What is 5G? Everything you need to know

null

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

16/05 - NETWORKS - Mobile IoT networks to be a 'core component' of 5G - GSMA says NB-IoT and LTE-M deployments are paving the way for massive IoT powered by 5G...

14/05 - NETWORKS - 5G and network convergence drives growth of carrier-grade Wi-Fi market - Fixed and mobile operators look to densify network infrastructure...

08/05 - PRODUCTS - Why self-driving vehicles could be the biggest winner in a 5G world - Telefónica tells us why autonomous vehicles are set to be a key 5G use case...

08/05 - NETWORKS - Verizon and Samsung get 5G regulatory boost - Verizon and Samsung make major headway towards 5G...

03/05 - NETWORKS - Deutsche Telekom holds live 5G NR trial in Berlin - German operator says test will see how 5G NR behaves in real world...

02/05 - ANALYSIS - Why T-Mobile and Sprint merger would give the US a 5G lead - A truly national 5G network could ensure the US retains its advantage...

01/05 - NETWORKS - Three futureproofs backend infrastructure for 5G - Three and SSE Enterprise Telecoms deal with start with data centre connectivity...

30/04 - NETWORKS - T-Mobile and Sprint merger promises 5G progress in the US - America's third and fourth largest mobile operators are to merge...

18/04 - NETWORKS - Huawei dampens 5G expectations - Huawei CEO says consumer might not notice the differences...

17/04 - NETWORKS - China has narrow lead over US in 5G race - Government support and industry momentum gives China slight advantage, report says...

16/04 - DEVICES - 5G anticipation set to slow smartphone sales - Manufacturers hope for 5G boost as worldwide smartphone demand slows...

13/04 - NETWORKS - What does the Ofcom 5G auction mean for the UK mobile industry? - The long-awaited auction is over, paving the way for 5G...so what next?

12/04 - NETWORKS - Vodafone hits major UK 5G milestone - Vodafone is first UK operator to test 3.4GHz spectrum in preparation for 5G...

09/04 - NETWORKS - Europe set be left behind in 5G race - US and Asia will lead the way in 5G development, claims report...

05/04 - NETWORKS - Mobile networks fork out £1.4bn for 5G spectrum - Ofcom publishes the results of its 5G spectrum auction, revealing that the UK's biggest mobile network operators spent almost £1.4 billion...

28/03 - NETWORKS - 'World's first' 5G public trial switched on in Australia - Australian telco Telstra flips the switch on the world's first public trial of 5G at the Gold Coast...

28/03 - NETWORKS - 5G RuralFirst looks at smart farming, spectrum sharing and broadcasting - Government funded project will use Cisco tech to help transform rural lives...

28/03 - POLICY - UK5G group makes bid for global 5G leadership - Government and industry backed UK5G looks to establish UK 5G community...

27/03 - NETWORKS - GSMA: 5G will be dominant mobile tech in USA by 2025 - Mobile industry body report shows US will be a 5G leader...

27/03 - NETWORKS - Telefonica tests tech that could boost 5G broadband - Telefonica spectral efficiency trials hope to pave the way for better fixed wireless access (FWA)... 

23/03 - NETWORKS - 5G networks are now just a year away - Korea Telecom plans commercial 5G launch next March...

20/03 - NETWORKS - UK 5G spectrum auction gets underway - Five bidders will battle it out for more of the UK's airwaves...

19/03 - NETWORKS - UK university makes major 5G breakthrough - University of Kent-based iCIRRUS consortium says Ethernet equipment can help deliver 5G networks...

16/03 - NETWORKS - O2 kickstarts the UK's 5G charm offensive to consumers - 5G hypetrain moves from industry into the mainstream...

15/03 - NETWORKS - Digital minister pledges to eliminate barriers to 5G deployment - Margot James says she wants to work with mobile operators and local government on 5G...

14/03 - NETWORKS - O2: 5G will save local councils and households £6bn a year - Report details how smart technologies powered by 5G can improve society...

12/03 - NETWORKS - Ofcom 5G spectrum auction will start next week - Ofcom confirms that bidding for 5G frequencies will begin on 20 March...

12/03 - NETWORKS - Government reveals £25m prize fund for UK 5G - £25m competition will see 5G testbeds located across the UK...

11/03 - DEVICES - 5G a key factor to seamless VR experience, says Lenovo EMEA President - Lenovo wants to create memorable experiences for its customers, but is that enough?

