What is 5G and how do I get it?

Thursday, 20 April, 2017

5G is the fifth generation of mobile networking technology, slated to become commercially available by 2020.

The first generation, now known as 1G, began in the 1980s with the first wave of mobile phones. We’ve come a long way since then, but 5G could be the biggest leap in performance yet.

A new generation of mobile network is not defined by an advancement in any specific technology.

They’re instead characterised by a network being able to reach certain goals in speed and connectivity.

5G will be really, really fast

According to the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance, 5G will be achieved when a network delivers:

  1. 1Gbps minimum data speeds
  2. 99.999% availability
  3. 90% reduction in energy consumption
  4. 10Gbps speeds in built-up city areas
  5. 1ms round-trip latency
  6. 100x higher connection capacity than 4G
  7. 100% coverage

Guide: What is latency and how does it kill fast internet?

The theoretical maximum bandwidth of 4G is 1Gbps. But because of signal interference and network overcrowding, users are unlikely to reach anything close to that speed.

The standards laid out for 5G specifically demand real-world speeds and not the theoretical maximums.

This means that 5G networks would allow speeds up to 100 times faster than even the best 4G connections currently available.

5G will make multiplayer mobile gaming

A latency of 1ms would make for delay-free video calls and enhanced capabilities for multiplayer mobile gaming.

What is 5G and how do I get it?

The current options for multiplayer mobile gaming are pretty poor – especially when compared to their PC and console counterparts.

Multiplayer games hold a huge stake of the gaming market, which mobile developers have struggled to tap into due to the latency issues presented by 3G and 4G. If a 1ms latency can be reached, 5G could allow mobile developers to compete with some of the biggest multiplayer games around.

What is 5G and how do I get it? 1

The true benefits of 5G really come into play with the goal of greatly increased connection capacity.

5G will open up IoT

More and more devices are being created with some kind of internet capability and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Nowadays we have smart watches, smart speakers, smart heating and even smart fridges. It won’t be long until every new appliance and gadget is going to require an internet connection.

It is predicted that there will be 50-100 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020.

If network infrastructure can’t keep up with this explosion in the number of devices trying to connect, there simply won’t be enough internet to go around.

Implementation of 5G will be a vital to the stability of this massive network, known as IoT, or the Internet of Things.

But I don’t even have 4G yet

4G has had a pretty slow rollout, especially in the UK where the average user can connect to a 4G network in less than 50 percent of cases.

Some of this may come down to the fact that 4G doesn’t represent much of an upgrade over 3G.

It is faster, but it isn’t fast enough to allow for truly demanding tasks like video conference calling. In the eyes of many network operators, the costs of applying 4G don’t always justify the benefits.

5G will be a big step up, allowing new possibilities for innovation in business and industry.

Experts predict that 5G will give a massive boost to the productivity and economy of connected areas – representing a potential £10 billion a year improvement to the UK’s economy.

Related: BT hit with record £42m fine for terrible broadband performance

So how do I get 5G?

The truth is, 5G is still a long way off.

Official technological standards haven’t been agreed on as companies around the world are still in the process of collaboration and innovation. But proposed 5G technologies are being trialled for early-adopters in the US and Japan.

In the UK, Samsung and Arqiva are collaborating to test their 5G network in areas of central London later in 2017.

It is predicted that by 2020, 5G will be standardised and ready for the consumer market. Businesses and metropolitan areas are likely to see the first of the 5G network which means a large scale rollout is still a long way off.

When it does finally come around, you’ll need a device that supports a 5G connection. Obviously, these don’t exist just yet.

There’s no rush to upgrade either – 5G will be backwards compatible with 4G and 3G devices, so an older phone will still work perfectly fine in 5G areas.

It is likely that the possibilities granted by an expansive 5G network and a complete Internet of Things haven’t been fully realised yet.

If 5G even comes close to what is being promised, the internet could revolutionise society yet again.

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Samuel Newman author picture


Samuel Newman is a consumer journalist and blogger based in Sheffield.