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5G: Everything you need to know


5G is here, but it’s limited for now

Just about everything you hear about 5G points out how its higher data speeds will let you download videos or update your apps much more quickly. Faster data is helpful, but a different 5G benefit could actually be a bigger deal: reducing network communication delays called latency. Latency is the time it takes to get a response to information sent — for example, the lag between the moment you try to shoot a space invader and the moment the internet server hosting the game tells your app whether you succeeded.

What is 5G?

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before. Apart from the need for infrastructure, the technology and the competition, you can read here why 5G is at the center of the trade war between USA and China.

Combining cutting-edge network technology and the very latest research, 5G should offer connections that are multitudes faster than current connections, with average download speeds of around 1GBps expected to soon be the norm. With time, 5G is expected to advance wireless networking by bringing fiber-like speeds and extremely low latency capabilities to almost any location.

5G is currently 20 times faster than 4G but in future it could be 100 times faster. In the near future, this will help power a huge rise in Internet of Things technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data, allowing for a smarter and more connected world. At this speed, it is estimated you could download a two-hour movie in just 3.6 seconds on 5G, versus the six minutes on 4G or 26 hours on 3G. But with such speeds, there is a need to be more robust in security of your  personal details.

With development well underway and testbeds already live across the world, 5G networks are expected to launch across the world by 2020, working alongside existing 3G and 4G technology to provide speedier connections that stay online no matter where you are.

Cue driverless cars, drones, trains and much more besides. A tactile internet where touch becomes as important as what you see or hear. A new era of electronics where wearables, smart fabrics, and connected-everything is possible. The Internet of Things (IoT) in full bloom, but also a new, real-time economy based on an industrial-scale IoT.

None of these things will happen overnight. 5G will take years and years to significantly spread beyond 5G hotspots in urban areas. 5G won’t be egalitarian either; select urbanites (and businesses) will have it first, while everyone else will only experience it occasionally. It will be years until we all use it regularly. You don’t want to be left behind in this race for technology.

When will 5G launch?

In the US, Verizon surprisingly launched its 5G network at the start of April 2019, making it the first globally to offer the next-generation network. It is still limited in the coverage but it works. In Kenya, Daily Nation reported that only Safaricom is testing 5G’s feasibility in Kenya and it is expected to launch the network early next year in urban centres. Telkom and Airtel are still laying out infrastructure for 4G.


What 5G phones are available?

A number of 5G phone announcements have been made in 2019, however only a handful are currently available, and the choice is further limited by country and carrier.

From the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and beyond, the first 5G phones are now here.

Alongside them, the first 5G networks are finally being switched on – albeit only on a small scale so far.

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