The blistering speed and versatility of the coming 5G network herald a quantum leap for mobile technology – here are the fast facts.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks, following on from 2G, 3G and 4G. But while the move from 3G to 4G was all about speeds, 5G is about so much more.

Sure, 5G is extremely quick, but it’s also stable and reliable, with characteristics that will allow it to form the underlying communication networks for connected vehicles, virtual reality worlds and robotics systems.

The new network’s greater capacity will allow these bandwidth-hungry applications to run simultaneously, without having the knock-on effect of slowing down the network for other users.

How does 5G work?

Like its predecessors, 5G is transmitted via radio waves. It will use some frequencies that are in the 4G range, as well as a higher frequency, called millimetre wave technology.

The latter enables the speed and capacity that 5G needs, but this frequency transmits at a shorter wavelength and can’t transmit as effectively through walls. It can even be sensitive to environmental factors such as rain.

To get around this, engineers are looking to install additional hardware to boost transmissions.

 When is 5G coming to the UK?

Trials of 5G technology are currently taking place but it is predicted that a fully standardised version will start to reach UK consumers in 2020.

When it arrives, it will most likely focus on urban areas first, with widespread use of the technology taking a bit longer: the UK government says it will be rolling out 5G nationwide by 2027, so we won’t be seeing it in autonomous cars and other more advanced applications for another 5 to 10 years.

Via Science Focus