What is 5G?

What is 5G?

You might have heard the term ‘5G’ in relation to networks and smartphones, but what exactly is it? Our experts are here to explain everything you need to know about the technology, and how it can impact your smartphone experience.

If you’re interested in picking up a compatible handset, we have you covered with our range of 5G-ready devices.

5G explained

The ‘g’ in 5G means ‘generation’, and it refers to the 5th generation of mobile network technology. Like 4G, 3G and other generations that came before it, 5G enables mobile phone users to wirelessly connect to the Internet without the need for Wi-Fi or a wired connection.

A vital component in linking phones to a mobile network is the RFFE (radio frequency front-end) module; a chip which converts digital information from the modem into an analog signal that the network can detect.

Because it runs on faster and higher frequencies, 5G can deliver information at a more rapid speed compared to previous network generations, alongside numerous other benefits.


What does ‘5G-ready’ mean?

In order to connect to the 5G network, you'll need to be using a 5G-ready device. These handsets feature a 5G-specific modem, and are also likely to have a larger battery and faster, more powerful processors to support the data-heavy tasks enabled by using 5G.

5G-ready phones will still connect to 4G networks , so you can remain online even if you leave a 5G-supported area.

How fast is 5G?

5G aims to deliver a much faster service than its predecessor, 4G, with download speeds of up to 10Gbps and a latency time (the time taken to open a downloaded file) of 1 millisecond.

To put this into context, 4G is capable of download speeds of 300Mbps. To download a full-length film on 4G, it'll likely take you around 2-3 minutes, but on 5G you'll be ready to press play in 4-40 seconds.


Where is 5G available?

Many smartphones are 5G-ready across a wide range of networks, including Vodafone and iD Mobile.

5G began rolling out around the UK in 2019, and can be accessed in many cities and towns including London, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester.

The technology is also available across the globe in countries such as the USA, China, Canada, South Korea, Italy and France. This widespread adoption means you can access 5G’s fast connection speeds while travelling, too.


A brief history of mobile networks

Mobile networks might seem relatively modern, but their history reaches back as far as the late 70s.

• 1G – created in 1979; introduced globally in the 1980s
• 2G – introduced in 1993
• 3G - introduced in 2001
• 4G - introduced in 2009
• 5G - introduced in 2019

5G is technology built for the world of streaming and 4K videos. Given how much data these activities can consume, it’s important to have a mobile plan that’s right for you.