24 May 2019

Here comes 5G

The fifth generation of mobile networks, 5G, will follow its predecessors 2G, 3G and 4G by being faster and more reliable.


How does it work?

All wireless communications use radio frequencies. 5G will use a higher radio frequency that is less cluttered and can carry information at a faster rate. The downside of using higher frequencies is they don’t travel as well over long distances as they are easily blocked by buildings and trees – this is why you may get 2G signal inside a building despite a great 4G signal outside.

To alleviate this issue, 5G employs multiple input and multiple output (or, MIMO) antennas and lots of small transmitters rather than single standalone mast. As well, capacity estimates suggest that 5G will support more devices per metre than 4G.


Benefits of 5G

The most advertised benefit of 5G is download rates, which is expected to reach speeds of 1,000Mbps (Megabits per second) and increase as it is improved over time. The very best 4G speeds can only reach 100Mbps, so there is already a good reason to want 5G for downloading.

A bigger advantage of 5G will be low latency. Latency is the delay it takes to send information from one point to the next, and the higher this value the worse your data speed will feel. Latency for 4G networks is typically 50ms, whereas 5G is expected to sit between 1ms and 10ms. This change will allow some new uses of mobile broadband, such as remote robotics and driver-less cars.


When will 5G come to the UK?

5G is ready to launch, with EE launching in Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester on 30th May 2019. Vodafone is the next network planning to roll out their 5G offering on the 3rd July 2019. Users on O2 and Three will need to wait to find out when 5G will be available.

As with 4G, the 5G rollout will start in highly populated areas. We are unlikely to see widespread 5G coverage until 2021 or later.


Future of 5G

With 5G you will be able to download movies in seconds or stream 4K without buffering. VR and augmented reality applications, improved by low latency, will enable advanced processing to be dealt with remotely rather than locally on devices.

A higher capacity will lead to an even greater uptake in IoT (Internet of Things) devices, with lights, cars, kettles and vacuums connecting to each other. One day we may hit a point where all devices become ‘smart’.