What is 5G mobile broadband?
5G mobile broadband is the newest and most advanced cellular technology on the market, ushering in a new era of improved global connectivity. The 5G network is capable of providing speeds of potentially 100 times faster than 4G and is currently being rolled out across Ireland.
With 5G set to become more and more prevalent in our everyday lives, here are a few questions you might be asking yourself about the new technology.
What is 5G?
5G stands for fifth generation and is the most advanced cellular technology available worldwide.
5G theoretically allows for speeds of up to 10Gbps on mobile devices at its peak. This means that top speeds could potentially be up to 100 times faster than what consumers have been used to with 5G's predecessor, 4G. However, the likelihood is that customers will receive speeds of up to 1Gbps, making speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G, which is still incredibly faster.
The introduction of 5G will also improve latency or the lag time on receiving data, making a real-time internet connection a reality. In layman's terms this means much faster response times for online activities that require a lot of bandwidth, such as high-quality video streaming, automated car driving, and online gaming.
How does 5G work?
5G functions by using radio waves, similar to 4G, but it operates at a much higher frequency so it requires a much larger bandwidth or capacity to be able to do so.
This higher operating frequency means that more people can access the internet, and at much faster speeds. However, the increase in bandwidth necessary also means that the radio waves will travel shorter distances, especially in built-up areas.
This means that in order for 5G to operate and work effectively there needs to be an increase in the level of supporting infrastructure, namely more transmitter masts and antennae dotted around our cities, towns, villages and hinterlands.
Who is providing 5G?
Three Irish networks: Vodafone, Eir, and Three Ireland provide 5G services to customers in Ireland at present.
Where is 5G available?
Vodafone, Eir and Three all have 5G services in most of the major towns and cities across the country with plans to further expand their networks over the coming months and years.
As of November 2020, Three says it has 37.5% population coverage overall. It has 432 sites live across the country with availability in every county and is adding five to 10 sites a week.
Eir recently said it had 340 sites live while Vodafone, which doesn’t give site numbers, is live in 14 counties and targeting 30% population coverage by March 2021.
Smaller operators like Virgin Mobile, An Post Mobile, and Tesco Mobile, which piggyback on these providers' networks (so-called mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs) do not offer 5G services yet.
Why is 5G important?
The fifth generation of wireless technology brings with it a whole new world of possibilities and solutions to everyday problems.
Not only does 5G usher in a new era of improved global connectivity, it also opens the virtual doors to smart cities, improved healthcare provision, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
5G technology is set to change how we stay connected, at home, at work, and on the go. And while the wireless network won't completely replace existing phone lines and cables, it will significantly reduce the need for them, providing a cost-effective alternative to fibre broadband for those people and businesses who live and work in the most remote parts of Ireland. However, it could be a while yet before rural areas see anything close to what 5G can offer.
IoT and Smart Tech
One of the tangible changes that 5G will bring about will be innovations centred around the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to everyday objects, or so-called smart devices, that are connected to the internet and are interrelated because they are capable of receiving and transmitting data in real time. Think of everyday improvements to making a simple journey, such as accurate and real-time transport information, as well as responsive information when using maps on your phone.
With the improvement in connection speeds and reduced latency that 5G brings, the IoT possibilities are endless. Doctors and surgeons will have access to life-changing, 5G-enabled healthcare innovations, businesses will be able to streamline the production and provision of products and services, while the advancement of transport technologies, including self-driving cars, will be made a reality.
The advancements in 5G will also greatly benefit Smart Home technology. Like any other IoT device, smart home products help to automate the most basic of manual tasks in the home, and in most cases will make them much more efficient, even helping you to save money in some instances. We're already beginning to see smart home technology being adopted in homes across the country, such as smart doorbells, smart meters, and even smart kitchen appliances. With improved 5G services it’s not just the bigger picture that's set to improve, but our everyday lives.
There has been considerable public discussion and mooted health concerns around claims that 5G and its accompanying infrastructure emits harmful radiation.
The World Health Organisation has disputed these claims as false, however, and has stated that up until this moment in time, and after considerable and ongoing research, "no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies."
Most of the technology we use everyday emits some form of low-level electromagnetic radiation, such as the light from your television screen, FM radio waves, as well as the use of radio waves for the provision of WiFi. This radiation is considered to be non-ionizing, which means it's not harmful to the human body. The technology used for 5G falls well below the threshold to be considered 'ionizing radiation'.
Two international bodies currently produce exposure guidelines on electromagnetic fields, and the frequencies used by 5G technology fall well below these international guidelines.
How do I sign up?
To avail of 5G services you will need:
- 5G compatible handset
- 5G enabled mobile plan
- 5G coverage in your area
5G coverage maps, as well as the latest 5G plans and compatible handsets can all be found online.