The Breakdown: Your Ultimate 5G Guide

Consuming media on the go is about to become a whole lot easier. With the introduction of 5G download speeds are going to be the length of the blink of an eye. Whether you agree or not that we are heading in the right direction, there is no doubt that technology and connectivity will be the assets of the future. With the advent of artificial intelligence in our cars, medicine, gaming and more, we need the high-speed, uber-reliable internet connection.

We live in a world of connected gadgets and the promise of 5G is 10 GB per second to your phone, which is about 600 times faster than your current 4G speed and 10 times faster than Google Fiber’s standard broadband service. You will be able to download a 4K film in 25 seconds.

The Race for Dominance

The race for 5G dominance is something akin to the race for space in the 1960s. Whoever can claim leadership over worldwide 5G deployment will control much of the world’s capacity to function in a future of The Internet of Things. While the US are keen to claim this role, they haven’t as yet succeeded. Early attempts to piggy-back 5G on the back of 4G infrastructure failed to deliver the promise on the fifth generation connectivity.

China seems to be ahead by a nose. Huawei is the leading maker of 5G equipment and its equipment is deployed widely. It has come under increasing scrutiny due to its ties with the Chinese government and the potential threat 5G tech can pose to security of data. While the accusation that Huawei could be a hub for the theft of intellectual property in the US, others might see the US ban on the Chinese company as a way to draw back Chinese advantage in this race to be the best. Not only would 5G give China an edge in connectivity, it would give them an opportunity to get ahead in AI development too.

Other countries such as the UK, Australia, India, Taiwan and Japan have banned Huawei equipment from their 5G network. Therefore, companies such as LG, Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson have a chance to catch up in this race for dominance.

The journey from 1G to 5G

To understand 1G to 5G you need to understand a little about the wireless spectrum. This is a range of radio wave frequencies from low to high. The ranges of frequencies are known as bands and they are separated off to avoid signals interfering with each other. Your mobile phone will rely on low and mid band frequencies as they can go a long way and travel through walls. You can imagine that these bands are super crowded – leaving the higher end as prime real estate for future signal carriers.

The first wireless network was built in the 1970s and was analogue – basically unencrypted radio waves. If you got yourself the right equipment, you had the power to tune into anyone’s conversation. Ham radio listening was a genuine hobby of the 80s – ask your grandad!

2G was digital and now it was possible to encrypt calls and the delivery of data was more efficient – though if you experience dialup internet you would sorely disagree. Finally, with 3G we got a digital network with a bit of a bandwidth boost and we could finally get an internet signal to our mobile phones. 3G was introduced in the early 2000s but was slow to spread – the first iPhone came in 2007 and still wasn’t able to fully support 3G (who will ever forget getting the dreaded “E” on our phone).

Even when 3G became something, companies like Apple and Nokia were looking to 4G. The app economy emerged and required much greater speeds to be viable on our mobile phone. With Apple and Google pressing the buttons and demanding more, the US led the way in introducing the fourth generation of connectivity.

Into the future

5G is on its way. The US Federal Communications Commission has held auctions to sell space for the 5G spectrum. There is more to be released from the mid-band spectrum too. The worry is that the more carriers encroach in the higher bands, the closer they come to the frequencies used by the armed forces and secret services of countries around the world. Therefore, the opportunity to steal secrets, disrupt other countries, and for governments to surveil populations using the 5G network become a genuine concern.

However, consumer demand is such that 5G will need bandwidth. It is not just about mobile phones, it is internet-connected cars, environmental sensors, thermostats, and all those Alexa and Siri dots and hubs. As there is such low latency a doctor could sit in a room in New York and perform robotic surgery in London. Remote monitoring and video feeds could reduce the need for manual management of huge swathes of industry,

And if you think it can’t get better than 5G – think again. Companies are gathering at the starting line to take advantage of the wireless spectrum above 100 Ghz – in other words – they are looking to be the leaders in the race for 6G.