Beginner’s Guide to 5G

2019 saw the launch of the next generation of mobile connectivity from the four main UK networks, EE, O2, Vodafone and Three. Following on from 4G, launched in the UK in 2012, 5G is expected to be much faster and more reliable, with greater capacity bringing more opportunities across multiple industries to create a newly connected society. 5G has the potential to bring download speeds of up to 1Gbps, in comparison to an average of 32.5Mbps on 4G.

How does 5G work?

Rather than replacing 4G completely, 5G is designed to work with 4G infrastructure to complement the service. Devices will connect to the 4G network, delivering the control signalling, and the 5G network, offering the fast data connection, enabling the two technologies to work together to provide the best possible service.

5G uses a range of macro cells, small cells and dedicated in-building systems. Small cells are mini base stations designed for localised coverage, usually from 10 metres to a few hundred metres, providing in-fill for a much larger, macro network. These antennas are often fixed to lampposts and buildings, as depicted in the diagrams, to boost signal in the immediate area and provide faster speeds.

The networks

EE was the first Mobile Network Operator (MNO) in the UK to offer 5G, launching in May 2019. They currently offer 5G connectivity in 41 locations across the UK, including 9 cities. They have also rolled out 5G hotspots in some of the busiest transport locations and tourist traps in the UK, including London Waterloo, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and Manchester’s Albert Square, home to the Christmas market.

The second network to launch 5G in the UK was Vodafone, in July 2019. They currently offer 5G in 31 locations in the UK and a further 63 across Spain and Germany. Vodafone have made an effort to target towns and cities that their competitors have not, including Newbury, Llandudno and Isle of Scilly, in addition to the UK’s major cities.

Vodafone were closely followed by Three, who launched in August 2019. Currently, Three only offer 5G connectivity in areas of London, however they plan to launch in a further 24 locations, including Bristol, Brighton and Coventry, among other big cities.

The final network to launch 5G was O2, who switched on their network in October 2019. They set a target of reaching 20 towns and cities by the end of the year and plan to continue the rollout throughout 2020 to reach a total of 50 locations.


Following the initial launches by the networks, a number of manufacturers have now released 5G-ready devices, containing a 5G modem. Samsung’s latest Galaxy products, the S10 and Note 10, are both optimised for 5G while Huawei, LG and Xiaomi have also launched new devices to connect to the network.

Apple introduced the new iPhone 11 and its variants in September, none of which are 5G ready. Surprisingly, the usually forward-thinking tech giant are slightly behind the rest of the industry with a 5G capable iPhone not expected to be launched until September 2020.

Use cases

Beyond a simple performance increase, 5G is expected to bring a variety of exciting new capabilities through the Internet of Things (IoT), particularly in terms of transport, medicine, manufacturing and even agriculture.

Self-driving cars are often seen as a concept of the future, but, with 5G, this future is getting closer to becoming reality with semi-autonomous vehicles expected to hit the roads in 2021. Additionally, 5G hotspots will enrich public transport with reliable connectivity on trains and in airports.

The adoption of 5G within the healthcare sector is expected to revolutionise the industry, with potential for faster data transfer and telemedicine set to improve efficiency and real-time bio connectivity, using wearable technology, enabling remote monitoring and treatment.

In manufacturing, 5G will increase efficiency, creating interconnected factories. People will be able to communicate with IoT devices and autonomous robots to exchange data to collaborate successfully. 5G will provide these gadgets with wireless access to a low-latency, high-speed, high-capacity network.

Meanwhile, in agriculture, a traditionally manual sector, 5G will enable farmers to use drones for fertilisation and monitoring of crops. According to O2, 5GRuralFirst are already applying 5G with the use of robot arms for planting and harvesting crops from a remote location.

So now you know more about 5G, you’re probably wondering how you can get involved. With Digital Wholesale Solutions, you can start selling 5G with O2 or Vodafone on a wholesale basis, or partner with us for Network Mobile and you can access O2, Vodafone and EE, meaning your customers can choose the network that best suits them. Speak to our teams today to learn more!

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