a blog from CenturyLink

5G and fiber: two big reasons why 5G technology needs fiber

by | Feb 8, 2021

Everyone is excited about 5G. This new technology promises better connectivity and faster speeds for mobile devices. Some people even think 5G technology could replace traditional broadband internet. As mobile companies start to roll out 5G in certain cities, and smartphone companies are beginning to create compatible devices, let’s talk about the truth about 5G technology and what it means for you and your family.

What is 5G technology?

A cellular network, like 3G, 4G, or 5G, is a wireless network that uses radio signals to provide a connection for mobile devices. These networks broadcast signals using tower and other transceiver stations. You’re probably familiar with 3G and 4G LTE networks if you’ve been a mobile device user over the last several years, and you’ve likely seen the great changes in functionality and speed that come with each new cellular network generation.

5G technology promises big improvements to augmented and virtual reality


As a cellular network, 5G technology promises speedy connections up to 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps). It’s also supposed to have less lag time and connectivity issues. But the potential of the 5G network all comes down to the infrastructure that will support it. Right now, 5G is only being rolled out in a few select cities. And the speeds aren’t necessarily what they’re cracked up to be — yet.

5G needs fiber

Why doesn’t 5G deliver yet on the expectations for a faster, more reliable cellular network? There are several reasons.

1. The infrastructure isn’t in place

5G doesn’t use the same technology as 4G, which means providers will need to install new cell towers and transmitters. And there also needs to be a lot of them. After about 1,000 feet, certain 5G waves lose strength. That’s only about 2% of 4G’s range. 5G also can’t travel through physical barriers, like trees or buildings. To make 5G both available and reliable, a lot of infrastructure needs to be built, including many more cell towers and transmitters to support a 5G signal, which may pose challenges in small or rural communities. All these transmitters and cell towers will need to be connected to a wired network that can support many devices at once.

2. 5G technology needs a lot of bandwidth

The Thales Group estimates that 5G will need to support 1 million devices every 0.386 square miles, which means there will be huge demands on bandwidth. And with new applications in telemedicine or self-driving vehicles (that require little to no latency), 5G needs a network that can move quickly while supporting many consumers and businesses all at once. These networks will also need to be upgraded on a regular basis as technology progresses and smart cities come into being.

That’s where fiber comes in.

As our CEO, Jeff Storey says, “Think of 5G as a side street, good for going short distances, and fiber as the interstate. In fact, the autobahn might be a better comparison.” 5G needs a fiber network that can power it through multiple contact points, help it reconnect through physical barriers, and support millions of users using gigabit upon gigabit of data.

5G technology needs fiber to power your whole family’s mobile devices

How fiber delivers for 5G technology

We’ve said it before: fiber is fast. Fiber is also reliable and can handle high bandwidth demands. Signals can travel far and fast along fiber-optic cables without degrading, and they are far less susceptible from signal loss due to external factors like physical barriers or electrical interference. As for data transmission, fiber uses multiple different wavelengths so that several signals can be transmitted over the same strand of fiber. This leads to improved mobile coverage and enhanced mobile networks with more responsiveness and better connections for multiple devices.

Finally, fiber-optic internet is technology that is scalable. Though telecommunication companies are using both copper and fiber connections to power 5G technology, copper can’t meet the demand of fast like fiber can. And fiber can be upgraded, promising fast speeds for a long time to come.

5G and fiber make technology like self-driving cars possible

The future of 5G

Provided cellular networks build the infrastructure to support 5G and expand their 5G networks to more than just a handful of cities, 5G offers real opportunities and technological advancements for industries like transportation and remote healthcare. Fiber will be the core of this framework for 5G, supporting the transmitters and cell towers that power the network, providing the needed bandwidth, and supporting the huge amounts of data as people stream, download, and game. With fiber, day-to-day users of mobile devices and smart devices at home, consumers can enjoy quicker downloads and access to cloud services, improved collaboration across channels, and exciting improvements to augmented and virtual reality.

Fiber internet delivers a fast and reliable connection. CenturyLink Fiber Internet is currently available in a number of major cities and towns and is actively expanding. Check today to see if fiber internet is available near you.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/kirstenqueen" target="_self">Kirsten Queen</a>

Kirsten Queen


Kirsten Queen is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber. Since she started writing professionally, Kirsten has dabbled in nonprofit grant writing and communications, social media marketing, and now writes content about life with technology. In her free time, Kirsten likes to cook, garden, and hike in the mountains of Colorado. Her name rhymes with first, not cheer.