What is this 5G all about?

5G-image-Now that Vodafone has announced availability of 5G by the end of the year what exactly does that mean for you and me?

If you are a Vodafone service subscriber and live at Kapiti the first thing you may think about is the newly installed fibre connection, but alas, it has nothing to do with that as you don’t need fibre to get 5G, instead your need a 5G capable device like a smartphone or tablet or gaming computer to take advantage of this new wireless technology when it is ready.

The promise then is

that once all 5G components are fully operational we’ll need no wire, cable, coaxial or fibre, to supply our communications or entertainment services to our mobile devices or fixed systems such as security, HDTV or smart appliances [IoT] and that also includes your autonomous car when it comes.

5G cell service

It is a colossal step forward in speed of transmission, but requires a lot of new infrastructure to make it work. However, the current 4G transmission scheme is rapidly becoming unsustainable and it looks like it is happening faster than the experts thought.

With other words a lot of money is being invested all over the world in 5G infrastructure improvements, but Vodafone says that it will not cost subscribers more, at least not to start with. They will have to convince us that 5G can provide previously impossible services that our present 4G cannot and that we badly want.

A bit of history: There never really was a 1G, but Japan’s first generation of mobile networks was launched in 1979 and in 1983 the US approved the first 1G operations. The second generation was launched under the GSM standard in Finland in 1991. {GSM= Global System for Mobile communications]. The speed of 2G was around 9.6kbit/s gradually being increased of up to 500kbits/s. Then came 3G in 2001 making international roaming services a reality and it was 4 times faster than 2G. Network capability was about to be stretched like never before.

4G came out of Scandinavia with Sweden and Norway in 2009 and introduced gradually throughout the world making speed of up to 1gigabit/s possible for gaming, HD videos and business conferencing. However, now the mobile devices supporting 4G had to be designed accordingly. This is still the standard in most parts of the world but coverage is not universal, f.ex. UK residents can only access 4G networks 53% of the time.

4G v 5GOne might wonder why we are hellbent on 5G when 4G coverage is so low in some places and it is down to IoT [or Internet of Things] that 5G became necessary with the vision of millions, even billions, of connected devices sharing data seamlessly across the world. IoT will have data move out of server centres and into so-called edge devices such as WiFi enabled appliances like fridges, washing machines, vacuums, climate control systems , cars and much else.

The existing 3G and 4G networks cannot support such a network because the 4G has a latency between 40ms and 60ms and that is too slow for real-time responses for e.g. autonomous cars which will require instantaneous reactions to situations on the road.

[Latency typically refers to delays in transmitting data on computer networks and may be referred to as High Latency, meaning long delays, or Low Latency, meaning almost instantaneous transfer].

There is one more item worthy of note and that is that the 5G that Vodafone is preparing to use is the 3.5 GHz frequency band which is a high frequency band and this makes it a bit tricky because high frequency signals do not travel far, so it is likely that that the cellular networks will require more transmitters operating with denser cells using lower power. Expect to see loads of new smaller cell towers almost as lampposts along the street.


In our brave new world we can see forward to being connected to everything and everyone, be careful what you wish for.

Meanwhile enjoy your 4G connectivity and keep in touch with Kapiti SeniorNet so you get the benefits without the hassles.