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What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile networking and a huge step forward in terms of connection quality and speed. It’s already available in the UK and already delivering download speeds at 20 times the rate of 4G, but what will this massive leap in networking technology mean for us at the end of the day?

The Need for Speed: How Fast is 5G?

Speed is the ultimate benchmark for how we view the ‘performance’ of a network, so how 5G’s speed performs is central to how we understand what it can do for us.

Network speeds are measured in bits per second. You’re likely familiar with kilobits per second (kbps) and megabits per second (Mbps). 4G internet from Tesco Mobile averages speeds of 15 Mbps, or in real terms, it means being able to stream music without restriction or take you just under 4 minutes to download a 50-minute show on Netflix.*

5G is different.

On a 5G network with an average speed of 200 Mbps, that same 50-minute show would take just 16 seconds to download.

This changes everything, from how we download and stream our favourite music and TV, to how we connect in real-time on a network designed for immediate connection with minimal lag.

Not just high speeds, but 5G boasts low latency, too

Latency is how long the network takes to respond to a request. A request is anything from trying to load a video or interact with a webpage. These things need to ‘respond’ before they can load and make itself interactive for us. If you’ve ever noticed a slight delay between opening a web browser and being able to use it, that delay is latency, or lag, in action.

Latency generally goes unnoticed when using your mobile, but for gamers, latency can make it difficult to play as they need an instantaneous connection to react to whatever’s happening in-game. Games like Fortnite or Apex Legends need those low latencies to deliver a fun user experience and keep people playing.

But beyond your mobile phone or tablet, 5G enables a whole new way of using networks, such as self-driving cars (which need the finest of response times) and the bandwidth to get more and more devices connected to the same network breathing new life into the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G’s lower latency is bringing the real-time experience necessary for.

How Does 5G Work?

5G networks use a system of small cells, masts, towers and dedicated in-building tech to connect your phone (or other 5G-enabled devices) to the main network.

A big innovation in the tech comes in the form of a new millimetre wave (abbreviated: mmWave) with a short connection range and distributed widely. Millimetre-wave spectrum is a band between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. It’s this extremely high frequency is what gives 5G its enormous speed boost over previous generations of networking.

Since these waves have a hard time passing through buildings, 5G utilises more of these small cells to connect your device to the network and through that, provide greater network coverage and network capacity – meaning occasions when you have full bars but find it difficult to connect to the internet are a thing of the past.

If you want to take a deeper dive into how a 5G network works, watch out for our write-up soon.

So, in summary…

• 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networking.
• 5G averages download speeds of 200Mbps – letting you download a 50-minute show off Netflix in under twenty seconds.
• 5G brings lower latency and will enable a more responsiveness network – paving the way for self-driving cars and the IoT.
• 5G networks use a system of small cells, masts, towers and dedicated in-building tech to connect your phone (or other 5G-enabled devices) to the main network

If you want to know more about 5G check our 5G hub for more news and insight.