Until now, there’s only been one way to access dependable high-speed internet connectivity round the home.
The importance of broadband is reflected in the success of our sister site, BroadbandDeals.co.uk.
While the UK’s 4G networks are adequate for emails and listening to Spotify at the gym, you wouldn’t want to rely on them for Netflix – or working from home on a full-time basis.
Our 4G networks are patchy in coverage, inconsistent in achievable speeds and expensive for daily data usage.
However, that might be about to change.
5G to the rescue
Unlike its predecessors, the fifth generation of mobile data connectivity is being awaited with genuine excitement.
Tests took place at the World Cup in Russia, and a small-scale trial is ongoing in Shoreditch – the UK’s self-appointed hub of creativity and innovation.
These proof-of-concept trials are designed to iron out bugs or glitches in the real-world operation of what has hitherto been a theoretical concept.
The 5G network is using previously unexplored bandwidth frequencies, while conventional cell towers are being augmented with a small army of compact network boosters.
EE hope to have their 5G network fully functional next year – stealing a march on competitors who aren’t planning to launch their own networks til 2020.
Either way, consumers are in for something rather special when fifth-generation connectivity is rolled out across the nation’s streets – and the next generation of mobile devices.
In fact, it might be good enough to replace broadband entirely…
How 5G networks could spell the end for broadband
- Speed. It’s anticipated that the higher GHz 5G frequencies will be able to transfer data far more quickly than even gigabit fibre broadband could manage. Using broadband may actually become the slower option, effectively rendering it obsolete.
- Simplicity. Having a single internet connection would simplify connections. Every device will be connected to the best network wherever you go – there’ll be no more switching off WiFi and then forgetting to turn it back on later.
- Reliability. Broadband outages are an unfortunate but familiar part of modern life, caused by everything from rebooting routers to the dreaded “network issues”. Because 5G is designed to be always online, reliability should be a given.
- Consistency. Domestic broadband signals fluctuate according to everything from the router’s proximity to walls through to interference caused by other wireless devices. With 5G, there’ll be no need for mesh extenders, signal boosters or routers of any kind.
- Availability. Getting either fibre broadband or an Openreach line installed involves physically drilling holes in the walls of your home. Leaseholder homeowners or tenants may not be allowed to authorize this. Because it’s wireless, 5G needs no installation hardware.
- Affordability. Laying broadband cables is hugely expensive, especially when they have to be added into existing streets. Adopting 5G also eliminates the expense of replacing the copper cables in FTTC connections. Data should be cheaper than it is with 4G, too.
- Accessibility. This lack of infrastructure will also make it far easier for new customers to join or change networks. Without any hardware to worry about, existing devices could simply be switched from one provider’s bandwidth frequency to another.
The waiting game
Of course, it’s going to take some time before we reach a situation where mobile broadband is consistently superior to its hardwired cousin.
The UK’s inaugural fifth-generation network won’t even be launched til next year, and that will only cover limited urban areas to begin with.
It’ll be several years before the likes of O2 and Vodafone will have sufficient infrastructure for 5G networks to be a viable option nationally.
However, its benefits certainly sound compelling.