If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably already heard about 5G technology. But you may not have a deep understanding of what 5G actually is. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on all things 5G in Australia. We’ll answer questions such as what is 5G, what does 5G mean, how fast is 5G, what does 5G do, how does 5G work and more.

At Vodafone, we are on the 5G frontlines, and we’re pretty excited about all the new possibilities that 5G technology will usher in over the next decade. So, without further ado, let’s get up to speed with the 5G network.

What is 5G technology?

5G is shorthand for the 5th generation mobile network. It’s the latest generation of the worldwide wireless standard, and it’s significantly different to the networks that came before it, namely 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G.

That’s 5G explained in a few words, but what’s 5G capable of? 5G expands the possibilities of the network. It’s more efficient and performs at a higher level. 5G has the potential to connect our changing world.

5G technology is set to play a key role in advances in IoT (the Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), cloud computing and a huge swathe of other technologies.

5G’s capabilities are extraordinary and include:

  • Faster speeds
  • Ultra-low latency (or faster response times)
  • Increased reliability
  • Greater availability
  • A gigantic expansion to network capacity
  • A more consistent user experience

All of these capabilities are defining features of 5G. In many ways, they’re the real 5G definition.

Who invented 5G?

A number of different companies on different continents helped bring 5G wireless technology to life. Ownership of 5G is collective and not limited to a single pair of hands.

In 2019, South Korea was the first country to adopt 5G on a wide scale. Samsung has played a very active role in supplying base stations and equipment in South Korea. Ericsson and Nokia have also made significant contributions, while Huawei provided base stations to at least one 5G carrier.

At the moment, there are 9 different companies selling 5G hardware and systems for carriers across the globe. You may recognise some of their names: ZTE, Samsung, Qualcomm, Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson, Datang Telecom, Cisco Systems and Altiostar.

How is 5G better than 4G?

In terms of technology, 5G is a big evolutionary step, but the use of 5G in everyday life is still unfolding. Things have only just begun.

5G speed

One of the clear benefits for all network users is the speed of 5G. While 4G can be pretty snappy some of the time, 5G’s speed leaves it in the dust. Get ready for faster gaming, speedier streaming, quicker downloads and more connectivity in real-time.

How fast is the 5G internet? In the UK, Vodafone reports that 5G is already up to 10 times faster than 4G. In numbers, 5G technology operates between 150-200Mbps on average, with 5G max speeds above 1Gbps. For ordinary people, this translates to a speed of about 3 minutes to download a full HD movie. In comparison, 4G would take longer than 15 minutes to download the same film.

5G reduced latency

5G has reduced latency, meaning quicker response times. Latency is the time delay between giving a command and getting a response. In other words, when commands are issued, 5G-powered devices will react at a faster speed.

For industry, reduced latency creates new operational efficiencies. You can expect to see a whole host of innovations that tap into the improved response times and allow faster delivery of mission-critical solutions.

But let’s dial back for a moment and compare latencies between different generations of network technology.

  • 3G — 100 to 500 milliseconds latency
  • 4G — 20 to 30 milliseconds latency
  • 5G — less than 10 milliseconds latency

With 5G’s very low lag time between issuing a command and getting a response, some of the improvements to digital working life will include:

  • Improved interactions with customers — virtual communications with customers will potentially begin to feel more natural.
  • Greater remote working satisfaction — whether it’s training or team meetings, 5G service could revolutionise the experience for remote workers. The potential for greater engagement and more immersive connectivity is all there.
  • Increased capacity for attracting top talent — with improvements to the remote working experience, organisations have the potential to cast the net wider to recruit the talent they need.
  • More and more video — reductions in latency and buffering can make using video more viable than ever before.
  • A surge in the use of Virtual Reality — 5G’s low latency has the potential to open the door to a better, richer VR experience.

5G greater capacity

While 4G has made more things possible for more people, 5G drives capacity onwards and upwards. You can gain access to a greater number of high-demand applications, and use them at the same time.

Some experts forecast that 5G will push the mobile ecosystem into brand new territory. Few sectors will be untouched by 5G. From transportation to agriculture, healthcare, education, logistics and many other industries, 5G has the potential to have an increasing impact as the decade progresses.

How does 5G work?

The technology behind 5G is based on orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing — OFDM, for short. OFDM technology is widely used in telecommunications. It’s essentially a type of digital transmission, as well as a mode for allowing digital data to be encoded on multiple carrier frequencies to reduce interference. When two smart devices send data over the same phone line, OFDM technology is working behind the scenes.

