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5G: everything you need to know

Image Credit: Three UK
(Image credit: Three UK)

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.

5G networks are already starting to appear and 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?

In the US

Verizon surprised most of the world by launching its 5G network at the start of April 2019, making it the first globally to offer the next-generation network.

It's currently only available in limited parts of Chicago and a few other locations, and there are just two handsets currently available to use on the new 5G network.

In Chicago, US we've managed to obtain speeds of up to 1.4Gbps, which is massively faster than 4G's theoretical top speed of 300Mbps (although average speeds tend to be below 100Mbps). 

However, 5G coverage is patchy and we had to move around the city's various 5G masts to get this top speed. We did tend to get around 1Gbps quite consistently though.

5G in London, UK is more of a mixed bag, with speeds in our test ranging from 200Mbps to 550Mbps - still much quicker than 4G, but not the same level as we are seeing in Chicago.

AT&T has rolled out its 5G network to 19 cities across the States, but it still doesn't offer any 5G phones - with your only option for now a 5G Netgear Nitehawk mobile hotspot.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is yet to launch its 5G network in the US, but it previously said it would bring 5G to 30 cities, starting in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Las Vegas.

In the UK

EE was the first UK carrier to launch its 5G network, switching it on in six cities on May 30 2019. It has promised to bring 5G to 10 further cities by the end of 2019.

It was followed by Vodafone on July 3, 2019, when it launched 5G in seven cities, rolling out to a further eight towns and cities on July 17.

Next up was Three, which launched a 5G service in London on August 19, however, there's a catch - it's initially only available for home broadband. However, it will be coming to mobile later this year, as well as to 24 more towns and cities.

O2 meanwhile is the only major UK network not to have any sort of 5G service yet, but it plans to roll 5G out in October.

In Australia

Telstra's 5G coverage went live as of May, 2019, with the launch of the first 5G smartphone in Australia – the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

At the time, coverage was limited to 10 major cities and regions and, within those regions, was somewhat limited and patchy. This includes Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and Toowoomba.

The rollout continues, however, and coverage is steadily increasing. For a detailed and up-to-date map on coverage across Australia, check out Telstra's dedicated 5G page.

Optus, on the other hand, hasn't released any concrete timelines or roadmaps, although its official website does mention that it aims to have 1,200 5G sites built by March 2020, which could indicate a date for public availability.

What 5G phones are available?

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

A number of 5G phone announcements have been made in 2019, however only a handful are currently available, and the choice is further limited by country and carrier.

In the US, Motorola's 5G Moto Mod provides next-generation connectivity to a select few Moto Z handsets, plus the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is also available.

For those in the UK, you can currently get hold of six 5G phones; the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Oppo Reno 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G is also available for pre-order at the time of writing.

In Australia, only three 5G smartphones are available, and only two of these are available outright. The Oppo Reno 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G can be be purchased for AU$1,499 and AU$1,729 respectively, while you'll need to look for a plan with Telstra in order to score the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

How fast is 5G?

5G speeds will vary between locations, countries, carriers and devices, but on the whole the average internet speed you can expect should be much greater than what's currently offered on 4G.

We've been testing the first 5G networks in the US, UK, and Australia, and have found speeds to be a little bit of a mixed bag.