What is 5G?

5G is the next generation of mobile technology.

It follows previous generations of mobile technology.  3G gave us mobile internet access that led to the launch of smartphones. 4G offers much faster browsing and allows us to do things like watching videos on the move.

What difference is 5G expected to make?

UK consumers are using 40% more data every year. We expect 5G to go further than previous mobile technology, offering the capacity for thousands of devices in a small area to be connected at the same time.

In future, one of the differences you will notice with 5G is how responsive it is. So for example, bidders are likely to see an end to the slight time lag when bidding online in live auctions. This will also apply to games which can take time to reflect what gamers are doing on their controller.

But the biggest differences are expected to go far beyond improving the way we use existing products like smartphones or games consoles. The instant connection 5G offers and its capacity to have thousands of devices connected at one time opens up the potential for new, innovative services.

This could bring great benefits. For example:

  • manufacturers could use more automated machinery, providing and reacting to real-time data to improve efficiency;
  • transport networks, local authorities and other public bodies could use it to improve public services like parking, traffic management and street lighting; and
  • it could also bring revolutionary changes to healthcare. For example, by enabling technology that allows medical students to practise surgery in a connected, virtual reality environment that reflects a real-life experience – even enabling them to ‘feel’ the surgery they are training to deliver.

Photo: Courtesy of Ofcom

Rural Connectivity

One of the biggest impacts 5G can have is on rural connectivity. Many 'no-zones' still remain across the UK where, at worst there is no superfast broadband connectivity. At best, connectivity is sporadic and always dropping out. This includes in many rural areas  where businesses have been left behind in the so-called digital revolution.

Mobile 5G connectivity can be a game changer for our rural communities and economies.

When will 5G be available?

Manufacturers and mobile companies are already working to prepare for the launch of 5G. Across the world different companies have been carrying out trials for 5G products, and the first 5G devices are expected to be available to consumers from 2019.

What is Ofcom’s role in 5G?

Ofcom - the communications regulator - shares the Government’s ambition for the UK to become a world leader in 5G. They're already working with the Government and industry to make this happen – including releasing the airwaves that companies will need to use for 5G products to work. Ofcom is also supporting companies who are looking to test and trial 5G services to help get innovative new services off the ground.