5G: Everything you need to know

5G is here, but it’s limited for now

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 and testbeds already live across the world, 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?

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’s promised to bring 5G to 10 further cities by the end of 2019.

It will be followed by Vodafone on July 3, 2019, when it will launch 5G in seven cities, with a total of 19 locations covered by the end of the year.

O2 and Three have also committed to launching 5G networks in 2019, but we’re yet to get a firm release date from either carrier.

Three has at least given some detail, with its 5G home broadband launching in August and its mobile proposition following later this year, and it plans to have 5G in 25 towns and cities before the end of the year.

What 5G phones are available?

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 five 5G phones; the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Oppo Reno 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ 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 both the US and UK, and have found speeds to be a little bit of a mixed bag.

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 
  • Expansion of advanced technologies – such as self-driving cars & 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.

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

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