What is 5G? Everything you need to know

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5G: What's new

What is 5G?

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

14/09 - FEATURE - Sandra Riviera/Intel - 5G: The next generation of communications to disrupt and reshape entire industries - The network transformation needed to build the 5G future is currently underway...

12/09 - NEWS - Ericsson and T-Mobile sign $3.5bn 5G deal - T-Mobile is working with Ericsson and Nokia to deploy its 5G network...

11/09 - NEWS - EE announces UK 5G launch in 2019 - EE converts 3G to 4G to boost smartphone speeds and lay the foundation for its 5G launch...

28/08 - NEWS - Nokia secures 500m Euro loan for 5G research - Finnish network equipment maker aims to be a leader in 5G technology...

24/08 - NEWS - China slams Australia's Huawei 5G ban - Australia claims national security issues, Huawei says it's baseless...

22/08 - NEWS - 5G trials already underway in many countries - North America will have commercial 5G by the end of the year, with many other countries not far behind...

20/08 - NEWS - Nokia and Verizon make 5G vehicle breakthrough - Verizon and Nokia have successfully conducted a new experiment that will (hopefully) bring us closer to 5G networks in our cars...

16/08 - NEWS - Samsung unveils its 5G modem chip - South Korean mobile giant takes the wraps off the Exynos Modem 5100...

07/08 - NEWS - China leading the way when it comes to 5G - China has already outspent the US by $24bn in the race for next gen wireless...

03/08 - NEWS - Audi and Ericsson team up for 5G-enabled carmaking - 5G technology will be used to connect Audi's smart factories...

30/07 - NEWS - Nokia and T-Mobile reveal major 5G tie-up - Nokia's equipment will power T-Mobile's 5G network in largest 5G deal to date...

26/07 - NEWS - Nokia aims for 5G success as results struggle - Finnish network equipment maker bets big on 5G rollout...

16/07 - FEATURE - Adam Nickerson/FarrPoint - How 5G and IoT contribute to the UK’s world-class vision - 5G will be the backbone of the connected devices that will power tomorrow's smart cities...

06/07 - FEATURE - Sagi Subocki/Softil - 5G technologies, key for more effective mission critical communications - In addition to offering better speeds and connectivity, 5G networks will help first responders save lives...

28/06 - NEWS - World's first 5G commercial network launches - Finland wants to be a world leader in 5G...

19/06 - NEWS - UK users call for 5G to solve mobile signal woes - Roughly half of mobile users are unsatisfied with their mobile upload and download speeds...

15/06 - NEWS - First worldwide 5G standard approved - 3GPP and mobile industry announce first 5G standalone specifications...

12/06 - NEWS - 5G is coming this year amid mobile data explosion - Europe might fall behind North America in 5G adoption within half a decade...

04/06 - FEATURE - Robert James/Comcast Xfinity Internet - How will 5G unleash the potential of autonomous driving - Previous technologies like 3G and 4G were a breakthrough, but 5G would take the data network to a whole new level...

27/04 - FEATURE - Dave Millett/Equinox - 5G: The hype vs the reality. What will 5G mean for business owners? - 5G has the potential to transform our daily lives - but only if the UK is at the forefront of this move to the next generation...

16/04 - NEWS - 5G set to spur on smartphone sales around the world - Smartphone makers are betting on 5G to give their sales a boost...

09/04 - NEWS - Europe being left behind when it comes to 5G - US and China will lead early 5G adoption...

28/03 - NEWS - Intel - Why 5G is one of our top priorities - As Intel undergoes a major transition, we here why 5G can play a major part...

27/03 - NEWS - US set to spur on 5G adoption - Early adopters in the US could push 5G connections to 190m by 2025...

26/03 - FEATURE - Alex Puregger/Fon - 6 key defining factors for WiFi as we gear up for 5G - As 5G rollouts begin worldwide, WiFi technology is also set to improve considerably...

26/03 - FEATURE - Sam Evans/Delta Partners - 5G: In search of a viable commercial and infrastructure model - 5G is missing discussions around tangible use cases...

