5G is the fifth generation of mobile network. Since the release of 4G, there has been a significant amount of growth in data and connectivity, and new technologies, such as smartwatches and internet-connected cars; 5G has been designed to meet this growing demand.
As 5G continues to develop, it is expected to be revolutionary in relation to the Internet of Things; smart cities, for example, will be able to utilise 5G technology to have more devices working, reliably, securely and uninterrupted in the same area.
How does 5G work?
5G will use millimetre waves broadcast at higher frequencies than 4G. Since these kinds of waves struggle to move through solid objects, 5G will also utilise small cells – smaller base stations that can be placed about every 250m throughout dense urban areas, providing better coverage.
These base stations will run at full duplex, allowing them to transmit and receive data on the same frequency simultaneously. They will also use massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology. This means that 5G base stations will be able to use dozens of antennas to talk to multiple different wireless devices at once rather than quickly switching between them.
What is the difference between 4G and 5G?
At its simplest level, 5G will be smarter, faster and more efficient than its predecessors. There are 3 key areas of difference between 4G and 5G: speed, latency and capacity.
Mobile speed will see a significant improvement with 5G, which will produce a quicker and more reliable performance. Media streaming, for example, will be much quicker, with reduced buffering and lagging. For reference, 5G is predicted to achieve download speeds of 10Gbps, compared to 4G's maximum download speed of 300Mbps.
Latency is the time that passes from the moment information is sent from a device until it can be used by the receiver. 5G will look to reduce this latency time compared to 4G. Currently, 4G has a latency of 50 milliseconds, while 5G's latency stands at 1 millisecond. This will contribute to the improved speed, as you won't need to wait for your 5G devices to respond to your commands.
5G's improved latency will also help with new technologies which rely on mobile networks. For example, self-driving cars will benefit from improved latency, due to the need to respond to inputs and changes in situation immediately.
Another benefit of 5G is its increased capacity – this refers to the amount of traffic that a network can handle at any given time. Current generations of mobile network use radio waves to transfer data, but 5G will use higher frequencies to do so. This will result in larger bandwidths, providing more capacity to use data.
On top of this, 5G's high frequencies will mean it can be used next to other wireless signals without interference, allowing 5G to work well in high-traffic, crowded areas.
How fast is 5G?
For many people, speed is one of the most important features of the latest mobile network, so just how fast is 5G technology?
Just as with previous generations, the speed of your 5G will partly depend on the network you use and your location. Some networks have already provided predicted download speeds; EE, for example, says to expect average speeds of around 130-240Mbps, with peak speeds reaching 1Gbps. Vodafone's predictions are in the same ballpark, estimating average speeds of around 150-200Mbps.
Networks have been relatively quiet about upload speeds, however, the general consensus is that upload speeds will eventually reach up to 1Gbps. Of course, this kind of speed won't be available immediately. Typically, upload speeds will average around half that of download speeds; based on this, average upload speeds will lie around 65-120Mbps.
When will we get 5G?
5G has actually been available in the UK since May 2019, with EE being the first network to launch the service. Since then, other networks have released 5G in selected towns and cities. It is thought that widespread availability of 5G is expected by 2025.
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