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What is 5G?

We’re hearing a lot about this new technology, but what exactly is it?

3g has been around for a while, and many of us now have access to 4g via our smartphones and internet-enabled tablets.

Now there’s talk about a 5G rollout, and people are saying it could even help bridge the gap for rural broadband. But what is it, and when will it be coming to Ireland?

So, what is 5G and how will it impact me?

5G is the next generation in mobile technology, which can offer speeds that are multiples of what you’ll get on current 4G networks - and on top of the high speeds, it also has a low contention ratio.

If you’re wondering how this will impact you in real life - according to some research, a movie that would take eight minutes to download via 4G would be downloaded in around 5 seconds on a 5G network.

Is 5G really on the way?

5G is almost definitely on the way, although it looks like it won’t be widely available until 2020.

According to GSMA, an organisation that represents the interest of almost 800 mobile operators worldwide, 5G could account for as many as 1.2 billion connections by 2025.

What kind of speeds can 5G achieve?

In February this year, Vodafone - in partnership with Ericsson - carried out Ireland’s first successful live 5G demo and achieved speeds of 15 Gibabits per second (Gbps).

Bear in mind that the ‘Fibre-to-the-Home’ broadband being rolled out by the likes of eir and SIRO offer 1Gbps speeds, and this is considered ‘lightning speed’ - so 5G is going to be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before.

What can 5G do?

Although hugely beneficial, 5G won’t just be useful for superfast downloads and streaming - in fact, the general consensus is that 5G is going to be really important on a much wider scale.

After its 5G test, Vodafone said that some of the use cases that 5G will gradually enable over time include:

  • Supporting increasing traffic demands from video services and interactive applications e.g. 4K streaming, video analytics and holograms.
  • Reliably connecting massive numbers of devices, including smart vehicles.
  • Providing faster, secure, reliable and robust connectivity which is essential to delivering things like real-time video surveillance, self-driving cars and eHealth remote surgery.
  • Supporting real-time response requirements to allow virtual reality, augmented reality and real-time control of robotics.

When will we see 5G in Ireland?

The major networks are already talking about a 5G rollout, although it’s still a way off.

Earlier this year, Vodafone said their rollout would “commence within 24 months”, while a Three Ireland spokesperson told the Irish Independent that they expect to be doing 5G trials in the last three months of this year, “with a view to commercially launching some services in 2019”.

It sounds like one of the main issues in terms of people actually getting 5G into their hands is going to be a lack of compatible devices at the outset - we don’t have any available in Ireland yet that can handle this technology.

But, whether we can carry 5G in our pockets from 2020 or not, it sounds like it’s going to have a huge impact on the communications landscape in general, so watch this space!

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