5G's here to bring supersonic speeds to your phone! Which means better streaming without the buffering, faster video downloads and seamless lag-free gaming. When we say faster, we're talking minimum download speeds of 10-50 gbps (gigabits per second) - as much as 10x faster than 4G. You could download a full HD movie in seconds.
5G is now available on Vodafone, EE and O2
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Let's start with the basics. 5G stands for fifth generation – that is, the fifth generation of mobile network technology. In the same way 4G was a step up from 3G data, 5G represents the next step for internet on your phone.
That said, 5G and 4G operate in different ways. While 4G uses several large, high-power cell towers that radiate signals over long distances, 5G uses a large number of smaller cell stations instead. These multiple small cells are scattered throughout the country, placed on things like light poles and building roofs.
Why the change? It’s all to do with how 5G works.
Still, all this means is that 5G will deliver faster network speeds, a faster connection and increased network capacity compared to 4G. The benefits of 5G include:
- Faster data download and upload speeds
- More responsive wireless networks
- Low latency (that’s a shorter lag time between a device pinging the network and getting a response)
- More stable, precise connections
- Wider coverage
So, exactly how fast is the 5G data speed? Well, in short, it’s really fast.
Here’s the longer answer: In a test environment, 5G delivered download speeds of 1Tbps (Terabit per second). In reality, 5G is expected to deliver a minimum download speed of 10-50 Gbps (Gigabits per second).
In comparison, 4G can only offer a maximum of about 300Mps (Megabits per second), although on average, you’ll find your access tops out at 20Mbps. This makes 5G as much as 1000x faster than 4G and means you could download a full HD movie in a matter of seconds.
Keep in mind that the speed you’ll have access to will depend on what your chosen mobile network operator can offer.
For mobile internet, networks use a radio spectrum that’s broken into bands of different frequencies. 4G networks use frequencies below 6 GHz while 5G uses frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. This new, higher-frequency radio spectrum is called the ‘millimetre waves spectrum’ and is needed for the high speeds that 5G wants to offer.
The problem is, this high frequency wavelength can only travel over short distances, with things like the weather or physical objects likely to disrupt the signal. For 5G to work properly, thousands of strategically placed antennas will be needed – each with a clear, direct line of sight between itself and the device it’s trying to connect to it. Sounds like a tall order to us - it’s no wonder the 5G rollout is expected to happen over the course of years, rather than months.
5G could have massive benefits in areas like remote surgery, haptic feedback, self-driving cars, enhanced drones and virtual and augmented reality. In the immediate term, some of the things 5G could do include:
- Better streaming, without constant buffering
- Faster video download speeds
- A more seamless gaming experience (goodbye lag!)
- Seamless multi-way video calling
- Faster file transfer speeds
- Consistently strong signals
Over time, as manufacturers and network operators continue to explore the new technology, 5G could bring super-fast, fibre-like speeds with extremely low latency to every location in the world.
What UK Networks are Offering?
Three out of four operators have confirmed where they intend to roll out 5G in this initial run. As you might expect, they’re targeting areas with a high population first.
Here’s a breakdown below:
- EE 5G has rolled out in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester and London over summer 2019, and will in a further 10 cities by the end of the year.
- O2 5G is now available in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and London with more cities being added.
- Vodafone 5G has rolled out in 7 initial cities: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester, with a further 12 planned before the end of the year.
There’s no word yet as to when Virgin Mobile’s 5G offering will launch, and iD Mobile’s 5G launch hasn’t been confirmed yet either.