There were doubts about the need for local storage, due to faster 5G speeds. Some worry even came about 5G pushing up the cost of high-end smartphones.

Our answer was simple: 5G is worth the potential risks and, someday, we’ll ask how we ever survived without it. To further put these fears to rest, we detailed five edge design considerations for the 5G era.

Is 5G Just Faster 4G?

Now, let’s be clear: 5G isn’t just beefed up 4G. Yes, faster average and peak speeds are much anticipated with the fifth-generation of cellular networks. But, there are a few other factors worth keeping in mind. Reduced latencies. Higher operating frequencies. More devices supported. Together, these capabilities of 5G vs. 4G could help mobile users break free from existing networks crowded with smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other IoT-enabled devices.

Let’s cover a few details of how 5G works. There are three main components to this fifth-generation technology standard for cellular networks: low-power cell sites, radio wave spectrums, and a network backbone.

  1. Network carriers install cell sites at strategic locations based on network usage rates and divide regions into sectors. With 5G, there could be a trend towards base stations that are more compact and use less power than typical 4G power base stations.
  2. Each cell site is connected to a network backbone, often through a wired fiber connection.
  3. Within these sectors, packets of data are sent between sites using either low-, mid-, or high-band frequencies. Low-band frequencies typically operate below 2 GHz, mid-band sits between 2-10 GHz, and high-band enters the 20-100 GHz channels. Known as the “millimeter-wave” band, these previously unused frequencies are like data superhighways for latency-sensitive and bandwidth-intensive innovations. One challenge of high-band 5G is its short range, which requires more cell sites to be installed to ensure connectivity.

How Might 5G Adoption Impact Our Lives?

If 5G does become widely adopted, we could see progress in areas that either consume or generate data in real-time. This trend could be particularly true for 4K and 8K video data. Here is a shortlist of potential applications for 5G:

To make sense of the two generations of wireless networks, we decided to look into the hard numbers that describe 5G vs. 4G. Here’s what we found.

Peak Speeds – 5G vs. 4G

5g vs 4g

Compared to our current fourth generation, 5G could reach over six times higher throughput. Faster speeds open the door for new possibilities across cellular networks. Data-intensive applications at endpoints – such as downloading multi-gigabyte files and streaming 4K/8K video – could become a reality.

Latency – 5G vs. 4G

Blink your eyes. That’s how fast data might travel from your future 5G-enabled device, over the network to a main server, and back to your device. This extremely low latency – 4-5 times faster than 4G – could enable real-time applications such as self-driving vehicles, advanced robotics, and immersive reality.

Connectivity – 5G vs. 4G

5G could support up to 100 times more devices than 4G – leading to a world more connected than ever. This shift is critical as billions of IoT devices come online and strain existing 4G networks. Think of 5G making possible future cities with smart transportation, efficient energy grids, and remote security.

Energy Efficiency – 5G vs. 4G

One estimate suggests that 5G could use 90% less energy per bit than 4G. Energy consumption has a big impact on battery life for mobile devices. It’s been a thorn in the side for people using smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets. By using fast, low-latency 5G networks, more data could be processed in the network instead of on a device. That could mean less energy used and longer battery lives.

Mobile Data Volume – 5G vs. 4G

Imagine high-density areas where thousands of devices communicate across the same network, such as airports or sports arenas. Communication comes to a crawl and data transfer speeds slow down dramatically. With faster speeds and lower latency, 5G could handle 1,000 times the volume of mobile data compared to 4G.

Explore More 5G Possibilities



FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS: This article may contain forward-looking statements, including statements relating to expectations for storage products, the market for storage products, product development efforts, and the capacities, capabilities and applications of Western Digital products. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements, including development challenges or delays, supply chain and logistics issues, changes in markets, demand, global economic conditions and other risks and uncertainties listed in Western Digital Corporation’s most recent quarterly and annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, to which your attention is directed. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and we undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.



  1. The Eight Performance Attributes of 5G Networks. https://www.verizonwireless.com/articles/business/5g-network-performance-attributes/
  2. The 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership: the next generation of communication networks and services. https://5g-ppp.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/5G-Vision-Brochure-v1.pdf

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