What is 5G?

Everyone's talking about 5G, and it's not too far away. So, what is it? Read on.

12 Apr 2018

5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks, and it’s expected to be up and running by 2020. It's going to make surfing and streaming faster than ever, and will change our online lives for the better, But before we delve even deeper, let’s start at the beginning…


What is 5G?

A new generation of mobile networks has been introduced roughly every 10 years since 1G in 1981. 2G appeared in 1991, 3G in 2001 and 4G was standardised in 2012.

5G is expected to succeed 4G in the next couple of years, and will connect us to the whole 'internet of things', not just our mobile devices. And it’ll make us feel like we’re always connected, whether we’re in a city centre or half way up a mountain. For 5G to do all this for us, it’s going to have to be a lot faster than 4G. But that’s not a problem.


How fast will 5G be?

4G’s download speeds are roughly the same as fibre-optic home broadband, at around 30-40Mbps. 5G will go well beyond that.

It's expected that 5G will be 100 times faster than 4G. Fast enough to download a HD film almost instantly, in other words.

5G is also expected to have a capacity 1000 times greater than 4G, which should ensure there’s never a drop in 5G download speeds, no matter how many users are connected at the same time.

And because 5G will also offer ultra-low latency (response time), everything’s going to happen almost instantaneously. This could have a huge impact on healthcare, with remote surgery becoming a real possibility.

When is 5G coming?

5G should be available worldwide by 2020, but some places are likely to be ahead of the game.

China and Japan are amongst the countries playing a leading role in developing 5G, and are expected to roll the technology out some time next year. Indeed 5G, has already debuted in South Korea at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, enabling such things as driverless buses and 5G-cameras which were able to provide video from the point of view of bobsledders. It also let spectators quickly send photos and videos back to their friends - a real taste of things to come.

As for when 5G will be available in the UK, Ofcom (the telecommunications regulator) has set its sights on 2020, though EE has already carried out a successful trial. Later this year, there will be a 'spectrum auction' where the networks will bid for bandwidth.


2020 and beyond...

5G is going to have a huge impact on all areas of our lives. But here’s the tough thing about predicting the future with 5G – we don’t know what it’s capable of yet.

With this kind of technology far in advance of what’s gone before, it may need to be up and running for a while before we work out exactly what it can do for us. The most popular 5G products of 2030 might not even have been thought of yet.

Are you excited about the possibilities of 5G? Let us know below. One thing's for sure, technology is moving so fast right now, and soon, so too will the technology itself.

Related in Mobile

11 things to do with your old phone

04 Jan 2022

What’s so great about Microsoft Duo 2?

02 Dec 2021

Our gift guide for phone fans

16 Nov 2021

6 things we love about Pixel 6

04 Nov 2021

Which iPhone 13 is right for you?

01 Nov 2021