In our data-hungry world, bandwidth is scarce and often overcrowded.
It’s prone to low speeds, lag and poor connections.
The fifth generation of mobile internet ought to solve these problems by giving us stable connections, faster downloads and uploads – and better coverage.
It will reduce lag, allow us to enjoy a bigger Internet of Things, and permit many new and exciting innovations.
However, 5G is a big change.
It demands new networks, new infrastructures and new handsets containing a new type of processor.
To experience 5G, consumers need 5G handsets – and in 2019, they will finally get their hands on them.
Who will launch first?
We’ve been talking about 5G for ages, but it seems that in 2019 it’ll finally go live.
Providers are trialling 5G networks, and manufacturers have shown prototypes, but we still don’t know which company will release 5G handsets first.
Samsung, Huawei, OnePlus and Sony are all scheduled to debut new phones this year, some of which are bound to include 5G.
Indeed, the president of Qualcomm (whose recently-launched Snapdragon 855 processor will power the first wave of 5G smartphones) claims every Android vendor is developing 5G.
Qualcomm has a strategic relationship with Samsung, and that may give the Galaxy S10 a head start. Prototypes featuring 5G have already been successfully demoed.
But Sony, which has also clearly stated its commitment to 5G, is going to release a new Xperia this year.
Samsung and Sony often launch new models at the Mobile World Conference, running from the 25th to the 28th of February.
However, their 5G phones may not be included, which would mean they’d probably arrive later in 2019.
Meanwhile, Motorola plans to launch an add-on 5G module for the existing Moto Z3 early in 2019, but only for Verizon customers in the USA.
What about the iPhone?
The first 5G handsets to hit the shops will probably be Android, because Apple’s ongoing legal fight with Qualcomm might mean they have to get their 5G processors from elsewhere.
That presents a choice of allowing Android to be first to market and launching a 5G iPhone a year or so later, or joining the market early – under pressure and potentially under-prepared.
Such a decision may be eased by the fact 5G infrastructure and networks are in the early stages of development, and won’t offer the full 5G experience for some time.
Early adopters will have to use a mix of 4G and 5G while they wait for providers to catch up.
Even so, 5G represents a huge step.
Experience tells us many consumers will rush to buy cutting-edge handsets, despite their initial high cost and limitations.
And in due course, perhaps when prices drop and networks catch up, we’ll all do the same.
The 5G smartphone is coming this year, and it’s going to change our lives.