It’s been the buzz-word for so long but since it’s launch on 30th May 2019, has the 5G roll-out in the UK hit the spot we were all hoping it would? At first it was only available in the six major cities; London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast or Edinburgh but since then, it’s been rolled out in over 50 towns and cities across the UK.
But it’s still not available for everyone. Plus, those that can get 5G in their area must be willing to pay a one-off fee for a compatible handset. And contract prices, whilst not extortionate, can be costly too.
EE were the first network to launch 5G but there is now rivalry from other networks like Vodafone, Three, O2, Sky Mobile & BT have all joined the 5G race. But as it’s still only in it’s infancy, why are we all so bothered? And why is 5G still the word on everyone’s lips?
WHY DO WE NEED IT?
To put it simply, the world is changing. Mobiles have become the future and as we chomp through data like there’s no tomorrow with the rise of video and music streaming, we need to cater for this.
Existing network bandwidth is too crowded, leading to breakdowns in service, especially in densely populated locations.
5G is much better at dealing with multiple devices simultaneously than 4G has ever been and that’s why there’s a huge push to bring it to the public sphere. A BBC source suggests that 5G will be able to simultaneously support more than a million devices per sq km (0.4 sq miles), which annihilates the near 60,000 that 4G can cope with at any one time.
But in order to do this, antennas will be needed. Everywhere. And not just antennas, thousands upon thousands of sensors to capture data that will in turn, allow those with the need-to-know, gain deeper, more intelligent data insights about consumers, goods, services and members of the public. Now that’s smart. But we’re not there yet.
How Fast Is Fast?
The truth is, pretty fast. Download speeds are expected to overshadow the 300Mbit/s offered by 4G in a big way. 5G is promising to offer speeds in excess of 1Gb/s (1000Mbit/s), with many estimates placing it closer to 10Gb/s (10000Mbit/s). Tests carried out prior to the launch by EE have delivered consistent results of 2.8Gbps.
To put this into perspective, this means it would take around 10 minutes to download a full HD film using 4G. With 5G, this could take less than 10 seconds … that’s 100x faster, and that’s no joke.
But that’s just the start. The communications watchdog Ofcom suggests that 5G could offer speeds of 20Gbps in the future. But for now, the lines only have a total capacity of 10Gbps, and this must be shared around, so speeds aren’t likely to reach those figures for some time. Still, it’s an improvement on 4G and it’s potential is phenomenal.
At the moment, in areas where 5G is available, networks are consistently reporting speeds of around 200Mbps (versus around 15-20Mbps on 4G devices). And this is likely to improve as 5G development ramps up throughout the year.
But it’s not just speed that will be affected. There’s also the small matter of latency. Wait time, buffering, lag, load time – whatever you call it, it all means the same, the delay between instruction and transfer of data. 5G has been predicted to have latency of one millisecond or less. Compare that with the 20-70 milliseconds offered by current network 4G and you can see why that’s a big deal.
5G is nowhere near that kind of sophistication yet, but it will be.
5G is the start of a very exciting time for current generations and generations to come. Increased speeds, limitless uses and the potential to make everything we do smarter, more efficient and more productive, can only be a good sign.
It will still take time to nail it, but once the networks get a hold of the functionality and uses of this next-gen technology, the possibilities really are endless. Watch this space ….
If you want to discuss 5G, it’s roll-out and the business benefits it can offer you, get in touch with one of our experts who can guide you through the launch and help you make the most of the next-generation of technology.
Updated January 31st 2020.