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What is 5G? Everything you need to know

What is 5G?

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before.

Combining cutting-edge network technology and the very latest research, 5G should offer connections that are multitudes faster than current connections, with average download speeds of around 1GBps expected to soon be the norm.

The networks will help power a huge rise in Internet of Things technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data, allowing for a smarter and more connected world.

With development well underway, 5G networks are expected to launch across the world by 2020, working alongside existing 3G and 4G technology to provide speedier connections that stay online no matter where you are.

When will 5G launch?

– 5G technology is expected to officially launch across the world by 2020

– The US, China and South Korea are expected to be some of the first nations to install full 5G networks, with others including the UK not far behind

– Many companies are busy making sure their networks and devices are ‘5G ready’ in time for 2020, meaning some networks may launch before then

5G – the latest news

09/03 – NETWORKSOfcom plans new rural coverage obligations for 700MHz spectrumOfcom says 700MHz is an important opportunity to improve rural coverage as it plans for 5G future…

05/03 – NETWORKSEU Parliament and US Congress take steps to accelerate 5G legislationEU chambers reach provisional agreement while US Congress to vote on spectrum auction…

05/03 – DEVICESHTC CEO: 5G will turn any VR device into the most powerful in the worldCher Wang says the smartphone still has a role to play in VR…

03/03 – NETWORKSQualcomm hopes 5G vision will stand out from the hypeQualcomm’s influence in the industry is significant, so its 5G roadmap is worth listening too…

02/03 – NETWORKSBT CEO: EE convergence even more important ahead of 5GGavin Patterson says BT never really left mobile and is preparing for converged network era…

28/02 – NETWORKSIntel and NTT DoCoMo prepare 5G plans for Tokyo 2020 OlympicsAfter success at PyeongChang 2018, Intel is stepping up plans for next Olympics…

27/02 – NETWORKSSatellite-supported UK 5G testbed will trial mission critical appsJuniper Networks and Satellite Applications Catapult say satellite cannot be ignored…

27/02 – MOBILEQualcomm looks to make it easier to make 5G phonesLaunch will help OEMs build 5G connectivity into more devices…

27/02 – NETWORKSOfcom confirms six bidders for 5G spectrumAll four mobile operators have been approved, with small cell operator and Hull fixed wireless firm joining…

27/02 – NETWORKSEricsson tells operators: 5G is readyEricsson has agreements with 38 operators around the world as 5G moves from idea to reality…

27/02 – PRODUCTSGet ready for a 5G Internet of the SkyDrones like the Ehang 184 will usher in a 5G-powered autonomous airspace…

26/02 – NETWORKSCisco targets mobile operators with ‘5G Now’Cisco wants to help operators prepare for the next era of networks…

25/02 – MOBILEHuawei reveals 5G-ready modemTest beds for 5G networks will be launched this year, Huawei reveals…

23/02 – NETWORKSWhy PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics are a 5G milestoneAthletes are making history at the Winter Olympics, but it’s an important event for 5G networks too…

22/02 – NETWORKSO2 reveals UK 5G test bedOperator will test 5G applications at iconic London venue later this year…

19/02 – NETWORKSVodafone and Huawei successfully test IP Microwave backhaul for 5GVodafone and Huawei achieve 2Gbps on IP microwave link, claiming it shows the tech is viable for 5G…

16/02 – NETWORKSWhy startups and research can make the UK a 5G leaderDoes the UK really need to be first to the mark or be an industry powerhouse to be a 5G leader?

16/02 – OPINIONNo time to waste now 5G legal challenges are overFor an industry keen to avoid a repeat of the 3G and 4G auctions, Three’s failed appeal removes a barrier to 5G…

14/02 – MOBILEFiber-like internet and a glimpse of our 5G future are coming to smartphones in 2019Qualcomm’s new mobile modem offering speeds of up to 2Gbps…

14/02 – NETWORKS5G spectrum auction to go ahead after Three’s legal challenge failsThree’s bid to decrease an overall spectrum cap falls on deaf ears and prevents further delay…

12/02 – NETWORKSChina Mobile plans 5G launch in 2019China Mobile joins a select few number of operators planning to beat original 2020 target…

08/02 – MOBILEThe first 5G smartphones are coming in 2019But you won’t see 5G service everywhere by next year…

07/02 – MOBILE5G set to push mobile data use sky-highGiffgaff research estimates customers will use nearly 100GB of mobile data a month by 2025…

05/01 – NETWORKSATT set to run 5G trialsCompany to adopt new 3GPP guidelines as it continues push for next-generation networks…

04/01 – NETWORKSSamsung teams up with Verizon on 5GNew service to be launched in Sacramento later this year…

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What will 5G networks mean for me?

  • Faster download and upload speeds
  • Smoother streaming of online content 
  • Higher-quality voice and video calls 
  • More reliable mobile connections
  • Greater number of connected IoT devices 
  • An expansion of advanced technologies – including self-driving cars and smart cities

How fast will 5G be?

It’s still not exactly known how much faster 5G will be than 4G, as much of the technology is still under development.

That being said, the networks should provide a significant upgrade to current download and upload speeds – with the GSMA proposing minimum download speeds of around 1GBps.

Most estimates expect the average speed of 5G networks to reach 10Gb/s, and some even think transfer rates could reach a whopping 800Gb/s.

This would mean that users could download a full-length HD quality film in a matter of seconds, and that downloading and installing software upgrades would be completed much faster than today.

Will I be able to get 5G networks on my phone?

Existing smartphones, tablet or other devices that were released when 4G networks were the standard may not be able to connect to 5G to begin with, or may incur extra costs to do so. 

However following the 2020 deadline for the initial rollout, we should soon see devices coming with 5G connection as default.

Don’t worry though – although 5G should represent a major step up from current 4G and 3G networks, the new technology won’t immediately replace its predecessor – at least, not to begin with.

Instead, 5G should link in with existing networks to ensure users never lose connection, with the older networks acting as back-up in areas not covered by the new 5G coverage.

So-called “4.5G” networks (also known as LTE-A) are set to fill the gap for the time being, offering connections that are faster than current 4G networks, although only certain countries such as South Korea can benefit from them right now.

Once launched however, implementing 5G may be a slower process. Much like the gradual takeover of 4G networks from the previous generation, existing network infrastructure may need to be upgraded or even replaced in order to deal with the new technology, and homes and businesses may also need to get new services installed.

It’s not yet known how 5G networks will take over from existing networks, but again, much like the rollout of 4G, you may not be able to immediately connect to the new networks without upgrading your technology.

What will a 5G network need?

The GSMA has outlined eight criteria for 5G networks, with a connection needing meet a majority of these in order to qualify as 5G:

  • 1-10Gbps connections to end points in the field (i.e. not theoretical maximum)
  • 1 millisecond end-to-end round trip delay (latency) 
  • 1000x bandwidth per unit area
  • 10-100x number of connected devices 
  • (Perception of) 99.999 per cent availability 
  • (Perception of) 100 per cent coverage
  • 90 per cent reduction in network energy usage 
  • Up to 10 year battery life for low power, machine-type devices 
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