According to numerology, the number “5” symbolizes freedom, curiosity, and change – a desire to have adventures and explore new possibilities. So let’s follow that logic and explore 5G cellular service and how it compares to fiber internet.  

Most people are delighted when they turn on their device’s Wi-Fi connection and see “5G.”  That means fast and dependable connectivity.  But is 5G the best solution for your in-home Wi-Fi and high-speed internet needs?  If you live in Estes Park, the answer is generally no because 5G cellular service is largely unavailable in the Estes Valley and does not provide the functional advantages of Fiber-to-the-Home Internet that currently exists through Trailblazer Broadband. 

You may have heard about 5G coming to town in the past. In 2022, Crown Castle and CDOT worked together on a year-long cell tower project to maintain a connection down the 20-mile stretch of US 36 between Estes Park and Lyons. This connection is extremely valuable for cell service and 911 accessibility through the canyon and parts of the Rocky Mountain National Park.  

Building a full 5G network would be the responsibility of cellular carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, etc., and 5G requires a fully functional fiber network before it can be built. Even then, setting up a 5G network in Estes Park will be extremely difficult since it would require fiber to every neighborhood. Although Trailblazer is deploying this type of Fiber-to-the-Home network, a cellular company would also have to install antennas within a maximum of 1000 feet from anywhere service is required.  There are no current plans for that type of cellular project, and many residents would likely be resistant to having cell towers erected throughout the town and residential areas. 

Sometimes confusion exists over the difference between 5G cellular and 5GHz Wi-Fi, so what is the difference really? 

Fundamentally, 5G and 5GHz technology utilize radio waves (electromagnetic radiation) to enable wireless communication. However, they use different radio wave technologies. Additionally, 5G and 5GHz stand for two different technologies.

5G is an abbreviation for the fifth generation of wireless cellular communication technology. 5G cellular—the replacement of 4G/LTE systems – utilizes relatively similar radio frequency (RF) bands as its cellular predecessors, plus a new radio (NR) frequency band not previously used for RF wireless communications. Like all cellular networks, it is susceptible to interference and traffic overloads similar to what Estes Park residents have often seen in the past during the summer high season.  

5GHz, on the other hand, is one of several operating frequency bands reserved for Wi-Fi. Most modern Wi-Fi routers offer two RF band options upon setup – 2.4GHz and 5GHz. 2.4GHz Wi-Fi is better at providing internet over long distances and through solid surfaces, but 5GHz Wi-Fi signals have lower latency and higher internet speeds than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. Both of these frequencies are utilized by Trailblazer Broadband Wi-Fi service.  

Aside from being different technologies, there are several differences between 5G and 5GHz capabilities. Generally, 5G cellular capabilities are far faster than 5GHz, but each has its own value and use cases.

5G cellular technology occupies three different frequency bands, and the range and quality of these signals vary greatly.  For example, low band 5G frequencies can only reach internet speeds of 50 to 250 Mbps. High band 5G frequencies can reach theoretical speeds of up to 20 Gbps (1,000 Mbps = 1 Gbps) and support hundreds of devices; however, these high band frequencies are rarely available outside of large metropolitan areas. In comparison, wired fiber internet can reliably provide between 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps symmetrically for both upload and download speeds for multiple devices within a home or business. 

There are no plans to expand 5G cellular service across the Estes Valley at this time; however, most of the valley now has access to Trailblazer Broadband for fast, dependable internet through its 100% fiber optic lines.  Trailblazer is currently available to approximately 82 percent of the Estes Park Power and Communications service area. 

The performance advantages of fiber include: 

  • Fiber capacity is easily over 10,000 times that of a perfectly functioning 5G wireless network. 
  • A wired fiber is not susceptible to interference like wireless technologies. 
  • Fiber is not impacted by atmospheric and physical obstruction like 5G. 
  • Fiber is more secure than all wireless technologies. 
  • The data-carrying capacity of fiber is, for all practical purposes, virtually unlimited. 
  • Fiber has symmetrical speeds, so its uploads are as fast as downloads.

The bottom line is that fiber remains the go-to connection type for extremely fast and reliable internet in Estes Valley. By having the foresight to build a fiber-optic infrastructure for Trailblazer Broadband, the Town of Estes Park is able to offer internet service with Wi-Fi included at significantly better speed, reliability, and latency (speeds for loading data) than ever before, which negates the need for 5G cellular in and around the community and outshines any satellite alternative that is currently available. 



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