What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile network technology.

What will it do?

The initial roll-out could double mobile download speeds. Eventually, it’ll be much (maybe 10 or 20 times) faster than the current 3G/4G technology and will enable much more bandwidth heavy applications in places without fixed internet access. People are talking about using these for self-driving car communications and drone meshes and all manner of interesting stuff.

When will I get it?

Depends. If you’re in a big city, all the phone networks either have launched or will be launching partial networks this summer or autumn. Vodafone has announced that Gatwick Airport is now 5G ready.

If you’re not in a big city, or not in a busy part of a big city, it’ll be next year or later (maybe a long time later).

Will it help me with my poor broadband?

If you’re in the middle of nowhere and waiting for a decent internet connection at a moderate cost, you’re probably going to have to wait a couple of years for 5G connectivity. So, short term, unless you’re working from a coffee shop in a trendy part of London, Brighton or the like? No, it probably won’t help you directly. It may help you by indirectly driving down the cost of fixed internet connections.

Will I need a new phone?

Yes. There aren’t many 5G phones out there yet.

How much will it cost?

It’ll cost more than 4G – maybe 10-20% more (or possibly more than that, if you start using much more data because it arrives faster)

Are there health risks?

No. Not unless you count RSI and back strain from trying to use and carry ever-bigger phones.

What about the radiation from the masts?

No. The BBC reported on the health risks. You’re in more danger of a mast falling on you than from its transmissions.

In summary

When it gets going with widespread availability, 5G will be a step-change in the volume and speed of mobile connections. For most of the country that’s two or more years off. However, there is a lot of hype about 5G right now, and not quite so much hard reality to back it up. Watch this space.

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