23/03 - FEATURE - Shawn Stapleton/Dali Wireless - Why evolving the RAN is fundamental to 5G’s success - vRAN can provide operators with the increased flexibility necessary to support next-gen network deployments...

20/03 - NEWS - 5G auction kicks off in the UK - Ofcom's auction will improve 4G networks and pave the way for the UK's 5G rollout...

14/03 - NEWS - 5G technology could save the UK billions - O2 report estimates major savings for every household thanks to 5G improvements...

12/03 - NEWS - UK government announces winners of £25m 5G projects competition - Six projects will now look to test 5G technology across a range of applications...

08/03 - FEATURE - Kalyan Sundhar/Keysight Technologies - Using testing to bridge the 5G standards gap - Developers can create real-world testing environments both in the lab and in the field to test 5G deployments...

28/02 - NEWS - Bidders for UK 5G spectrum auction revealed - Ofcom plans to hold the auction as early as the end of March...

27/02 - NEWS - Juniper creates 5G testbed for UK’s critical infrastructure - Satellite-enabled trials look to show potential of 5G for mission-critical apps...

27/02 - NEWS - Qualcomm targets 5G and AI with new Snapdragon launches - Snapdragon 700 chips and 5G modules help expand Qualcomm’s mobile leadership...

27/02 - NEWS - Intel plans 5G-ready laptop launch in 2019 - Computing giant shows off concept 5G laptops at Mobile World Congress, and promises a launch next year...

26/02 - NEWS - Huawei plans 5G smartphone launch in 2019 - Chinese phone giant says it hopes to have mobile devices ready for 5G by next year...

26/02 - NEWS - Intel demos 5G plans for Tokyo 2020 - After a successful trial during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Intel is getting ready for the next games...

26/02 - NEWS - Cisco unveils 5G preparation service - 5G Now paves the way to 5G for service providers across the world...

26/02 - NEWS - Huawei unveils its first 5G modem - Chinese giant says it hopes to launch a 5G-ready commercial deployment by the end of 2018...

22/02 - NEWS - Samsung and Qualcomm team up to build 5G mobile chips - Tech giants announce collaboration to build next-generation 7nm Snapdragon hardware...

20/02 - NEWS - Intel touts 5G success at the Winter Olympics - Intel reveals all on how its 5G network trials in Pyeongchang will soon make sport more immersive for everyone...

12/02 - NEWS - Huawei talks up 5G and AI ahead of MWC 2018 - Next-generation technology comes to the fore as Huawei unveils investment and research priorities ahead of Mobile World Congress...

09/02 - NEWS - Nokia and Qualcomm reveal major stride in 5G testing - The two companies have successfully tested network infrastructure and devices using the 5G New Radio specification...

01/02 - NEWS - Qualcomm signs Samsung 5G alliance to ease antitrust worries - Expanded partnership comes as Qualcomm reveals strong results, but worries about legal rulings persists...

29/01 - NEWS - US could build own 5G network to stop China spying - Trump administration security team believe a home-built 5G network could help protect US citizens from foreign threats...

24/01 - NEWS - Telefonica turns cities into 'living laboratories’ for 5G - Citizens of two Spanish cities will be able to help test 5G for the next two years...

19/01 - NEWS - Nokia signs 5G supply deal with NTT DoCoMo - Partnership could look to power the networks for 2020 Tokyo Olympics...

11/01 - NEWS - Isle of Wight could host first UK 5G deployment - Local council has reportedly bid to be the testbed for 5G networks...

04/11 - NEWS - AT&T to roll out 5G network by end of 2018 - The US telecom provider will initially offer 5G in 12 markets by the end of this year...

21/12 - NEWS - First standards for 5G networks officially approved - 5G moves one big step closer to being realised following unveiling of first rules...

20/12 - NEWS - UK sees first successful pre-standard 5G test - Ericsson, Vodafone UK and academics from the King's College London team up for test...

06/12 - NEWS - Intel demos facial recognition payments powered by 5G - New technology could lead to quicker and safer payments for everyone...

04/12 - NEWS - Samsung trials 5G connection on Japanese trains - Samsung and KDDI reached peak speeds of 1.7 Gbps and managed to upload and download high-res video files...

28/11 - NEWS - 5G will have a billion subscribers by 2023 - Ericsson is predicting strong growth for the new technology...

27/11 - NEWS - BT and Nokia carry out further UK 5G tests - University of Bristol teams up with tech heavyweights for future network tests...

22/11 - NEWS - Budget 2017: Driverless cars, AI and 5G all get major investment - 2017 Budget includes major funding for next-generation technology as Philip Hammond announces further support for small and large businesses alike...

17/11 - NEWS - Intel ramps up 5G development with new modem launches - New hardware provides major advances in speed and reliability as Intel also reveals details of full 5G-ready call...

16/11 - NEWS - EE carries out breakthrough 5G network test - Trial alongside Huawei is first UK end-to-end 5G network test, paving the way for superfast networks...

07/11 - NEWS - Fujitsu announces 5G antenna system trial - Partnership with NTT Docomo will see trials of ultra high-density antenna technology in preparation for 5G network launches...

31/10 - NEWS - Intel brings 5G technology to power 2018 Winter Olympics - Trial network teams up with Korea Telecom to provide superfast access in South Korea as Intel builds towards 5G launch...

20/10 - NEWS - Nokia and AWS team up to work on 5G, cloud migration and IoT - Wide-ranging effort motivated by “tighter integration” between networking and IT infrastructure, Nokia says...

18/10 - NEWS - Get ready for the 5G explosion - CCS Insight report predicts a billion 5G users within the first few years of launch, with China leading the way...

17/10 - NEWS - Nationwide competition brings UK 5G one step closer - Government launches further efforts aimed at supporting the development of 5G technologies...

17/10 - NEWS - Qualcomm carries out first 5G mobile device test - Chipmaker says 5G-ready smartphones could launch mid-2019...

03/10 - NEWS - Ofcom head slams UK 5G legal battles - Sharon White says court battle by 3 UK and EE could derail the "golden opportunity" offered by 5G...

25/08 - FEATURE - Robin Kent/Adax - 5G: are we trying to run before we can walk? - If service providers aren’t prepared they could face not being able to carry the huge levels of traffic required by the host application to any and all of its possible destinations...

22/08 - NEWS - LTE pushed to new record speeds as 5G approaches - Verizon, Ericsson and Qualcomm break the gigabit barrier over LTE...

21/08 - NEWS - EE threatens legal action against UK 5G auction - High Court challenge follows EE complaint over alleged spectrum restrictions, as O2 and BT apparently team up ahead of auction...

31/07 - FEATURE - Caroline Dowling/Flex - 5 industries to gain the most from 5G - Although there are tremendous benefits to 5G, this new technology will take many businesses out of their comfort zones...

28/07 - NEWS -  Apple to start testing 5G internet for future iPhones - FCC approval allows Apple to start work on experimental 5G technology in the USA...

25/07 - NEWS - Arqiva and Samsung kick off UK 5G trials - Launch of 5G field trials follows statement of intent earlier this year, with demos now live in central London...

21/07 - FEATURE: Why Intel is bidding to be the bedrock of 5G - 5G will offer businesses more opportunities than ever before, but you need to ensure you have the right hardware, Intel tells ITProPortal...

18/07 - NEWS - San Marino will be Europe's first 5G nation - One of Europe's smallest countries has revealed plans to be the first in the world to feature nation-wide 5G network coverage...

07/07 - NEWS - UK 5G trials set to start next year - Three UK universities are could begin testing of 5G networks in 2018 following the release of new government research funding...

05/07 - NEWS - 5G moves one step closer with EE Gigabit LTE network launch - Operator teams up with Qualcomm and Sony to show off first commercial Gigabit-speed LTE network, meaning faster download speeds for all...

19/06 - FEATURE: Jon Leppard//Future Facilities - No mobile tech trend is more ‘edgy’ than 5G - Data centre designers will map out the future of 5G, but sometimes adapting to these trends is easier said than done…

19/06 - FEATURE: Caroline Dowling/Flex - Five things business needs to know about 5G - The fifth generation of mobile network has been described as the backbone of this connected world…

13/06 - NEWS - 5G 'needs flexibility' in order to change the world - 5G networks will need to be more flexible than ever before in order to cope with a huge surge in connectivity, according to one of the UK’s top experts...

07/06 - FEATURE: Hubert De Costa/Cradlepoint - A vote of confidence in the future of 5G - The 2017 UK general election coincides with a key period of development in the birth of the new 5G network - this is how development could be affected in the coming years... 

17/05 - FEATURE: Hubert De Costa/Cradlepoint - The next generation WAN – where are we with 5G? - Described as the next-generation WAN, 5G has the potential to be as transformative as the introduction of electricity itself - but are they founded in fact?

12/05 - NEWS - O2 spends big to boost UK 5G network - O2 is set to spend £80m  to improve the next-generation connectivity network across the UK capital as the world moves towards 5G...

To read all of our 5G coverage, click here.

(Image: © Image Credit: Supparsorn / Shutterstock)

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.

Although still a work in progress, and still lacking official standards or regulation, 5G networks are expected to launch across the world by 2020, working with existing 3G and 4G networks to provide businesses and consumers alike with speedier connections that stay online no matter where you are.

The benefits of 5G should also play a key role in helping developing countries get connected to the internet and enjoy the benefits that mobile connected technology brings. Estimates from mobile industry body the GSMA predict that 5G connections could number as many as 1.1 billion by 2025, with the associated networks covering a third of the world’s population. 

5G is more than just speedier smartphone downloads, however, as the technology could also be the key to creating a smarter, more connected world.

The use of higher density networks would allows for huge numbers of different devices to connect to a network and run all at once with little slowdown, meaning that it is perfect for the M2M technology needed to power the Internet of Things (IoT). 

The IoT requires reliable and fast networks in order to process huge amounts of data and information, as well as carrying out thousands of calculations and decisions every second. 5G should provide the capacity needed to take the IoT to the next level, allowing for a smarter, more connected world around us.

(Image: © Image source: Shutterstock/Ekaphon maneechot)

5G FAQs

  • How fast is 5G?

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, and <10 ms latency. 

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.

The technology would also provide a number of upgrades in other services - for instance, video calls would be able to be carried out in much higher-quality, HD voice calls could be placed from anywhere in the world, and uploading high-quality content to the internet would become a much smoother (not to mention faster) process.

  • When will 5G launch?

5G technology is expected to officially launch across the world by 2020. This is the threshold that most countries and network providers have set for the launch, but given the speed of investment and development in the technology, it may arrive even sooner.

Once launched however, implementing 5G may be a slower process. Much like the gradual takeover of 4G networks from the previous generation, existing network infrastructure may need to be upgraded or even replaced in order to deal with the new technology, and homes and businesses may also need to get new services installed.

  • Will my phone be able to get 5G? Or will I need to upgrade?

It’s not yet known how 5G networks will take over from existing networks, but again, much like the rollout of 4G, you may not be able to immediately connect to the new networks without upgrading your technology.

Mobile devices that were released when 4G networks were the standard may not be able to connect to 5G to begin with, or may incur extra costs to do so. However following the initial rollout of 5G, we should soon see devices coming with 5G connection as default.

  • Will 5G replace 4G?

Although 5G should represent a major step up from current 4G and 3G networks, the new technology won’t immediately replace its predecessor - at least, not to begin with.

Instead, 5G should link in with existing networks to ensure users never lose connection, with the older networks acting as back-up in areas not covered by the new 5G coverage.

But much as 4G has largely taken over from 3G as network coverage has widened, 5G should gradually become more widespread and eventually supplant the previous generation, with devices launching after 2020 expected to come with connectivity to the new networks by default.

5G is expected to provide much faster download and upload speeds than 4G networks, allowing for speedier streaming and downloading.

So-called “4.5G” networks (also known as LTE-A) are set to fill the gap for the time being, offering connections that are faster than current 4G networks, although only certain countries such as South Korea can benefit from them right now.

5G resources

- GSMA 5G hub - the latest news about 5G from mobile industry body the GSMA

- 5G.co.uk - a repository of information concerning the UK's 5G rollout 

- The 5G Era - GSMA report into the ideal situation for 5G