How Will 5G Benefit the Average Consumer?
One of the biggest technological advancements made by 5G is in its latency, which has been reduced to as low as 1 ms.
12:18 10 November 2020
For the last few years, people within the communications industry and many journalists have been discussing 5G and the technological revolution it is set to unleash. More recently, with the launch of these next-generation networks in the UK by EE, Vodafone, O2, and others, 5G has become a reality for some people.
However, it’s not received the same attention, hype or excitement that surrounded the switch from 3G to 4G and most consumers haven’t been rushing to upgrade their smartphones like they did five or so years ago.
Part of this is likely because consumers are generally keeping hold of their smartphones for longer than in years gone by. In 2019, it was reported by CNBC that the average smartphone life cycle had increased from 23.4 months to 26.2 months. Here in the UK, British consumers are eking even longer out of their handsets: 27.7 months on average.
This is backed up by Apple’s sales figures that show annual demand for iPhones peaked in 2015. 231 million units were sold that year, with the figure dropping to 215 in 2016. Although sales figures have flattened out, they remain below the 2015 highs.
Part of this is the fact that smartphones are becoming more expensive, with most flagship handsets costing the best part of £1,000. Consumers also don’t see the need to upgrade as they perceive the differences between their current and newer models to not be big enough to justify an upgrade.
This is despite 5G now being added to the latest handsets on offer from Apple, Samsung, OnePlus and Google.
But should consumers be more excited to get access to the 5G networks? How will they benefit from it?
One of the biggest technological advancements made by 5G is in its latency, which has been reduced to as low as 1 ms. This is important for gamers as low latency (or ping) can help make online games run smoother and prevent jerky and frustrating lag.
Current 4G networks have a latency of around 30-50 ms, while 5G averages 21 ms but can be even lower.
5G also provides faster speeds which will hugely impact players. Games such as Counter-Strike and Dota II will experience a different reality. Another industry that will be positively impacted is the online casinos, especially those with live dealers as the faster speeds will ensure more stable connections and better video stream quality.
It’s already possible to use 4G connections for streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Even high-quality HD content plays smoothly with little to no buffering, provided your signal remains steady throughout.
4K streaming isn’t overly practical with 4G though as it pushes the theoretical boundaries of the standard. The bandwidth requirements for 4K are 500% higher than HD, with a minimum of 25 Mbps needed for smooth playback.
While 4G offers theoretical real-world speeds of 100 Mbps, it rarely gets close to this in crowded places like city centres. In contrast, 5G is 100 times faster, with a maximum speed of 10 Gbps (10,000 Mbps), more than enough to handle a 4K video.
The End of Fixed Lines
In the 1990s, we used dial-up connections to get online. In the 2000s, we moved to broadband, and in the 2010s we began switching to fibre lines. Each time, we got a significant step up in speed.
Dial-up topped out at 56 Kbps, while traditional ADSL broadband can’t do much more than 10 Mbps. Most UK providers offer fibre internet at around 50-70 Mbps, though some offer speeds up to 10 times that.
Regardless of what you use, it remains fixed to your home and is reliant on engineers connecting a cable to your house.
5G has much more capacity than 3G and 4G, so it could see the end of this, with mobile internet that we can take with us when we go out to use on your laptops, tablets, and other devices. It also means you’d have more flexibility about where you place your router since it no longer needs to be plugged into the phone line. That means you could position it for better signal in your home.
Consumers don’t seem too excited by 5G at the moment, though most will eventually see the benefit when they upgrade to a new smartphone. However, the higher capacity, faster speeds and lower latency would provide benefits to much of the general public. It seems that networks have their work cut out in convincing the public of that.