As 5G becomes more and more popular, it looks like old networks like 4G are becoming a thing of the past. For people still working with 4G phones, it is a common question to ask if you can just add 5G to a 4G phone.
You can’t easily, and practically, add 5G to a 4G phone. You can use a mobile 5G hotspot, but it’s not a good solution. While you have almost a decade to use your 4G phone before it becomes obsolete, new 5G phones are getting cheaper and more accessible every day.
So, what do you need to know when it comes to adding 5G to a 4G phone? What are these two network protocols anyway, and how do they work? We’ll explore those questions and more; just read on!
How Is 5G Different from 4G?
5G seems to be the latest in the long line of cellular transformation. Before this, it was 4G that was getting all the attention from tech enthusiasts and smartphone nerds. But, with the advent of 5G, it’s worth exploring what 5G means and how your phone interacts with the network.
While smartphones are fairly similar to computers, they offer more connectivity. These come in the form of different communications radios, one of them being the cellular radio.
5G equipped smartphones can transmit and receive data traveling at a higher frequency range than 4G. It is based on orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) type of digital transmission, a way to send a signal across different frequency channels to reduce interference.
Combine this with the fact that 5G operates on wider bandwidth technologies like sub-6 GHz and mmWave, and you’ll get faster speeds and often a better connection—so long as you’re close to a 5G tower.
Smartphones need more and more data to work these days. Old networks like 4G just don’t have enough bandwidth to support today’s modern devices anymore. 5G has more bandwidth and can transfer more data faster at around 20 Gbps. That’s 500% faster than 4G LTE.
If you’re looking at your 4G phone, you may be wondering if it’s possible to upgrade to 5G.
While you can upgrade to a 5G radio, it probably won’t be worth your time. To replace this part, you’ll most likely need to replace the entire motherboard. Depending on what type of phone you have, this is easier said than done.
Replacing a motherboard is a very intricate process. It will require not only expertise but also some special tools like a soldering iron.
Moreover, you can’t just replace the old 4G radio chip with a new 5G one. You’ll need to replace the entire motherboard since the old parts most likely won’t work with the new 5G radio.
This whole process can get quite expensive and will likely be impossible to do on almost all smartphones. So, if you want to get the 5G experience, your best bet is to get a new smartphone with those capabilities built-in.
Luckily, you can get smartphones, like this Samsung Galaxy A32 (on Amazon), for under $300—which might be the cost of a motherboard swap from a reputable repair shop.
So, can your 4G phone work with a 5G network? You probably already know the answer to this one since we already touched on it earlier, but let’s look a little closer.
Your 4G phone can’t work with an exclusively 5G network. Fortunately, most cellular networks today will use both 4G bands and 5G bands, meaning your 4G phone will still work, albeit with slower speeds. But how long will this last?
While there is no hard-set date, there is a time when most phones will be using the higher frequency bands provided by a 5G network. This will happen sometime in the next decade or so. You should have plenty of time to switch over by then.
Keep in mind: that your phone won’t be able to keep up with the demands of streaming services and future apps. That’s one of the reasons why 5G is necessary. It provides the necessary bandwidth to keep up with the evolving data-dense technology.
Can You Use a 5G Hotspot with a 4G Phone?
You can use a 4G phone with a 5G network, but you’ll need some extra hardware. To get the job done, you will need to find a mobile hotspot. A 5G hotspot, like this INSEEGO M2000 5G Hotspot (on Amazon), will get you the connection you need.
Basically, you can set up your hotspot to create a WiFi network that your phone can connect to. It’s really quite simple, but there are some things to keep in mind.
First, you’ll be paying for the service on the hotspot, as well as the actual hotspot device itself. At that point, it might be better to just get a 5G phone.
Next, while this will connect a 4G phone to a 5G network, it’s less than practical. Sure, it can work if you really need to connect to a 5G network, but if you need to tackle this daily, it can become quite a nuisance to manage the hotspot and your smartphone.