This year is all about 5G: Here's what you need to know

OPINION: If there's one piece of technology that's head-and-shoulders more exciting than anything else in 2019, it's 5G.

This is the technology that will be powering driverless cars, the Internet of Things, virtual reality (if that ever happens). And yes, most importantly of all, making the download speeds of our smartphones even faster. 

However, for most people 5G is still a bit of mystery. We all kind of know that it'll be faster than 4G. But, if we're being honest, we don't really know why or how.

But don't panic. If you can dedicated five minutes of your time, I will explain everything you need to know about 5G. And why 2019 is such a bumper year for the technology


Yes, that UN. 

The United Nations actually has a hand in shaping the mobile technology we all use on a day-to-day basis. It's called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and it literally sets the rules for radio spectrum usage.

The UN's first 5G contribution dates back to 2012 when it launched "IMT for 2020 and beyond" (IMT-202). 

Five years later the ITU published a draft report outlining the minimum requirements for 5G. 

The "IMT-2020" report outlined 15 goals and standards for 5G. However, for convenience's sake we only need to know focus on the following three areas (listing all 15 would get messy).

1. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) 

Consumers must have faster and more reliable mobile broadband - guaranteeing data transmission rates of 100Mbps even when the signal is weak.

2. Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC)

5G must have latency low enough to support real-time technologies. This is to support emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles.

3. Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC)

This use case is characterised by a very large number of connected devices typically transmitting a relatively low volume of non-delay-sensitive data. Devices are required to be low cost, and have a very long battery life


The "IMT for 2020 and beyond" report paved the way for the 3GPP- a partnership of seven telecommunications standard development organisations - to start creating actual standards for 5G. 

3GPP published its Non-Standalone Specifications in December 2017 and its Standalone Specifications in June 2018.

Both the standards are the same. The only difference is how they will deliver 5G. 

Non-Standalone 5G can run on the spare bandwidth of existing LITE networks (that currently deliver 4G to our mobiles). This is likely to be a slower version of 5G

Standalone 5G will use a totally new specifically-designed infrastructure.


100 megabits per second (Mbps) real-world download speeds: Mobile users should expect reliable connections capable of delivering 100 Mbps download speeds and 50 Mbps uploads.

20 gigabits (Gbps) per second is the transfer rate at base stations, but your actual download speed will depend on how many users are connected to your 5G base station (transmitter). 

But 5G will be able to efficiently handle more connected devices than 4G, however, as with all mobile technologies, the speeds it can transmit is dependant on the number of devices connected, and 5G base stations will be able to transmit data at a rate of 20 Gbps and receive data at 10 Gbps

1m connected devices per square km: This might sound like a massive number. But it's a necessary one. If (or when) IoT takes off it will flood the world with millions of low-cost connected devices. All of which will rely on 5G for connectivity.

Work at speeds up to 310 mph: If you've ever tried to stream or download something in a car or on a train, you'll know it's an issue. This will improve with 5G.

Low latency: It should take no-more than four milliseconds for data to travel from one point to another in good conditions. 

Everything you've read above will land this year. This isn't our war though. 5G is a battle that's taking place on US soil right now. 

Over there you have networks fighting over who will be first to roll-out a 5G network to the American people, and you have other networks scrapping to roll out the first "true" 5G network using standalone specifications

Expect to see those launching at Las Vegas CES (Consumer Electronics Show) next week, if we're lucky. Failing that, Barcelona's MWC (Mobile World Congress) will almost definitely have several 5G mobile on display.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            stuff  06 /01 /2019                                                                                                                                             

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