Ready for the next big thing in mobile communication tech? 5G is breaking news, and we’re on top of it to tell you absolutely everything you need to know. If mobile data is your thing, then 5G is really going to rock your world. But what exactly is it?
We’ll start with the basics. You’re probably already familiar with the terms 3G and 4G, since this is how most of us these days get our mobile data. But what exactly are we talking about? The G in these terms refers to Generation, and all the numbers are is the iteration of that generation. We’re talking about the way your phone handles (or doesn’t handle) data.
In the beginning there was 1G. This was an analogue protocol, and doesn’t really concern you too much, since 1G couldn’t handle any real data at all. Then came 2G. If you’re old enough to remember the first real mobile phones, the old Nokias and the like, these were 2G. A 2G phone can handle text messages, but that’s pretty much it for data. In fact, even today, your phone might use 2G when you start getting bad reception, since even if it can’t connect through a data carrying 3G network to open your internet browser, it can still use 2G for your texts. Which is why you might still receive your SMSs even if you can’t check your email.
3G was next in line, and this really was the beginning of true smartphones, since 3G can handle real data and allows you to have an internet connection on your phone. This was all well and good for a while, but then 4G came along with its faster speeds (which you might have experienced if you have a top end phone). And then there’s 5G, the newest communication protocol. 5G isn’t up and running yet, but it promises far faster mobile data speeds.
What Kind of Speeds?
When we talk about speed we’re talking about how fast data can travel to your phone. Faster speeds mean web pages that open more quickly, high definition video that doesn’t skip or buffer, high end video games that don’t lag. When we quote speeds we give the ideal speed, which is the kind of data speed you get in perfect conditions. However, as customers we never get perfect conditions, therefore we tend to get lower than ideal speeds in reality.
Old 1G phones were capable of speeds of about 2.4 kbps (kilobits per second). 2G phones got around 64 kbps, and 3G manages around 2,000 kbps. Super fast 4G phones get about 100,000 kbps, a huge difference. And what about 5G? Well, 5G promises speeds of about 20 Gbps, which is equal to a whopping twenty million kbps.
How Does This Effect Me?
We’ve already talked about faster internet service, better gaming, and better HD video streaming. But there are a few more ways that 5G will improve your life. As video becomes higher quality, high definition becoming ultra-high definition, for example, video files become bigger. With a faster data connection, you can download those larger files faster. A huge 25 GB UltraHD file will download in around ten seconds on a 5G network, which is pretty cool.
You might have heard about “the internet of things” which basically means connecting more and more things to the internet, like TVs, lights, speakers, even fridges and kettles. 5G networks will make it easier and faster for gadgets to talk to each other and to you. Finally, since 5G will be a new protocol, not many people or devices will be using it at first, which means if you DO use it, you’re likely to get super fast speeds. Data channels are like roads, and the more traffic there is (the more users are online) the slower that traffic travels. At the beginning at least, 5G roads will be clear and open, no traffic lights, no jams, and few other cars.
Are There Any Problems with 5G?
There are a few issues here. Firstly, 5G will be subject to the same kinds of problems as other data channels in that there can be interference from tall buildings, other electronic devices, and even hills and mountains. There’s no guarantee of a clear signal. Plus there’ll be the same problem as there was/is with 4G. Mobile operators have to build the infrastructure (cell towers etc.) to support 5G, just as they did with 4G, which means not everyone will have access to 5G at first, though 5G reception will increase over time, just as it did with 4G.
Current smartphones are not able to support 5G, though that’s not really a problem since it’ll be a few years before we get 5G access anyway. Finally, there’s cost. 5G data plans are likely to be expensive at first, just as 4G data plans were. When 4G first launched, EE (the first UK company to offer 4G) charged a massive £36 for a mere 500 MB of data. Again though, prices are likely to go down over time.
So When Can I Get It?
There’s no definite time frame for 5G yet, though most experts expect that the UK will have its first 5G network by 2020. So why are we talking about this now? Because 2017 is the bidding year for 5G. Data signals travel at certain frequencies, and mobile operators buy or rent those frequencies in order to provide service. This year the UK’s top mobile companies will bid to buy the frequencies that will be used for 5G. Whoever wins the bidding will almost certainly be the first UK company to offer a 5G service. Which company will it be? That’s anyone’s guess. But since EE were the first to offer 4G (and are the UK’s largest mobile operator) it’s likely that they will be tough to beat in the 5G bidding war.
You might need to wait a while and be patient. But 5G internet on your phone is going to be worth it. From faster web browsing to better video watching, 5G is seriously going to improve your mobile experience.