What's so good about 5G mobile?

Apple and Samsung both launched their latest flagship handsets in 5G only. This signalled the true arrival of 5G connectivity, bringing ultra-fast speeds and improved reliability. But what is 5G and why is it set to revolutionise our use of mobile phones?

What is 5G?

5G is the next generation of mobile internet, offering faster speeds, less latency and more reliability than 4G technology could ever achieve.

5G simply means 5th generation and is the latest evolution in data connection. The last time there were such advances in data connectivity was in 2009 when 4G LTE revolutionised how we used our mobile devices.

This is a breakthrough for smartphones and other mobile devices that access the internet, but what difference will it make to how you use your phone?

What does 5G mean for you?

Any online activity that requires high internet speeds, quick downloads, low latency and reliable connections will be improved by 5G connectivity.

If you enjoy any of the following, you’re likely to get a much better experience with a 5G phone:

  • Online gaming; you’ll experience less lag, smoother gameplay and mind-blowing virtual reality
  • Streaming HD movies; you can say goodbye to buffering or poor quality video
  • Augmented reality apps; you’ll be able to morph and enhance real-life with digital content
  • Video calling; no more out of sync chats and awkward business meetings
  • Smart home tech; heating, lighting & security will be seamlessly controlled from your phone

How fast is 5G?

5G can be anywhere up to 100 times faster than 4G, depending on network coverage and where you live.

Real-world monitoring has found 5G in Ireland to be about 10 times faster than 4G.

Downloading a movie will take just 6 seconds instead of 7 minutes and it’s estimated you could save 3 hours downloading a Spotify library of 10,000 songs.

In theory, 5G can achieve speeds of up to 10Gbps but a more realistic speed estimate across Ireland is likely to average around 1Gbps.

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What’s 5G coverage like in Ireland?

Most counties in Ireland are now covered by at least one 5G site and the main mobile networks in Ireland are quickly rolling out the 5G network to new areas.

As with 4G, rural and remote areas of Ireland are less likely to get decent 5G coverage but 5G networks are continuing to roll-out across the country.

So, if you can’t get 5G now, it’s likely you’ll be in a 5G area within the next couple of years.

You can check this interactive 5G map of Ireland to find out whether 5G is available in your area.

Which mobile networks offer 5G in Ireland?

The three top mobile networks in Ireland all offer 5G in the majority of towns and cities across Ireland.

  • eir
  • Three
  • Vodafone

All of these mobile networks have coverage maps for you to check 5G in your location but we’ve summarised current 5G coverage below:

eir says that it’s 5G coverage now extends to 55% of Ireland’s population, having been deployed in 239 towns and cities across the country.

Three offers 5G mobile services at selected sites in all 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland with their network now live in 121 sites across Ireland.

Vodafone’s 5G network now covers Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway and the Aviva Stadium.

What about other networks?

Although mobile phone operators like Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and many SIM-only providers use the three major networks to provide mobile services, they do not offer any 5G services in Ireland yet.

Which mobile phone is best for 5G?

Apple, Samsung and Huawei all have 5G ready phones available to buy from all three major Irish mobile networks. You can check out bill pay 5G phones on our comparison pages.

There isn’t much difference between them in terms of 5G connectivity.

The main consideration when choosing a 5G mobile phone is to find out which networks offer 5G coverage in your area. Take into account both work and home.

Here’s our pick of the best 5G mobiles available in Ireland

Are 5G mobile phones worth it?

It depends on how you use your mobile phone. If you mainly use your smartphone for calls, messaging and light surfing, it’s probably not worth paying extra for a 5G enabled phone.

Instead, you’re better off buying a cheaper handset if you are not that bothered about blisteringly fast downloads, low latency and rock-solid reliability.

However, if you use your mobile for

  • downloading and watching movies,
  • multiplayer or online gaming
  • video capture and movie making
  • augmented reality apps
  • video calling

and live in an area with good 5G coverage, then it’s certainly worth paying the extra for one of the latest 5G enabled smartphones.

There is no doubt that 5G will eventually be the standard for data connectivity across Ireland, and may even replace the need for other wired and wireless technologies.

5G Mobile FAQS

Can I get 5G on SIM-only plan?

If you plan to go SIM-only, check your phone is 5G ready. You’ll need a new SIM card with a 5G SIM-only data plan.

Your SIM-only plan will automatically connect to 4G when 5G isn’t available.

Can I roam with 5G?

It will depend on your mobile network, but Vodafone reports that 5G roaming is now available in Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Vodafone customers on a bill pay plan can use 5G in these countries at no extra cost. Other networks are less specific, but it’s worth contacting their customer services to find out about a particular country.

Do 4G phones work on a 5G network?

Yes, 4G phones will still work if you are in a 5G coverage area, but your connection will only be 4G.

You can also get 4G using a 5G phone when there is no 5G connection available.

Unfortunately, you can’t get 5G on a 4G phone, even if you are in a 5G area or buy a 5G SIM card. Your phone needs to be 5G enabled to enjoy all the benefits of the 5G network.

Does 5G use more data?

No, although you can download and stream music, TV and music more quickly and smoothly, the data packets are the same size.

Most 5G data plans are unlimited, so you won’t have to worry about data allowances.

Is 5G safe?

Yes, 5G complies fully with existing international Electromagnetic Fields exposure guidelines. These provide protection for everyone, including children, against all known health hazards.

These guidelines are regularly reviewed and issued by independent public health authorities and expert groups including The World Health Organisation (WHO).

You can find more information about 5G & Health on the EPA website.

Will 5G replace WiFi?

Not for a while. Although the 5G network won’t completely replace existing phone lines and cables, it will eventually reduce the need for them.

For people living and working in rural areas or remote parts of Ireland , it could provide a cost-effective alternative to fibre or satellite broadband. The likelihood of that happening will depend on the speed of the 5G roll-out in Ireland and investment in infrastructure.