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How 5G will change how you connect with the world


5G is here, and despite the best efforts of some loons who are intent on burning down some masts, it is here to stay. And will soon become the backbone of all our connectivity from our mobile phones to home broadband to the internet of Things (IoT) – 5G will power it all.

What is 5G?

5G is more a collection of technologies than one single element, but in essence it is the next generation of mobile connectivity that has already started to roll out around the world and here in the UK. The technology will give us much faster upload and download speeds (up to 100Mbps), significantly lower latency (down to 1-3ms), and the capacity for many more devices to connect to the network (up to a million devices per square kilometre)

How does it work?

5G works over three frequency bands – low, mid, and high, all of which have different uses within the technology specifications.

Low-band (<1GHz) spectrum offers great coverage and wall penetration for connectivity, but data speeds will top out at around 100Mbps, whilst the other frequencies can achieve many times that speed (at least in theory).

Mid-band spectrum is where 5G will deliver on its promise of higher speeds (up to 1Gbps) and lower latency, but it does not penetrate buildings as well.

High-band spectrum (mmWave) delivers the highest performance speeds of up to 10Gbps and can deliver latency of just 1ms, but also has the downside of a low coverage area and poor building penetration.

How will 5G be used?

As home users, most people will first see the impact of 5G in the additional download and upload speeds they will see when using a 5G-ready mobile phone compared to a 4G model, but the other effects are far more transformative. The additional speeds means that 5G will replace many people’s home broadband connections, which means no more cables or needing to get BT Open Reach out whenever something goes wrong and that changing providers is as simple as changing the SIM card in your 5G router.

Beyond our personal internet connections 5G will also allow for the development of the IoT, as it allows for devices to switch from connection to low power mode within a few milliseconds – something that will save significant amounts of battery life for small connected devices.

In the transport system, 5G will also help driverless cars, as they will be able to talk to each other with <5ms latency, which is short enough for their onboard computers to work out what is going on and the best way to address the situation. Smarter cars will mean safer roads and more efficient use of capacity.

How will 5G roll out?

Whilst 4G was mostly about a speed boost beyond 3G, 5G is a generational change but luckily interoperability has been part of the plan from the start. Thanks to something called an IP Exchange (IPX), the roll-out of 5G should be seamless, with users on other technologies (such as 3G, 4G, or broadband) should all be able to connect wit 5G devices without issue. And once you upgrade to a 5G phone or home router, you will be able to start seeing the differences immediately.

Photograph by Teono 123 No

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