The State of 5G – What to Expect in 2019

The fifth generation cellular network technology, or just 5G as it’s far more commonly known, has already launched in the UK. For the everyday consumer, the benefits are still unclear.

So why should you care?

First, let’s take a look at 5G in the UK today

As of July 2019, two networks in the UK have already rolled out their 5G networks: EE and Vodafone. At the moment, both companies are only covering specific cities in the UK such as London, Manchester, and Edinburgh however, more are in the pipeline before the end of the year.

The other major UK carriers are all expected to launch their 5G networks before the end of the year, but for 2019, focus will mostly be on major cities before launching in more rural areas.

This has been a hotly-contested issue between the carriers and the UK government. Rural connectivity for 5G requires substantial investments and whilst regulatory organisations like Ofcom would like 95% of the UK covered by 2023, the reality is that such figures will be incredibly hard to achieve.

In fact, rural areas are struggling even with 4G. Some areas have no coverage whatsoever, whereas only 41% have complete coverage. As the pressure to massively increase those numbers for 5G mounts, what will actually happen remains to be seen.

So any consumers that wish to use 5G networks would have to be in one of the supported cities. UK carriers are also attempting to focus on the residential and commercial broadband markets for 5G but most consumers are highly unlikely to become early adopters.

To be more precise, the fact that 5G will only be available in major cities means that consumers who are in need of high-speed connections will already be using technologies such as fibre which are cheaper and more widely available.

Who can take advantage of 5G?

As was the case with 4G, the only way to take advantage of 5G networks is to have both a device that supports it and an accompanying mobile contract. Initially, the focus has been placed on 5G handsets as well as Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Both EE and Vodafone have launched deals specific to 5G with the hopes of attracting new customers who may currently be on the lookout for a new device, with prices being at the higher end of the scale.

5G is unlikely to be used in many home applications right now. Instead, the new network technology will mostly be confined to high-level applications such as vehicle, traffic, and environmental management.

Even then, the vast majority of such systems are already using 4G successfully and are predicted to do so for the foreseeable future. The old mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is apt here.

There is no doubt that 5G can open up new paths for IoT but change on that scale does not happen overnight. Future applications are exciting but they need a lot more research and development before they can actually be deployed.

Autonomous cars, wearables, and even home automation technology will surely benefit from what 5G can provide but it also pays off to be cautious and focus on reliability instead of experimentation sometimes.

Will the M2M industry adopt 5G quickly?

Unlike IoT, M2M devices will not necessarily benefit hugely from 5G. While having better network technology is obviously more beneficial on paper, services and applications for M2M do not usually require the higher speeds and bandwidth provided by 5G.

In fact, 4G networks in the UK are reliable and robust, two factors which are far more important in M2M than pure speed. In addition to that, the extremely limited availability of 5G will make it impossible for many to even consider switching until at least a couple of years down the line.

As was the case when 4G was originally launched in the UK, bridging the cost-benefit gap will require some time, as well as significant investment from both carriers and consumers.

For simpler applications, such as connecting to your own home router, 5G may be even more redundant. Cases like establishing a connection to your CCTV are well-served by 4G as not only is the speed more than satisfactory, reliability is also superb.

Should I switch to a 5G router?

With the launch of 5G networks, 5G routers will also be making an appearance during 2019. Due to the reasons we’ve already covered, however, it’s improbable that they will be in high demand – at least initially.

Instead, many manufacturers have placed a much stronger emphasis on future-proofing existing technologies, such as 4G antennas for routers with poor signals.

For instance, the Fullband MIMORAD 4G antenna now supports 3G, 4G, and 5G frequencies so can be classified as a 5G Antenna, giving consumers peace of mind without the need to upgrade straight away and even if 5G networks are not currently available in their location.

Just for reference, here are the frequencies that will be rolled out by EE:

  • 950MHz
  • 1800MHz
  • 2700MHz
  • 3500MHz (Summer 2020)

Our existing routers, such as the Proroute H685, take advantage of 4G networks to provide stable connections to a host of devices such as CCTV, kiosks, energy plants, digital signage and other remote media, and numerous other applications across the UK.

All you need is a fixed IP SIM card that enables you to connect the router to said device and you are good to go. These kinds of setups are easy to work with and have proven to be extremely reliable which is exactly what most are looking for.

So should I be excited for 5G?

Depending on what kind of consumer you are and where you are located, 5G can certainly seem like an exciting prospect. Better speeds, lower power consumption, and more possibilities for IoT devices are all fascinating prospects.

And, of course, 5G will certainly become much more widely available as time goes on. The only thing to keep in mind is not to get too excited about this technology because, as exciting as it may be, it’s also just now emerging.

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