• 5G: What Does It Mean For UK Smartphones?

    By Samantha Watson , January 11, 2019 - Leave a comment

    Surrounding this year’s CES technology trade show has been a buzz of excitement around the prospect of 5G connectivity being rolled out in 2019.

    The mobile network technology is being trialled and tested by manufacturers and network providers worldwide, but what exactly is 5G and what does this mean for UK smartphone users?


    #1: What is 5G?

    5G quite literally stands for the 5th generation of mobile networks; what you use to make phones calls, send text messages and get online.

    This next generation network utilises higher frequencies than its predecessors, allowing for quicker data download, increased coverage and more stable connections. As such, 5G is capable of handling significantly more data, allowing more devices to connect simultaneously and at much faster speeds than 4G currently allows.

    It has been estimated that by 2020, mobile traffic will have increased 30-fold since 2014 and so wider coverage and better connections are needed.


    #2: How fast is 5G and how does 5G compare to 4G?

    The standout benefit of 5G is its speed, however just how quick it is we don’t yet know.

    Estimates have been somewhat varied however some have put speeds at a whopping 100 times faster than 4G – potentially exceeding 10Gbps. To put that into perspective, this would allow you to download an entire HD film in less than a second, a task that would take roughly 10 minutes using a 4G network!

    When it comes to uploads, estimates are even more vague, but the general consensus is that data will be uploaded at similarly fast speeds, maybe even up to 10Gbps.

    As well as being faster, 5G technologies will also be more responsive and will significantly reduce latency. You’ll be looking at faster loading times – so you won’t have to wait to watch a video online – as well as improved responsiveness.

    Overall, this means that the 5G internet connection on your phone is likely to quicker than the speeds of your home broadband. Staggering!


    #3: Will I need a new phone for 5G?

    When 5G comes, you will certainly need a new smartphone to meet the demands of the network.

    Current smartphones have been crafted with 4G modems and so just aren’t compatible with the technology that 5G connectivity requires.

    A number of 5G smartphones are expected to be launched during the course of the year and these will require a more complex antenna, a completely new chipset and a way of managing the extra energy that these rich 5G services will use.

    As always, we will be looking to stock all of the latest 5G handsets at Clove.


    #4: When will 5G come to the UK?

    The 5G buzz has been building and this is with good reason; UK rollout looks likely to get underway at the end of this year or even 2020 according to the UK government’s 5G strategy. But reign in the excitement somewhat, as this is just an estimate of when networks will begin to roll out 5G capabilities, not when we can expect widespread coverage. According to estimates, this is more likely to happen in 2022 or later.

    Indeed, in December it was announced that ‘EE will launch what is expected to be the first 5G smartphone on UK networks early next year, signing a deal with OnePlus for its upcoming 5G phone.’ The UK network operator is planning to launch 5G technology at first to 16 cities – including London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.

    Now, EE are the first network thus far to announce a deal in the UK, however we’re definitely expecting others to follow suit soon. It has said it expects to charge customers ‘a little bit more’ to use 5G, but it looks to be a price worth paying!


    #5: Which companies are working on 5G technology?

    With 5G set to be rolled out across the world within the next few years, it’s not surprising that a lot of the world’s biggest manufacturers have confirmed that they’re working on their own 5G devices.

    Among these, Samsung, Sony, LG, Motorola and Google have all confirmed that they’re aiming to produce their first 5G devices for 2019, aided by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 modem.

    Indeed, OnePlus chief executive Pete Lau has all but confirmed that the company would release a 5G smartphone in the first half of 2019, however the model would be ‘significantly more expensive’ than the current devices it has on sale.


    #6: Will roaming work with 5G?

    Now confusingly, different countries may use different types of frequency when first setting up their 5G technologies. It’s highly likely that most phones and infrastructure will support both types (mmWave and sub-6GHz spectrum) but whilst 5G is being set up, there may be a focus on one over the other.

    As such, it is possible that within the first few years of 5G being established, you may not be able to access all worldwide connections. That said, your 5G phone will still be access 4G connections. This means you will still be able to make calls, send text messages and emails and access the internet, just not at the same speeds as 5G.


    Samantha Watson


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