5G is expected to become widely available in the UK by around 2020 but the tech is at a very early stage.
Ofcom will begin auctioning off bands of the UK’s wireless spectrum later this year – allowing companies to stake their claim on the waves that will eventually become the 5G network.
O2 believe that just six years after rollout begins, a national 5G infrastructure will contribute £7 billion directly into the UK economy. A further £3 billion could come indirectly through the secondary supply chain.
This is in keeping with the results of a European Commission study which predicts 5G networks will deliver an economic benefit of €113 billion and over 2 million new jobs across Europe.
5G networks will be able to deliver speeds over 10 times higher than the current 4G mobile broadband standard as well as being able to support a substantially higher volume of connections.
Predicted speeds for 5G range from a 50Mbps country-wide service to a collossal 10Gbps speed in built-up city areas.
If these speeds can actually be achieved, mobile broadband could be a much faster option than fixed line fibre broadband in many areas across the UK – both rural and urban.
With the Internet of Things and connected homes about to break into the mainstream, more and more devices are being sold that need an internet connection. Building the 5G infrastructure to support this wave of demand will be vital in the coming years.
The numbers are indeed impressive, but let’s not forget that 5G doesn’t even exist yet.
The official standards for the architecture and technology of 5G are still under development so it’s unclear if the lofty ambitions set out for 5G can even be reached.
Fibre broadband is already well into its rollout phase. Widespread, ultrafast 1Gbps connections may still be a way off but fibre speeds around 30Mbps are available to the majority of UK households.
But the benefits of 5G will be about more than just speed. Analysts are keeping a close eye on the benefits for investors, too.
Mark Evans, CEO of O2, says in the report: “5G promises a much quicker return on investment than fibre broadband, and a range of unprecedented benefits: from telecare health applications to smarter cities to more seamless public services.”
Until the true capabilities of 5G are revealed it’s probably best not to get too excited.
Without any finalised technology or standards, it’s hard to see O2’s study as much more than lofty claims to encourage investment.