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Why Choose 4G Technology Over 5G For Alarm Signals?

The end of 3G cellular service is coming soon. As a result, AFA Protective Systems has been encouraging all customers with cellular signal transmission communicating using 3G to upgrade their cellular communication technology. One question that our customers consistently ask is “Why must I upgrade from 3G to 4G/LTE. Why not go right to 5G?”

Trusted service providers, like AFA, are challenged with making customers understand that the exciting new 5G technology they’ve heard so much about is not the best solution for their current alarm communication needs. This article will discuss the reasons you should upgrade your cellular alarm communicators to 4G/LTE technology as opposed to the now very well “hyped” 5G technology.


The most important feature for alarm signal transmissions designed to protect lives and property is reliability. 4G/LTE technology currently has:

  • Networks which are mature
  • Technical standards that have been well established, which translates to quality equipment available at a competitive price, as well as excellent service reliability
  • Coverage from a number of competing providers is ubiquitous.

While many industries are expecting big things from 5G, the network is still in its infancy. The rollout of 5G has been disappointing and uneven. Across the United States, carriers have deployed 5G in just a few dozen cities. Moreover, 5G is meant to complement 4G/LTE, not replace it. 4G/LTE networks will continue to be deployed over wide areas. 5G will eventually be available over wide areas, but for now, the service will rely on small cell deployments. 4G/LTE remains a necessity for 5G. 4G/LTE networks are not going anywhere soon and the quality and reliability of 4G/LTE service will continue to improve.

This year, we expect 5G to gain some momentum. Verizon said it expected half the nation to have access to 5G this year and AT&T, which offers two types of 5G,plans for their 5G Plus to reach parts of 30 cities before mid-year. 5G will emerge overtime, but it is not currently reliable enough to send alarm signals to central stations.


The wireless industry began shifting to 5G technology to deliver data at incredibly fast speeds. Speeds so fast that people will be able to download entire movies in seconds. In order to attain the high promised speeds, 5G must rely on millimeter wavelength frequency spectrum.

Unfortunately, millimeter wavelength bands presently have two distinct drawbacks as it pertains to alarm signal transmission:

  • They do not penetrate buildings well, if at all.
  • They do not travel as far as bands used in 4G technology.

The solution for a more robust 5G network is building more, closer cells, which will likely only be cost effective in heavily populated areas. 5G networks currently exist as small “islands” of coverage in a relative handful of cities, with 5G signal available for a block or two and disappearing once you move out of range of the small cell or go indoors.

Fire alarm and security signals need consistent and penetrable coverage in order to communicate alarm signals. The current coverage and technological shortfalls of 5G transmissions are not sufficient for alarm signals.


When it comes to alarm communications and other critical services requiring an extensive and reliable communication network, the marketing of 5G technology is far ahead of the reality when it comes to 5G-service availability. 4G LTE is reliable to transmit alarm signals from subscriber’s premises to their central station and carriers are expecting the 4G LTE network to remain intact until, at least, the end of the decade. The current 5G rollout is working on the 4G/LTE platform.

Although 5G-technology is not ready to provide reliable coverage for alarm signals, eventually 5G will benefit many alarm subscribers. 5G technology has the ability to greatly reduce latency or the time it takes for devices to communicate with one another. This should allow for signals to communicate faster, potentially reducing the amount of time needed to notify the appropriate parties about an alarm or trouble condition.

Perhaps a complete move to 5G will eventually be inevitable but not until the wireless carriers have their networks fully deployed. Until then, 4G/LTE will remain the best technology for alarm communication.

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