Physical innovations on devices are easy to see and understand. It's easy to tell the visual difference from a dial phone, to a flip phone, to a smartphone. However, the most significant developments occur inside the devices. This is definitely the case when we look at data processing speeds. This measures how fast a device can execute tasks, such as sending a photo.
The following table outlines the development of the time it takes to send individual pieces of information (data) or what is called a “download rate.”
|Network Generation||Download Rate|
|3G Network||42.2 Mbps|
|4G/LTE (Now)||100 Mbps|
|4G LTE Cat. 4||150 Mbps|
|4G/LTE Advanced||1,000 Mbps|
|5G (Near Future)||10,000 Mbps Projected|
Notice that the table uses the term “megabits.” One megabit equals 1,000,000 pieces of data per second—that’s fast! Currently, networks are operating at a rate of 100 megabits per second (that’s 100 million pieces of data per second), and we anticipate that in the near future, networks will operate 100 times faster than now.
We know that driving on an interstate at 75 mph is fast. If we drove nonstop to the sun (93,000,000 miles away) at 75 mph, it would take us almost 142 years to get there.
However, if we use the current speed of network data transfer (100 megabits) as our speed for traveling to the sun, we’d get to the sun in 56 minutes.
If we use the near future network speed for data transfer (10,000 megabits) to travel to the sun, we’d arrive in 56 seconds!
|Method||Speed||Time to the Sun|
|Car||75 mph||~142 years|
|4G Network||100 Mbps||56 minutes|
|5G Network||10,000 Mbps||56 seconds|
Your carrier (e.g., AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon) provides you with data through their network—that’s what you’re paying them for each month. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to be on a secure Wi-Fi network to limit your use of data, which can be costly over time.