5G technology has had an unfortunate start to life after being associated with perhaps the most senseless conspiracy theory of all time - although there’s no shortage of competition for that title.
Among all that white noise, the truth about what 5G technology is, how it works and the benefits that it can bring has largely been lost. So, we thought we’d set that right with a deep dive into the world of 5G.
What is 5G technology?
5G is the fifth generation of wireless cellular technology. It uses advanced antenna technology and more available bandwidth to greatly enhance the speed and responsiveness of the wireless networks that we rely on in many aspects of our day-to-day lives.
Data transmitted over 5G wireless broadband connections can travel up to 100 times faster than 4G. That increases the amount of data that can be transmitted over wireless systems and is the driving force behind a variety of new applications and business cases.
However, while most people associate 5G with a faster and more reliable service, the truth is that right now, the 5G offered by the major mobile networks - Orange, O2, Vodafone etc. - is not all that much faster than the 4G that’s already on offer. As an example, Vodafone 5G is in the UK but is only currently 6GHz. True 5G, on the other hand. which is only seemingly only going to be suitable for urban environments, is 23GHz.
Despite 5G speeds that are yet to hit the heights that many people expected, the process of deploying 5G technology has already begun in earnest, Figures from EE suggest that 5G will be available to over 50% of the UK population by 2023 and available everywhere from 2028.
How does 5G technology work?
5G operates in the same way as any other wireless communication system, by using radio frequencies to carry information through the air. The big difference between 5G and its predecessors is that it uses higher radio frequencies, called ‘millimetre waves’. Those waves have only recently been opened up for licensing by the regulators, which means they are largely unused and far less cluttered. That allows information to be carried at a much faster rate.
Although these millimetre waves carry information more quickly, they can be blocked by physical objects such as buildings and trees. That presents problems when sending information over large distances. However, that challenge has been overcome with the help of multiple input and output antennae, which boost the signal and capacity across the network.
What benefits will 5G bring?
If you believe the marketing spiel, then 5G will ‘advance societies, transform industries and dramatically enhance day-to-day experiences’, but what does that actually mean? Well, in terms of the technology itself, 5G has plenty of worthy benefits, including:
- Faster connectivity speeds
- Ultra-low latency
- Greater bandwidth
- Higher data rates
- The potential to have a 5G mobile network made up of low-band, mid-band and MM wave frequencies
When it comes to real-world examples, here are a few ways that 5G could impact everything from domestic life to transport and business:
- Home entertainment - With faster and more reliable connectivity, you’ll be able to download a film on your home broadband in seconds or stream a 4K film without buffering. There’ll also be a dramatic improvement in virtual and augmented reality applications.
- IoT devices - The greater capacity of 5G will enable the growth of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, with everything from cars, lights and fridges able to become connected and ‘Smart’.
- Transport - Transport is one of the areas where 5G is expected to have the greatest impact. Autonomous vehicles are one example of a new technology that 5G will help to flourish. Not to be confused with driverless cars, 5G will allow autonomous cars to connect to each other and the internet without lag times to help to reduce the number of road collisions. This data could also enable traffic lights to react to traffic flow and roads in need of repair to be easily identified.
- Smart factories - 5G is also expected to revolutionise production processes on the factory floor, with smart factories enabling more automation and helping to create safe and more efficient manufacturing systems.
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