UK businesses are looking for a boost in the speed and scope of communications in the form of 5G, but how soon will having a 5G phone that delivers all the 5G benefits become a reality, and what will it take to make it happen?
What Is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications. i.e. you use it to call, text and (when not connected Wi-Fi network) get online. It is thought that 5G should be much faster than previous generations, and may open up new opportunities for mobile data, stimulate innovation, and make UK companies even more competitive.
Tech and communications commentators are quick to point out, for phone manufactures, manufacturing 5G phones will be a slightly different and more complex proposition. For example:
- 5G phones are more complex e.g. more complex antenna. These mean extra production costs which are likely to be passed on (with first-wave prices) to customers. It is thought that 5G compatible phones will be priced between £450-£540, with higher prices for leading brand models e.g. Samsung, Apple and Huawei.
- Miniaturisation of a more complex 5G phone presents challenges. The first generation of 5G phones may, therefore, be a little larger than a normal smart-phone.
- Launching new handsets before the new network has been rolled out could simply annoy buyers and damage brand reputation.
- The first 5G smart-phones will need two modems, one standalone 5G modem, and one that still works on 4G and older networks (for when 4G isn’t available).
What About The Network?
The 5G network is, of course, the crucial element in giving customers the 5G experience that we’ve been promised. Some of the key points to remember about the 5G network are that:
- The frequency spectrum needed for 5G is finite, and even with additional spectrum that has been auctioned to the UK’s mobile networks, more will be needed. This may mean some crowded traffic in the first wave, with things not improving until more auctions have taken place.
- Other technologies will need to be developed and trialled. Lessons learned about 5G in other countries (e.g. China) will take time to be noted and incorporated in the UK network to help it deliver maximum benefits.
- There will be 2 different, location-based frequencies. Sub-6GHz (gigahertz) are likely to be the first offered to users, and there will also be an expensive high-frequency “millimetre wave” (mmWave) for use in densely populated areas. In short, this could mean limitations on where an owner can use their shiny new 5G phone.
Taking all this into account, phone manufacturers have been publicly offering estimates of when their 5G phone models will be available. For example, Motorola’s 5G add-on for its Moto Z3 smart-phone are due in early 2019, Samsung may launch their first 5G smart-phone in August 2019, and Huawei’s 5G model could be with us by mid-2019.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
The same increased speed and lower latency of 5G that allows downloading films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering, is also likely to provide many new and innovative opportunities, and could help provide a boost to new industries. For example, it will help to boost virtual and augmented reality, provide greater connectivity to IoT and smart devices, and help with all kinds of services e.g. smart bins and smart lighting, and remote healthcare services. The growing autonomous vehicle market could also benefit as 5G provides the constant, guaranteed connection that they need. Those companies operating delivery drone / robot services e.g. Amazon may also get a boost from reliable and powerful 5G connections.
Many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas. Also, the news from an O2 forecast is that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK, and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills.