January 21, 2020 –

5G - How does it work and how will it change your life?

Author: Gabrielle Delauney
Gabrielle Delauney
Marketing Executive
Photo by: Pixabay
2020 is going to be a big year for technology, 5G internet was released just last year and now we’re about to see it become mainstream. 5G is already available in some locations and on some networks, but in the last six months it has become far more accessible. If you’ve bought a brand-new phone this year you might even be 5G ready. But you also might be wondering what the difference will actually be when it comes to real life applications, and how will these changes come about?


First though, a quick history lesson on the previous four generations:

   Release Date Average Speed  Max Speed  Uses 
 1G  Early-mid 80'S  0.7 Kbps  1.9 Kbps  Phone Calls
 2G  1991  0.1 Mbps  0.3 Mbps  Text Message and internet
 3G  1998  8 Mbps  20 Mbps  Picture message and video calls
 4G  2008  32.5 Mbps  100 Mbps  Gaming, video conferencing, HD live streaming
 5G  2020  130-240 Mbps  1-10 Gbps  4k HDR streaming

There are four main advantage that the 5th generation of wireless network technology claim to bring:
• Increased speed
• Decreased / zero latency
• Better battery life
• Higher capacity


5G Speed
Speed is always the main selling point of a new generation of mobile networks, and the jump from 4G to 5G promises to be a big one. Claims of 100 times faster speeds are being talked about. During the last half of 2019 the promised high speeds of 5G hitting the headlines look impossibly high and like some sort of witchcraft compared to what we’re currently used to.

These speeds, however, are only available in quite specific places; large cities like Chicago, LA or London were lucky enough to get the first lot of transmitters. But additionally, the massive speeds of 1-10 Gbps are really only available very close to the node because the high frequency waves that 5G rely on are particularly bad at travelling distances and going through objects. Brick walls, trees or -apparently- even rain could get in their way. 

5G can hit speeds of up to 10 Gbps

The only way around this issue is to litter the streets with 5G nodes, the idea would be to automatically switch between nodes while you move through a city. Something that will obviously take a lot of money and time.
However, T-Mobile have gone in quite the opposite direction by rolling out ‘low band 5G’ over the majority of the USA, which won’t get the super high speeds we were talking about earlier, but will still be superior to 4G, and most importantly for some, it became available early December. They will then fill in some gaps with ‘medium band 5G’ and ‘high band 5G’ will roll out in its own time starting with larger cities.


5G Latency
Anyone into gaming will know that latency can be an issue when it comes to internet connections. Latency (or lag in layman’s terms) is boasted to be all but eradicated when you’re on a 5G network. Many people are claiming that the decreased latency is a far more important feature than the improved speed. Aside from requiring less patience when accessing the internet on your phone, the real-world applications of this could be incredible. “For instance, a connected car travelling on the motorway at 70mph would travel almost 2 meters in the amount of time it takes for a 4G mobile network to respond. The lower latency of a 5G connection will allow mobile technology to be used more safely in cars.” (kenstechtips.com) Safer autonomous vehicles are closer to becoming part of our reality, thanks, in part, to the decrease in latency which can generate reaction times over 100 times faster than a human reaction. These vehicles would one day also be in communication with each other on the road, you could even imagine a world where traffic lights aren’t required because everyone knows where everyone else is. Again, this wouldn’t be an option if there was any delay in communication.

Additionally; remote surgery, imagine a doctor utilising a perfect connection to perform an operation from a different country! In fact, this has already been successfully carried out multiple times through 2019 in China.

The business implications of lower latency are equally likely to change the human experience. If conference calls are a regular occurrence in your boardroom you will probably be used to (and annoyed by) a little lag. With a 5G connection you should feel like your clients are in the same room with you, no more awkward moments of accidentally talking over each other. The lower latency combined with higher speeds could also make remote working far more common too. 5G would make transferring large files between locations faster, more reliable and with no size restriction.


5G Battery
When you finally get your brand new 5G phone, and your new more expensive data contract, and supposing you live in the right city, your battery life is supposed to last longer. The theory is that if it takes far less time to download things and generally use the internet then the battery will also be used less. Realistically, if you’re getting quicker results from your phone then you’re probably likely to use it more throughout the day, which would add to battery decline. Another point to note, while in testing (by Marques Brownlee) it isn’t always found to be as battery saving as advertised. He used the phone for around 4 hours and lost 55% battery in that time. He also mentions the phone being very hot for the majority of his testing process.

5G capacity will make all the difference in high-density areas

5G Capacity
A frequently overlooked advantage of 5G is that it’s capable of servicing more users in high-density locations. This is not going to be immediately tangible to the user, however, it will be noticeable to those who are all competing for 4G signal in an inner city. The increased capacity is down to the millimetre waves that 5G uses, since these higher frequency waves are largely unused by other devices, they’re far less congested compared to lower bands.

Many warehouses are interested in deploying 5G connections because it would enable them to connect hundreds or even thousands of devices in one concentrated area. Warehouse robotics and automated devices are currently connected with a combination of wired systems, WiFi and Bluetooth that are often out of co-ordination with each other. Expect advancements in automation when it comes to picking and shipping online purchases.

Throughout the rest of 2020, 5G promises to be rolled out further and further to the major UK cities, so you will probably start hearing about these changes more in your daily life as coverage improves and as more people purchase 5G handsets. For the consumer, the biggest benefit is still an increase in speed. But the technological advances in areas such as vehicles, healthcare and businesses are really very exciting.