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A new age of mobile internet is dawning, with 5G smart phones set to hit the market as the network infrastructure rolls out in countries like the US, UK, Australia, China and South Korea.
So, what is 5G and how will it make our mobile world just that little bit better?
5G is the fifth generation of cellular mobile telecommunications, so it’s the type of internet you utilise when using a smart phone. It supersedes 4G, 3G and 2G, offering more data, a faster transfer rate, greater efficiency and less latency.
The upshot is, your mobile internet will be faster and more efficient, so there’ll be more bandwidth available for things like video streaming on-the-go.
As a little context, when cellular networks first emerged in the 1980s, they were analogue and just carried voice. The 1990s and 2G saw the introduction of digital to facilitate text messages and pictures. In the early “noughties” 3G arrived with video calling and mobile data. Then a decade later 4G was introduced, supporting mobile internet and higher speeds for video streaming and gaming.
Now 5G is in trials and nearly ready to commence.
5G networks will theoretically be able to reach a data peak rate of 20Gbps, but as 5g.co.uk notes, the real-world scenario factors in a rate more like 10Gbps. That’s still pretty quick and will make both 4G and even high-speed broadband feel sluggish.
How does 5G compare to previous versions:
However, the reality is the speed will vary depending on how the network has been configured, the number of devices on the network, and the device in the user’s hands.
In layman’s terms latency is the time it takes information to travel from your device to the wider network and back again.
As How-To Geek explains, latency always manifests as a delay.
“For example, if you are having a Skype chat with someone on a high-latency Internet connection, you would be out of sync with each other. You would have to pause in between sentences or you would end up talking over each other thanks to the delay,” they note.
5G looks set to almost eliminate noticeable delays. One of the criteria in 5G’s development is a latency of 1ms, which is 50 times better than 4G. Although, as 5g.co.uk notes, it may be some time before this low latency is achievable all around the globe.
5G will allow more devices to connect to the network at the same time, which is a big plus at a time when the Internet of Things is rapidly expanding and more and more people are embracing smartphones.
5G is touted as the essential step to a more connected, automated society. It is the communications link that many predict will drive the shift to autonomous cars, connected machinery and the further rollout of the Internet of Things.
That means it has ramifications for almost every industry imaginable, from smart homes to smart cities, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing and retail.
5G is currently rolling out across countries like the UK, US, Australia, China and Korea, with worldwide commercial launch anticipated in 2020.
In the US, consumers will start to see 5G networks spring to life early next year. The Verge says all four major US telco providers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) “have promised to make 5G a reality in the new year”.
“Even before those networks are switched on, smartphones from Samsung, LG, and other 5G-capable devices have already been announced,” they note.
In Australia, Telstra recently trialled 5G on the Gold Coast to coincide with the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
These initial tests achieved network speeds of around 3Gbps using mmWave bands. That's roughly 3,000Mbps, or 30 times as fast as the maximum speed of an Australian broadband connection.
5G will roll out in Australian metropolitan areas from early next year, with “full commercial deployment of 5G in capital cities, major regional centres and other high demand areas” in financial year 2020.