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A Guide to Everything 5G

What is 5G?

5G, as the name suggests is the fifth generation mobile network which aims to deliver internet connectivity up to 100 times faster than it’s 4G predecessor while also making improvements in reliability and capacity.

How fast is 5G?

5G is a considerable upgrade in terms of speeds, as it can deliver downloads at 1Gbps (1000Mbps) from the outset, with even greater speeds to come as the technology is developed in the coming months and years. 

While these headline speeds sound exciting, there are a number of factors that could lead to you experiencing less than what’s being discussed. The device(s) you are using is one potentially limiting factor, as is the number of people on the network at the same time.  That being said, as these factors also play a part on 4G networks, it’s safe to assume we will see a considerable speed upgrade when 5G is fully deployed.

To give this speed some context you could download a 5GB film in roughly 40 seconds, compared to roughly 8 minutes over a 4G connection.

When is 5G coming to the UK?

It’s widely anticipated that the major mobile networks in the UK will begin their 5G rollouts throughout 2019, with many of them completing tests on the technology in 2018.  The table below is where each network provider has so far pledged to deliver 5G this year, with each promising further locations to come in 2020.  Three have yet to confirm their first locations but have revealed that they are planning to invest over £2 billion in the technology.

Vodafone EE O2
Greater Manchester London London
Bristol Edinburgh Edinburgh
Cardiff Cardiff Cardiff
Liverpool Belfast Belfast
Birmingham Glasgow  
Glasgow Newcastle  
London Liverpool  
Birkenhead Leeds  
Blackpool Hull  
Bournemouth Sheffield  
Guildford Nottingham  
Portsmouth Coventry  
Plymouth Bristol  
Reading    
Stoke-on-Trent    
Warrington    
Wolverhampton    
Newbury    

What technology does 5G use?

5G will use similar, though not identical, technology to what is currently being used in 4G networks.  The antennas tend to have a smaller range, so their deployment will be more widespread, but they tend to be more subtle that the big network masts we are used to.  5G also utilises previously untapped frequencies and spectrums, which we will unpack later in this blog.

Is 5G dangerous?

There is an ongoing discussion between Telecommunications providers, health officials and the Government around the safety of 5G networks.  The main area of concern stems from the fact that as the high frequencies used in 5G networks travel shorter distances, more masts are needed. While, as explained above, these masts are more subtle, some argue that the radiation they emit could be considered harmful. 

While the Government’s position is that 5G networks are entirely safe, a group of more than 200 scientists have appealed to the UN for greater efforts in minimising the exposure to the electromagnetic fields around these masts.

What’s the difference between 4G and 5G?

The earlier part of this blog covered the big speed difference between the two technologies, but there are also differences in terms of latency and capacity. 5G networks have lower latency and greater capacity, along with greater speed, resulting in an all-round better experience than on 4G.

Latency

Latency refers to the delay between you asking your device to do something and the network being able to deliver on that demand; the higher the latency, the slower your experience will be.

On existing 4G networks there is a latency of approximately 40 milliseconds, whereas 5G’s target on mobile devices is 4 milliseconds, creating a near instantaneous response.

Capacity

5G also has greatly improved capacity, thanks to its ability to access millimetre wave, amongst other frequencies.  Accessing these new frequencies and spectrums means that 5G is far more capable of handling simultaneous requests.  On 4G, if there is a large amount of traffic, usually caused by other people trying to use the same network, then you will notice a significant drop in the performance of your network.  5G, avoids many of these problems thanks to its vastly improved capacity.

Which Mobile Phones are 5G ready?

There are currently only a few mobile phones available which can take full advantage of 5G technology. The headliners include Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G and the Huawei Mate X, but we should expect to see all of the major mobile phone manufacturers including 5G compatibility in their upcoming releases.

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