What is 5G?

20 March 2019

5G is the new generation of wireless 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.

Some mobile firms have started to launch 5G services, with others set to follow.

What difference will 5G make?

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

One of the main differences is how responsive 5G is. For example, gamers will see an end to the slight delays that can occur, 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.

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.

What is Ofcom’s role in 5G?

The Government wants the UK to become a world leader in 5G, and Ofcom is working with the Government and industry to make this happen.

We have released airwaves needed for 5G products to work, and have helped companies to test 5G services, to help get innovative new services off the ground.

Watch the video below to hear Mansoor Hanif, Ofcom's Chief Technology Officer, talking about the benefits 5G could bring.