09/03 - NETWORKS - Ofcom plans new rural coverage obligations for 700MHz spectrum - Ofcom says 700MHz is an important opportunity to improve rural coverage as it plans for 5G future...

05/03 - NETWORKS - EU Parliament and US Congress take steps to accelerate 5G legislation - EU chambers reach provisional agreement while US Congress to vote on spectrum auction...

05/03 - DEVICES - HTC CEO: 5G will turn any VR device into the most powerful in the world - Cher Wang says the smartphone still has a role to play in VR...

03/03 - NETWORKS - Qualcomm hopes 5G vision will stand out from the hype - Qualcomm's influence in the industry is significant, so its 5G roadmap is worth listening too...

02/03 - NETWORKS - BT CEO: EE convergence even more important ahead of 5G - Gavin Patterson says BT never really left mobile and is preparing for converged network era...

28/02 - NETWORKS - Intel and NTT DoCoMo prepare 5G plans for Tokyo 2020 Olympics - After success at PyeongChang 2018, Intel is stepping up plans for next Olympics...

27/02 - NETWORKS - Satellite-supported UK 5G testbed will trial mission critical apps - Juniper Networks and Satellite Applications Catapult say satellite cannot be ignored...

27/02 - MOBILE - Qualcomm looks to make it easier to make 5G phones - Launch will help OEMs build 5G connectivity into more devices...

27/02 - NETWORKS - Ofcom confirms six bidders for 5G spectrum - All four mobile operators have been approved, with small cell operator and Hull fixed wireless firm joining...

27/02 - NETWORKS - Ericsson tells operators: 5G is ready - Ericsson has agreements with 38 operators around the world as 5G moves from idea to reality...

27/02 - PRODUCTS - Get ready for a 5G Internet of the Sky - Drones like the Ehang 184 will usher in a 5G-powered autonomous airspace...

26/02 - NETWORKS - Telstra plans to ramp up 4G speeds in the lead up to its full 5G rollout - Major cities in Australia to get increased bandwidth...

26/02 - NETWORKS - Cisco targets mobile operators with '5G Now' - Cisco wants to help operators prepare for the next era of networks...

25/02 - MOBILE - Huawei reveals 5G-ready modem - Test beds for 5G networks will be launched this year, Huawei reveals...

23/02 - NETWORKS - Why PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics are a 5G milestone - Athletes are making history at the Winter Olympics, but it's an important event for 5G networks too...

22/02 - NETWORKS - O2 reveals UK 5G test bed - Operator will test 5G applications at iconic London venue later this year...

19/02 - NETWORKS - Vodafone and Huawei successfully test IP Microwave backhaul for 5G - Vodafone and Huawei achieve 2Gbps on IP microwave link, claiming it shows the tech is viable for 5G...

16/02 - NETWORKS - Why startups and research can make the UK a 5G leader - Does the UK really need to be first to the mark or be an industry powerhouse to be a 5G leader?

16/02 - OPINION - No time to waste now 5G legal challenges are over - For an industry keen to avoid a repeat of the 3G and 4G auctions, Three's failed appeal removes a barrier to 5G...

14/02 - MOBILE - Fiber-like internet and a glimpse of our 5G future are coming to smartphones in 2019 - Qualcomm's new mobile modem offering speeds of up to 2Gbps...

14/02 - NETWORKS - 5G spectrum auction to go ahead after Three's legal challenge fails - Three's bid to decrease an overall spectrum cap falls on deaf ears and prevents further delay...

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

08/02 - MOBILE - The first 5G smartphones are coming in 2019 - But you won't see 5G service everywhere by next year...

07/02 - MOBILE - 5G set to push mobile data use sky-high - Giffgaff research estimates customers will use nearly 100GB of mobile data a month by 2025...

05/-2 - NETWORKS - Telstra joins Optus on 5G bandwagon, also aiming for 2019 rollout - Australian carrier Telstra will trial new tech during Commonwealth Games...

05/01 - NETWORKS - AT&T set to run 5G trials - Company to adopt new 3GPP guidelines as it continues push for next-generation networks...

04/01 - NETWORKS - Samsung teams up with Verizon on 5G - New service to be launched in Sacramento later this year...

02/02 - NETWORKS - Optus 5G network rollout set to begin in early 2019 - Australian telco Optus announces its plans for 5G rollout...

Back to top

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