What is 5G?
5G, short for ‘fifth generation mobile networks’, is the latest generation mobile phone technology, the successor to 4G. In addition to providing much more capacity for data and video, it is a technology that will provide the underlying wireless infrastructure to support a wide range of new applications such as connected (driverless) cars, virtual and augmented reality and the foundations for emerging Smart city and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
It has a range of additional technical capabilities designed to provide more bandwidth and enable applications to respond faster. It will operate on radio frequencies that are not currently in use for mobile phone networks.
As with previous cellular technologies, 5G networks rely on signals carried by radio waves – part of the electromagnetic spectrum – transmitted between an antenna or mast and your phone.
We’re surrounded by electromagnetic radiation all the time – from television and radio signals, as well as from a whole range of technologies, including mobile phones, and from natural sources such as sunlight.
5G uses higher frequency waves than earlier mobile networks, allowing more devices to have access to the internet at the same time and at faster speeds.
These waves travel shorter distances through urban spaces, so 5G networks require more transmitter masts than previous technologies, positioned closer to ground level.
What are the features of 5G?
Faster download speeds: 5G will provide much faster speeds than are achievable with today’s 4G networks. 5G is expected to provide speeds between 1GBps and 10GBps. This would mean a full HD movie could be downloaded in 10 seconds as opposed to 10 minutes today.
Lower Latency: 5G will also have significantly lower latency meaning very little lag (or buffering), with reaction times faster than the human brain. This will enable applications that simply aren’t possible today, such as: multiplayer mobile gaming, factory automation, and other tasks that demand quick responses.
Greater Capacity: 5G will also have vastly greater capacity so that networks can better cope with not only the rapidly increasing data demands of customers today but the growth of high-demand applications being planned in the future.
What are the real-world benefits of 5G?
Real-world benefits – some examples:
IoT devices: A wide range of connected devices. For example, O2 has found that 5G enabled tools such as smart grids and electric autonomous vehicles will save householders £450 a year through lower food, council and fuel bills (MobileUK).
Optimised services: Utilisation of smart bins and intelligent lighting could save councils £2.8 billion a year (MobileUK).
Remote health services: NHS could see up to 1.1 million GP hours freed up through telehealth services (MobileUK)..
Connected cars: 5G will be critical to connected cars which will require a constant and guaranteed connection.
Holographic video: Industrial equipment could be controlled remotely helping increase worker safety and 3D medical imaging and remote surgery could become a reality.
What do health experts say about 5G?
In the UK, the UK Health Security Agency (previously known as Public Health England (PHE)) takes the lead on public health matters associated with radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, or radio waves, used in telecommunications. Central to PHE advice is that exposures to radio waves should comply with the ICNIRP guidelines.
ICNIRP is the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which is formally recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
5G networks are licensed and strictly regulated by Ofcom within public health guidelines that were set by Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Central to PHE advice is that exposures to radio waves should comply with the guidelines published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). ICNIRP is formally recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition, the UK’s mobile industry has made a voluntary commitment to comply with international guidelines and to provide certificates of compliance with planning applications for mobile base stations.