What is 5G, when will it launch and what will it mean for you?

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The race to develop the fifth generation mobile communication network is well and truly on.

More people than ever now access the web and online services using their mobile devices and this is only likely to continue in the future.

As a result telecommunications companies are moving quickly to be able to offer customers fast connectivity and improved download speeds.

As it stands, 4G is the best mobile data service there is but even this is still in its infancy and only available in approximately ten countries around the world.

South Korea, which has been at the forefront of developing high speed mobile communications networks, leads the way in terms of 4G penetration, which stands at around 62%, according to Juniper Networks.

Japan, Australia, the United States and Sweden have around 20% penetration compared to 8% in Canada and 5% and 3% in the UK and Germany respectively. Russia and the Philippines have less than 2% users penetration.

Currently 4G offers speeds of around 150 Mbps, although with the introduction of LTE-A (the advanced 4G network) 300 Mbps will soon be achievable. However, the capabilities of 4G won’t end there.

As network technologies continue to develop, mobile internet speeds of 1Gbps will also become a reality, which in itself is a very exciting prospect and kind of makes you wonder why we might need 5G at all.

What is 5G?

5G is the name that’s being given to the next generation of mobile communication networks.

At the moment its nothing more than a concept, given that no standards regarding data speeds of 5G have been agreed upon. Mobile communications companies such as Ericsson, Samsung, Huawei, Nokia and LG Uplus are starting to develop and test this new technology but there is still a lot of research to be done.

It will, however, provide super fast internet speeds that will not only be significantly quicker than 4G, it will also be so fast and so robust that no matter how many people are connected to it, users will still be able to use it without experiencing a reduction in speed, connectivity or capability.

Buffering on YouTube videos or delay on Skype calls will be a thing of the past, with 5G offering an absolutely seamless user experience.

Comparisons have been made between 5G and electricity in that 5G will always be there. There’ll be no need to ‘connect’, as such, and users will just be able to tap into it anytime they need.

So just how fast will 5G be?

This isn’t exactly clear as realistically it could be anywhere between 10 to 100Mbps.

All we have to go on currently is the data available from tests carried out by mobile operators.

In 2014, Samsung delivered speeds of 1GB per second using 5G technology and it has previously been suggested that users would be able to download a whole movie in less than a second.

5G will mean there will be no need to wait for something to download, you’ll just click and whatever you want will be there instantly.

Internet of Things

Infographic explaining the Internet of Things

In addition to speed, the other major advantage to 5G is its capacity, especially as we move towards and age of where more and more devices from all aspects of our lives are connected via the Internet of Things.

By 2020 it is estimated that as many as 80 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things, including cars, washing machines, fridges – you name it. And that’s in addition to the gadgets such as smartphones and tablets that we regularly connect to the internet currently.

How will 5G work?

Maybe this is best saved for the scientists but the crux of it is that 5G will use something called Multiple Input, Multiple Output technology (MiMo).

MiMo technology works by using multiple antennas to provide improved network coverage. And by ‘multiple’, you can expect these antennae to be everywhere, in cities, on lampposts, in cars, in sports stadiums and on pretty much every building.

It is also likely that every house will have its own 5G base station and will eventually be as common to see these antennae as it is to say see street lights or road signs.

When will 5G be available?

It’s estimated that 5G will be available in one form or another by 2020, once standards for the service has been agreed upon.

It is likely to available for commercial use first and then for use by the regular consumer within 3 to 5 years from its launch date.

How much will it cost?

Looking at the cost of 5G globally, the South Korean government has already set aside more than $300 billion in order to develop the necessary technology and infrastructure for 5G. Of course as with many things, at some point this cost will have to be passed onto the consumer at one stage or another. Its impossible to say how much 5G will cost for the consumer at this stage.

However, what we look at is existing trends in data prices, which are currently at its lowest rates. Whether this trend will continue by the time we’re all signing up for a 5G data package, only time will tell.

Whilst no one knows about the cost of 5G in terms of consumer data prices, where the consumer is likely to be hit is with regards to 5G compatible devices.

Of course as 5G in still be developing none of our existing technology is 5G compatible so you can expect you’ll need a new smartphone, tablet and whatever else in order to benefit from the service. And as mentioned with the 5G antennae, which could feature in every household, there’s pretty good chance you’ll have to pay for that too.

There might be some way to go yet before we’re all using 5G but the idea of instantaneous downloads and download speeds, which at this stage seem incomprehensible, the concept of 5G is already worth getting excited about.

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