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What is 5G?

Vodafone and EE have started the rollout of 5G (5th Generation) technology across the UK, with o2 starting their rollout in October.  It will take time for them to upgrade every area, and, due to the increased number of masts (aerials) required, it may be slower to arrive in some more rural areas. In this blog, we look at what 5G is and how it compares to other mobile phone connectivity technologies.

 

A potted history of mobile phone technology and connectivity

Starting back in 1981, 1G (first generation) technology was born. This allowed mobile phones to make phone calls.

Roll on a few years, 2G (GPRS) connectivity appeared where a few more features were added: we were able to make calls and carry out simple text messaging.

Next 3G made its mark 2001. This was perhaps the biggest step forward for wireless technology. It introduced features what most of us have come to know and love: web-browsing, email, video downloading, picture sharing and other smartphone technologies.

In 2009 4G (LTE) was released that allowed people to wirelessly access the internet at much higher speeds. This level of mobile communication shaped the way we connect online today. The general claim is that 4G networks can download data at speeds between 5 and 12 megabytes per second – significantly faster than it’s 3G sibling.

What is 5G and what can we expect?

5G is the next iteration in mobile phone connectivity technology. It is expected to send and receive signals at speeds of 10-20 gigabytes per second (or possibly higher) – that’s almost instantaneous and makes it roughly 100x faster than 4g (typically 1 gigabit equals 125 megabytes). 5G is expected to be so fast, users will be able to download a full HD movie in less that five seconds. Yes five seconds! Additionally, 5G networks will help support and power a huge growth in the number of devices that we all connect to the internet, providing the infrastructure needed to process and carry extremely large amounts of data.

 

What is the benefit of 5G for me?

  • Faster upload and download speeds
  • Better quality streaming of online content (less latency)
  • Improved quality voice and video calls
  • Increased number of connected devices
  • Expansion of advanced technologies (smart cities and self-driving vehicles)

Will 5G be an immediate change?

Most mobile networks are saying they will roll out 5G in various cities by 2020, working alongside existing 3G and 4G technology to offer faster connections that help users stay online no matter where they are.  It may even be used during the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.

Even though 5G will be a massive step up from both 3G & 4G technology, it won’t immediately replace its predecessor. Full coverage is likely to be years, possibly decades away and will require significant investment. To put it in context, although 4G has been around for 10 years, not everywhere can get it even today. This means it’s very likely that 5G will work with existing network technologies to ensure that users never lose connection. Older networks will essentially act as back-ups in areas not covered by 5G.

If you are in a ‘sweet-spot’ when 5G arrives, you may be prompted to update your technology (like when 4G was released), so that it is capable of handling 5G technology. This could mean homes and businesses may need to get new hardware installed that can support the power of 5G. If this is the case, do get in touch with us so we can help you on your journey to 5G.