While this may come as a surprise to you, there are actually multiple versions of 5G, and not all of them are created equally. While this is less of an issue here in the UK, it can be quite a headache in the US.
We’ve already taken a look at 5G and how it works in a previous blog, which you can find by clicking here. But just as a recap, here’s what you need to remember:
What is 5G?
The Fifth-Generation wireless cellular network (5G) is the latest radio technology built to deliver high-speed performance. It is not an upgraded version of 4G, but a different technology altogether — one that is worth mentioning in this day and age.
Experts predict it will do much more than significantly improve the network connection. Due to 5G’s unified connectivity fabric, connecting devices to gather and share information in real-time will become more comfortable and helpful.
From reducing road accidents to predicting production lines, multiple domains can benefit from lag-free connectivity. There’s no wonder that 5G has received a tremendous response since its much-awaited launch back in 2019.
Although an extensive rollout has been delayed due to COVID-19, the world has its eyes on 5G. Mobile operators are expanding and upgrading their networks by investing billions each year in the deployment of this new, fifth-generation cellular network.
The advantages offered by 5G
Speed – 5G is set to overpower LTE in speed as it is around 100 times faster than 4G. Currently, 4G is the most rapid mobile technology. It transfers a maximum of 300 megabits of data per second (Mbps) — and that is a huge number.
Research shows 5G can deliver up to a maximum of 3 Gigabits of data per second (Gbps). This speed is expected to increase 20 folds to a speed of 10 Gbps in the future. This will enable users to transfer and download files in a flash, saving time and improving app usability.
Latency – 5G comes with Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC), enabling it to deliver data in just a millisecond. Minimal network interference will allow mobile apps to deliver data in real-time. It offers a substantial reduction in latency than the average latency of 50 milliseconds experienced over 4G networks.
Different versions of 5G
Keep in mind, this only applies to the US. The first flavor is known as millimeter-wave (aka mmWave). This technology has been deployed over the course of the last few years by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Using a much higher frequency than prior cellular networks, millimeter-wave allows for a blazing-fast connection that in some cases reaches well over 1 gigabit per second. The downside? That higher frequency struggles when covering distances and penetrating buildings, glass or even leaves.
This is by far the fastest type of 5G there is, but as previously mentioned, the signal can be extremely unstable. Even if you turn your back to the celltower, your speeds can get halved.
The second flavor of 5G is Low-band: Lots of range, but lower speeds
Low-band 5G is the foundation for all three providers’ nationwide 5G offerings. While quite a bit faster than 4G LTE, these networks don’t offer the same absurd speeds that higher-frequency technologies like millimeter-wave can provide. But they do function similarly to 4G networks in terms of coverage, allowing them to blanket large areas with service. They should also work fine indoors.
This is the type of 5G that we know and love here in the UK.
There’s also a new type of 5G being developed – In between the two is midband, the middle area of 5G. This spectrum is faster than the low band, but with more coverage than millimeter-wave.
5G on EE
EE was the first UK carrier to launch its 5G network, switching it on in six cities on May 30 2019. By the end of 2019, it had expanded to 50 towns and cities from London to Edinburgh, including Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow, and Wolverhampton. By October 2021, coverage was available in 212 towns and cities.
Like the US networks, though, 5G covers some but not all areas in each city. While the promised 1Gbps speeds were possible, we saw them more around the 200-400Mbps range.
5G on Vodafone
Vodafone launched its 5G service on July 3, 2019 in seven cities, rolling out to a further eight towns and cities on July 17. By year’s end, that had expanded to 31 cities and towns, including London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff. As of 2022, Vodafone offers 5G in over 100 places.
It also offers 5G roaming in select locations, which the other major UK networks don’t at the time of writing.
5G on Three
Next up was Three, which launched a 5G service in London on August 19, though initially only for home broadband. The carrier’s planned late 2019 mobile 5G rollout was pushed back to early 2020 to ensure all elements of the network were built out.
It has now launched though, with 5G offered in parts of 168 locations as of 2022 – so it made up for lost time. It also offers 5G as standard on all its plans, which not all networks do, and it sells a similar selection of 5G handsets.
To sum up
If you’re already enjoying the blazing-fast speeds of 5G, we’re extremely happy to hear that! If you’re yet to upgrade to a 5G capable phone and/or plan, we’d say to give it a go, as there’s a noticeable difference between 4G and 5G.