5G is the next generation of mobile network, offering a host of capabilities across the mobile, tech and smart home sectors. 5G has the potential to transform the way we use the internet in our homes in a way that 3G and 4G have not been able to do, but will it replace broadband as we know it completely? From costs to speeds, we explore what the introduction of 5G means for home broadband.
What is 5G broadband and how is it different to fixed broadband?
Standard broadband involves fixed fibre lines running from a source to a cabinet near your home or business. Copper or fibre cables then run from this cabinet to your property to provide a reliable internet connection.
5G, in the future, will be able to replace the last stage of this process by providing a wireless 5G connection from the source to your home - so you'll no longer need those cables. The first stage in the process - the fixed fibre lines from the source to a nearby cabinet - will remain the same however, even with 5G home broadband. This will make it easier, and much quicker, to roll out 5G home broadband.
5G home broadband (also known as 5G FWA or 5G Fixed Wireless Access) has many benefits, but thanks to its ability to offer a wireless connection it will be a particularly great option for anyone who works away from home or moves a lot, as you’ll be able to easily take your contract with you from home to home.
Fixed broadband vs 5G broadband speeds
One of the biggest benefits of 5G is improved download speeds. Currently, fixed broadband can reach around 80Mbps at best in well-connected areas, with people in more rural locations experiencing even slower speeds (around 10Mbps).
It is estimated, however, that only 15% of the UK can actually reach 80Mbps with their fixed broadband connection. Although 5G broadband is expected to be only slightly faster than 80Mbps, the vital difference will be 5G's ability to deliver consistently faster speeds to more of the population.
However, 5G broadband speeds can still be affected by coverage, signal quality and how many people are using the network at once.
What are the differences in costs?
Not only is 5G faster, but it should be cheaper to install too. This is because, due to the wireless nature of the connection, you won’t need an engineer to visit and install internet cabling into your home or business – instead, you just plug in your router and go.
5G broadband companies plan to provide simple instructions to set up your 5G home broadband, and it will be an easier and quicker process than fixed broadband is currently. Contract lengths are also likely to be much shorter, as operators won’t need to factor in installation costs into their monthly or annual prices.
Although 5G is cheaper to install for customers, it is more expensive to run and maintain than fixed broadband - with cost expected to cost up to five times that of fixed broadband.
Although 5G is a wireless connection, it does still need to be fibre-fed and there are some [rural and even urban locations]](/blog/which-uk-cities-have-the-best-5g-connections/) that don’t currently have the framework to support this infrastructure. This means that 5G may not be available in less connected areas.
Transmitters are required deliver 5G frequencies, and due to the short wavelengths 5G uses, antennas/transmitters need to be closer to the user for maximum benefit. This means that more antennas will be required to keep coverage flowing from location to location, which could be a costly process to roll out, and a major reason why 5G broadband may not replace home broadband completely in the future.
5G connections also use higher frequencies than 3G or 4G (hence the short wavelengths), which contribute to a more reliable broadband connection. However, higher frequencies may have problems penetrating solid objects like walls and buildings, so in order to ensure a reliable and fast network connection can reach your home, additional 5G hubs may have to be set up across cities and rural locations. Again, this is a costly and time-consuming process, and could be a factor why 5G may not fully replace fixed fibre broadband.
Both fixed broadband and 5G FWA have their advantages, but you will undoubtedly see more 5G home broadband offers appearing in the coming years.