What is 5G? Everything you need to know.

14 November 2018

In October EE became the first network to trial 5G in the UK. We’re super-excited for our customers to experience the speed and new possibilities that 5G will bring.

So with 5G on its way, here’s what you need to know:

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks. It refers to what your phone can do when you’re connected to a data network.

To put 5G in perspective, 1G started out in the 80s when mobile phones were simply used for making calls. 2G appeared in the 90s, enabling you to send and receive texts and picture messages. The turn of the century saw the introduction of 3G, which let you connect to the internet on your phone. In 2012, EE became the first UK network to offer 4G in the UK. 4G does everything faster and smoother than 3G, which made it a much more reliable option for the advent of video calls, online gaming, content streaming and uploading rich content to social apps.

Why is 5G better than 4G?

The main advantage 5G has over 4G is greater capacity, which in turn means faster speeds. Remember how revolutionary 4G seemed when it replaced 3G and how great it felt not having to wait for what seemed like an eternity for a web page to load up? 5G is likely to have an even bigger impact.

The fastest 4G networks can deliver download speeds as high as 400Mbps (that’s megabits per second). 5G will break the 1Gbps barrier (the ‘Gb’ stands for gigabits, so that’s an incredible 1000Mbps). And in years to come it could reach 10Gbps.

As 5G develops, everything will be much quicker. Improved latency, where applications and devices using 5G will work almost instantaneously, means there’ll be no noticeable delay when loading webpages and videos, playing high-res games and launching apps.

The benefits of having such a miniscule delay reaches far beyond your phone too. In the future, we’re talking life-changing technology that could run on a 5G network, such as drone deliveries and self-driving cars.

That’s all to come, but the immediate benefits of 5G will be seen on your smartphone. 5G’s improved capacity means even when you’re in a crowd, at a music festival, or on a busy train, you’ll be able to connect quickly to the network. 

How does 5G work?

Whether you’re making a call, sending a text or connecting to the internet, all wireless communications take place over radio frequencies. 5G mainly uses higher frequencies than 4G – and these frequencies are faster and can carry more information. 5G will also support more devices – or SmartThings – being used at the same time.

A 5G network can also be ‘sliced’, which means operators like EE can ‘slice’ parts of the network and dedicate them to specific tasks. For example, one part of the network can be used for phones connecting to the internet and another part can be used for self-driving cars.

The radio frequencies are known as spectrum and there’s only a certain amount of it available, so the government auctioned off the spectrum for operators like EE to bid on. 

What does 5G look like? Give me some examples.

For most of us, and certainly to start with, the most noticeable advantage of using 5G will be the speed – faultless streaming, less lag in busy areas and a much more consistent and reliable overall mobile experience. Downloads will be faster. Video streams will start more quickly. Augmented reality will become the norm. And we’ll have more smart devices in our home keeping us connected all the time.

Only time will tell just what’s possible with 5G, but there’s already some big plans in place. As the technology develops further, expect to see self-driving cars and delivery drones using an always-on and immediate 5G network for navigation and control purposes. 

Sounds great! When will we get 5G in the UK?

5G trials are happening as we speak. EE will launch 5G in six cities in 2019: London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. Ten other cities will also see 5G arrive next year: Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.

Will I need a new phone to get 5G?

5G gives you a great excuse to buy a brand-new smartphone – you’ll need a 5G-capable smartphone to connect to the new network. We’ll see the first 5G-capable phones hit the shops next year in line with the network launch, with more brands joining in from there. 

See where 5G is coming to in 2019 >



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