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Is the UK Ready for 5G?

18 Dec 15:00 by Joshua Hill

Woman holding a phone

The mobile network EE has confirmed that they are planning a trial of 5G by mid-2019 ahead of a full launch in August 2019. Controversially, O2 have disputed the plans insinuating that any 5G before 2020 would only be a 'lite' version (5G.co.uk). If EE's claims are true, how are they exactly going to do it? Luckily EE is already the biggest 4G provider in the UK, and as early versions of the network are going to rely on both a 4G and 5G infrastructure they have a great base to start with. EE has admitted that following the launch it will 'evolve massively' but the trial will still be a full version that can connect to 5G devices.

According to Ofcom reports, EE are likely to be able to deliver their promise. At the moment they offer a lower latency than their competitors, meaning that the speed at which their network responds to a request is quicker than others. There isn't a guarantee that EE will be able to deliver the same results with 5G, but it is likely! Further to this, they secured 40 MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum that was auctioned by Ofcom. They won more of the 3.4GHz frequency (the optimum for 5G) than 2.3GHz but still came away with less than rival Vodaphone.

So, we know EE have the means to deliver it but, how will it affect your day to day life? In the short term, it's unlikely to affect you massively unless you live in one of the six major cities that have been picked to pilot the launch. EE has also decided not to turn on 5G accessibility for the whole of these cities, choosing 6 densely populated areas instead. Hype Park in London, Manchester Airport, the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham, Belfast Airport, Waverly train station in Edinburgh and the Welsh Assembly are the hotspots picked.

Even if you live in one of those 6 cities you still won't be able to test the technology unless you have a compatible phone. For a 5G phone to work it needs a modem that can run the network, and unfortunately manufacturers won’t be able to get access to one until next year. (The Verge). Intel is leading the creation of this technology with the hopes that it will not only give smartphones 5G capabilities but also computers and broadband hubs. The speed will peak at 6 gigabits per second and will still support older networks such as 4G, 3G and even 2G (The Verge).

Smartphone manufacturers across the world are already building models to support the Intel modem. Samsung is leading the way after partnering with Qualcomm (an American telecommunications equipment company) and agreeing on a strategic plan focusing on the transition to 5G. Chinese company Huawei is looking to implement the technology into their 'foldable' phone which is likely to be a popular choice with consumers. Out all the manufacturers, Apple is going to have the most time to produce a 5G ready handset as they usually release new products later in the year. Although nothing has been confirmed from them directly, it is likely that the long-awaited overhaul of the iPhone model will link well to the launch of 5G.

As businesses and consumers adapt to a brand new network, engineers across all fields will be needed to update the infrastructures and upgrade equipment. The new network is likely to spark an evolution of new specialists to maintain infrastructures implying that jobs in the area could be long-term. 5G coming to the UK is exciting news, and is likely to benefit many people personally and professionally!