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What is 5G and when will 5G networks be available in the UK?

5G is set to take the UK by storm in the near future, but what exactly is a 5G mobile network, how does it compare to 4G and when can we expect to see 5G coverage rollout in the UK? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is 5G?

5G is basically an abbreviation of ‘5th Generation Mobile Network’. It’s the next big step up from our current 4G and LTE-A networks, offering a couple of key benefits compared with the current infrastructure.

UK phone users are becoming more demanding all of the time. A few years ago, even techy users would at most download the occasional app and stream some music over Spotify. But now, a large portion of us are watching YouTube and Netflix on the go, putting increasing strain on mobile networks. That’s why you might get ropey download speeds even in a built-up city, where phone reception tends to be good.

Which is where 5G comes in. Not only is 5G much faster than current mobile networks, but it’s also much more robust. In other words, 5G can deal with heavier volumes of traffic, which means a lot more users can get online at the same time and heavier use such as video streaming shouldn’t prove a problem.

Read next: How 5G compares to 4G, LTE-A and other mobile network speeds

How fast is 5G?

In 5G trials conducted at the University of Surrey in 2015, researchers managed to achieve speeds reaching a rather blistering 1Tbps over a distance of one hundred metres – in other words, 1000Gbps. Of course, that was under lab conditions and with no other users competing for bandwidth. So you can expect real-life trials to produce much slower results.

In fact, another trial conducted by Samsung produced speeds of 1.2Gbps when transmitting to a moving vehicle. That’s obviously nowhere near 1000Gbps, but still seriously impressive. After all, you could download an HD movie in just a couple of seconds at that rate.

When is 5G rolling out to the UK?

Right now in the UK, 4G is the fastest network speed that most people can enjoy. EE offers its customers a step above with its ‘LTE Advanced’ connections, available as standard for everyone who signs up to the network.

Ofcom is expected to auction off the first lot of 5G spectrum to mobile providers in 2018, in preparation for the arrival of ultra-fast networking speeds. However, there is one teeny problem, and that’s Freeview.

You see, Freeview signals are currently transmitted on the same frequency (700MHz) that 5G is going to need when it rolls out worldwide. Originally the plan was to transfer Freeview to another band by 2022 at the very latest, but the EU is determined to complete the changes eighteen months earlier. Of course, now that we’re in the dawn of Brexit, that might not make a difference to the UK any longer.


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