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5G: Five things you need to know

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5G: Five things you need to know

Most of us still don't have 4G, but the network operators are already talking about 5G.

EE has pledged to lead the way, for example. But what will it mean for us punters? And when will it be here? Read on, and all will be revealed.

1 It'll be much faster

speedy gonzales roadrunner fast

This is a given, but it's important to realise just how fast we're talking. It's expected to run around 10Gbps, which is fast enough to download an HD film in a couple of seconds.

Theoretically, it could be much faster, however. Some tests have hit a whopping 800Gbps.

At that speed, you could download 33 HD films in one second.

It's also fast enough to stream 8K films in 3D. 4K is only just starting to trickle out now, and it has four times as many pixels as standard HD.

So 8K will have eight times as many. That will be mighty sharp.

More devices will be using the internet (between 50 billion and 100 billion are expected by 2020) so network capacity will have to be upped.

It won't just be mobiles and tablets using the spectrum. Inanimate objects like cars, fridges, trains and more will also use it. Which brings us on to...

2 It will change how we live

driverless cars

5G doesn't just mean even faster network speeds. It will also usher in smart cities.

In other words, driverless cars, the internet of things, and plenty of other technologies that have been tipped as the next big thing will finally be able to unfurl their wings.

This is thanks to a harmonisation of the radio spectrum. At the moment, the radio spectrum is a mess of different bands serving different types of communication.

For the launch of 5G, the entire spectrum will be restructured, which should make all forms of network data communication more efficient.

3 It should launch in 2020

phone masts

The first frequency bands should come into use around 2020. The other two should be hot on its heels.

But other countries could have trial networks up and running even sooner.

Samsung wants to run a trial 5G network during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Huawei could also have one ready for the 2018 World Cup.

4 It won't break

Experts predict it will be as reliable as a fibre broadband connection.

That's thanks to advances in antenna technology, which should – fingers crossed – mean an end to connections dropping out.

Which is reassuring, if it's going to be piloting our driverless cars.

It's predicted 5G will have a latency of just one millisecond – that's 50 times faster than 4G.

That should mean it's suitable for use by robots carrying out millimetre-accurate surgery on patients.

Again, good job it will be more reliable.

5 It will be standardised soon

gsma

Standards for 5G are expected to be finalised towards the end of this year or the beginning of 2016.

Which is good, because at the moment no one can agree on what the requirements should be.

The GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, basically the body representing the interests of mobile operators around the world) put together a list of what its members thought should constitute 5G.

And they differed wildly.

So there's way to go yet. But trust us, it'll be worth the wait.

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