5G is a term you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about in the near future. The fifth-generation of mobile internet connectivity promises to be much faster for data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and provide a more stable connection.
So, what is 5G?
5G is short for fifth generation mobile networks. And that’s literally what it is – the fifth generation of mobile networks. But it’s set to be far faster than previous generations, and unlike 4G it is rumoured that it could open up whole new use cases for mobile data.
The 1st generations of mobile networks started back in the 1980’s, gradually upgrading to what we now know and recognise as 4G. 4G networks and phones were designed to support mobile internet and higher speeds for activities like video streaming and gaming. But with the soon to be introduced 5G, networks are changing again.
When will we get 5G?
The UK rollout isn’t set to begin until late 2019 or 2020, according to the government’s 5G strategy and statements from network operators. Even then, that’s just when networks will start to roll out 5G, so we might not see widespread 5G coverage in the UK until 2022 or later.
Because the amount of spectrum available is finite, it has to be allocated. Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has begun a 5G spectrum auction to help cope with demand. This auction will see 40MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band and 150MHz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz band auctioned off, with the former being useable now and the latter being earmarked for 5G use.
Will 5G make a difference?
Whatever we do now with our smartphones we’ll be able to do faster and better with 5G. Currently top-end 4G networks, can deliver peak download speeds of 300Mbit/s. By comparison, 5G promises to offer speeds in excess of 1Gb/s (1000Mbit/s), with many estimates placing it closer to 10Gb/s (10000Mbit/s). That means with 5G you will be able to download, not just stream, a full HD movie in less than 10 seconds on a 5G network. The same task would take closer to 10 minutes on a standard 4G network.
5G is predicted to bring features such as augmented and virtual reality to the mainstream. With mobile gamers noticing less of a delay, becoming near instantaneous and glitch-free. Plus video calls should become clearer and less jerky, increasing overall user experience when out and about.
We’ll likely also see even more IoT devices such as phones, fridges and lights all connecting to one another. The Internet of Things is starting to take off anyway, but with the speed and capacity delivered by 5G we might one day see almost every device become ‘smart’ and connected.
Whilst there is a lot of buzz around 5G, not everything is set in stone yet. Standards are evolving, tests are ongoing, and phones are in the making. As 2020 gets closer you’ll be hearing a lot more about 5G and the benefits it can bring to your daily life.