5G is coming to major UK cities this week - here’s everything you need to know

By Lloyd Bent
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019, 15:13

The next stage in mobile technology is imminent in the UK, and experts believe that it could revolutionise the way we live.

On 30 May mobile network EE will be the first to switch on its 5G signal, in a move that could lead to vast improvements in business and home life, as well as spearhead advances towards new technologies like driverless cars.

Tech companies have already started to make sure they can adapt to the changes, which aim to replace the 4G signal, and will first be introduced in London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham.

Samsung released their first 5G phone - the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G - in South Korea in April, paving the way for other companies to follow suit.

What is 5G technology?

Like 3G and 4G in years gone by, 5G is a mobile network that is expected to be more powerful and reliable than what we are used to.

This is achieved through the use of higher frequencies, which allow for higher bandwidth and greater speed - up to 1000 times faster than 4G.

It is predicted that, all going well, 5G could mean the end of Wi-Fi, as the mobile network will be strong enough to facilitate any kind of browsing from streaming TV shows to looking at social media.

The large bandwidth will also mean that thousands of devices can be connected to 5G at once, without causing interruption to signal or speed issues.

How will it influence my life?

Nigel Linge, professor of telecommunications at the University of Salford explained, “5G is simply the fifth generation of mobile service since the launch of those iconic analogue brick phones of the 1980s and will offer significantly higher speed and more consistent access to the Internet.

“It will allow the download of a HD movie in less than a minute, up to 1000 times faster than 4G.

“It will make our cities ‘smarter’ reducing delay for enhanced mobile broadband applications, enabling virtual reality and connected and self-driving vehicles.”

He added that the impact “will change as the networks expand, the other operators launch their 5G services and more handsets become available.

“In the next few years we’ll start to see the real potential of 5G being realised through better network coverage and capacity, enhanced mobile broadband access, support for the Internet of Things, and services tailored to specific classes of users achieved through a process known as network slicing.

“Those features in turn will enable the development of a new generation of apps and services. “

When will it be available in the UK?

At the moment, only 85 per cent of the UK is covered by 4G, and that was rolled out seven years ago.

This means that it could be a long while before 5G is available to anybody but a select few. And even after the new technology is fully developed and tested, network providers will need to upgrade sufficiently to handle the new technologies.

EE has said that it hopes to have 1,500 5G-enabled sites by the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, O2, has said that its network will be available in the four capital cities from 2019, with others getting coverage next year.

Vodafone is currently holding trials in several different cities, including Birmingham New Street Station, creating the UK’s first 5G train station.

Which phones will work with 5G?

So far, OnePlus, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei have all unveiled versions of 5G smartphones.

Usually these devices are slightly bigger than their 4G counterparts in order to allow space for the new modems that will enable them to connect to 5G networks.

What else can 5G do?

With its greater connectivity to the internet all around us, it is likely that it will have an even greater impact on the way we live with the introduction of 5G.

The World Economic Forum has spoken of how it will aid the development of driverless cars by making mapping and video data available in real time, thus allowing cars to perceive their environment beyond the line of sight.

It is also believed that 5G could be used to power drones carrying medical supplies, and BT said it could enable "advanced disaster recovery services using drones, such as delivery of equipment, medicine, food, water and blood."

5G has been predicted to influence our home lives in many ways, too.

Smart fridges will reduce food bills, a 5G-enabled smart grid will cut down on your energy bills.

Councils could also have the ability to take advantage of smart refuse collection, which could reduce costs and lead to lower council bills.