What is 5G?

20 March 2019

5G is the next generation of mobile technology.

It follows previous generations of mobile technology such as 3G - which gave us mobile internet access that led to the launch of smartphones - and 4G - which 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. 5G is expected 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, gamers are likely to see an end to the slight delays that can occur now, when games can take time to reflect what they’re 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.

When will it be available?

Manufacturers and mobile companies are 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 shares the Government’s ambition for the UK to become a world leader in 5G. We’re 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. We’re also supporting companies who are looking to test and trial 5G services, so we can help get innovative new services off the ground.

Watch the video below to hear Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom's Chief Technology Officer, talking about the possibilities 5G networks will bring for people in the near future.