Perspecs Explains: What is 5G?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Each generation of mobile phone, through its network, has been better and faster than its predecessor. It has been just under a decade since the fourth generation (4G) was introduced to our devices, and we are ready to move on to the next, big thing: 5G.
The fifth generation of mobile networks is more about evolution, rather than revolution. For 5G to be considered a step-up from 4G, it needs to have higher speeds and lower latency (response time) than its previous generation.
PC Mag explains the various generations of wireless mobile connectivity, from the early 1990s to the present day: "1G was analogue cellular. 2G technologies, such as CDMA, GSM, and TDMA, were the first generation of digital cellular technologies. 3G technologies, such as EVDO, HSPA, and UMTS, brought speeds from 200kbps to a few megabits per second. 4G technologies, such as WiMAX and LTE, were the next incompatible leap forward, and they are now scaling up to hundreds of megabits and even gigabit-level speeds."
The National Infrastructure Commission defines 5G as "seamless connectivity". In a report for the UK government, they wrote: "(5G is) ultra-fast, ultra-reliable, ultra-high capacity transmitting at super low latency.
"It will support the ever larger data requirements of the existing network and new applications from augmented reality to connected vehicles and the Internet of Things, and many more, as unknowable today as the 4G services we take for granted would have been a decade ago."
Although it is in its infancy, at 20 gigabits per second, the fifth generation of mobile networks is predicted to be 200 times faster and have 1,000 times more data capacity than conventional networks.
Once seen as a luxury, the demand for high-speed internet on mobile devices has turned each generation of network as a necessity. Mobile data use has sky rocketed over the past five years - increasing 74 per cent alone in 2015, according to Wired.
We are now asking more things from the internet. There are other exciting technologies advancing, too: from augmented reality to mobile virtual reality, as well as demanding higher quality videos to smart houses - and one day, smart cities through the internet of things.
"Imagine swarms of drones co-operating to carry out search and rescue missions, fire assessments and traffic monitoring, all communicating wirelessly with each other and ground base stations over 5G networks," BBC's Matthew Wall writes.
UK rollout of 5G may not happen until late 2019 or 2020. They could be beaten to the punch by South Korea, China, Japan and the US, who claim that they will roll out the next generation any time soon.