Along with OFDM, 5G also uses 5G NR air interface, which enables OFDM to be even more flexible and scalable. Ultimately, this has the potential to make the network more accessible to more devices in more situations.

Another important component of 5G technology is the use of broader bandwidth technologies, including mmWave and sub-6 GHz. The enhanced 5G bandwidth has the advantage of extending the usage of spectrum resources and paving the way to better all-round performance and efficiency.

Higher performance and efficiency will be seen in 5G’s capacity to handle massive volumes of data and send it rapidly from one place to another. 5G will also enable greater connectivity compared to previous network generations.

The advanced technology that 5G is based on can also lead to fast response times. There will be no need to sit around twiddling your thumbs (even if you’re a machine), waiting for something to happen.

Is 5G safe?

5G technology is safe. This claim is backed up by a wide variety of highly credible health authorities including the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

5G facts on safety

5G delivers more than its predecessors partly by using higher frequencies of electromagnetic waves. Although higher in frequency, these electromagnetic waves are non-ionising. They are not the same as the ionising radiation commonly linked with medical technology or nuclear energy.

In order to provide robust protection to the public and the environment, ARPANSA fixed limits for electromagnetic waves in its Standard for Limiting Exposure to Radiofrequency Fields.

The Standard sets the limits at levels that are well below those that indicate any degree of biological impact.

The regulatory framework established under the Australian Communications and Media Authority states that all telecommunications technology must comply with the exposure limits set out in the ARPANSA Standard. This rule applies to all generations of network technology, whether old or new, as is the case with 5G wireless technology.

Further information about exposure to the 5G network is available from the ARPANSA website.

What will 5G do?

The global economy has the potential to be heavily impacted by 5G. By the end of the decade, 5G also has the potential to add US$1.3tn to the global GDP. That’s one of the takeaways of a PwC report titled The Global Economic Impact of 5G. In their analysis, PwC used insight from experts and economic modelling to examine the use cases for 5G technology across a range of different sectors.

For individual countries, the projected boost to GDP by 2030 is as follows:

  • United States — US$484bn
  • China — US$220bn
  • United Kingdom — US$54bn
  • India — US$42bn
  • Australia — US$20bn

On a global scale, over 80% of the US$1.3tn is expected to come from three main industry sectors:

Healthcare applications — US$530bn

  • Smart utilities management — US$330bn
  • Consumer and media applications — US$254bn

Countries without 5G wireless technology may be left behind. For organisations, especially those mentioned above, now is the moment to start paying attention. Creating strategies to take advantage of the technology will be the way to gain a competitive edge and generate future value.

Let’s look more closely at what 5G will do in the industries that stand to gain the most from 5G in the short term.

Healthcare

The healthcare sector has the potential to become more connected and more efficient than ever. Technologies we are likely to see include:

Telemedicine — many people got their first taste of telemedicine during the global pandemic. 5G endeavours to improve the experience by making real-time interactions easier. We’ll also see an improvement in wearable technology and cloud analytics for remote monitoring of health data.

Streamlined care — with improvements in communication systems, hospital stays may be fewer and shorter. Interactions between health care professionals and patients may also be more efficient via health platforms that facilitate information sharing.

Drones — for the speedy delivery of medical equipment and supplies, new generation drones accessing 5G data may soon replace traditional road transport.

Smart utilities

5G capabilities have the potential to be crucial to the energy revolution. From smarter meters to smarter grids and an expansion of IoT, energy can be used more wisely by both commercial and domestic consumers. There’ll also likely be better waste management with 5G bandwidth capacity behind powerful analytics and sensors. Water management, too, may benefit from advanced sensors that detect leakage and make the best use of available resources.

Consumer and media

What will 5G do for consumers? The global pandemic resulted in widespread behavioural change, with more people becoming more comfortable with online shopping, online gaming and online entertainment.

As for business, 5G allows for better marketing and customer relations through 5G handsets, high-definition video streaming and low-latency AR/VR experiences.

Why is 5G important for employment?

The impact of 5G on the global economy is projected to be much greater than 4G’s impact, or for that matter, the impact of all other network generations. 5G is also likely to drive job creation across a wide variety of industries. For the moment, you’ll just have to keep watching to see how this will play out around the globe, as more countries use 5G to unlock their full digital potential.

What does 5G do for ordinary people?

Let’s explore some distinct possibilities of ways in which 5G cellular devices will enrich everyday life.

Choosing a place to eat

While a 4G network can assist currently, 5G has the potential to make the experience faster. When you’re out and about and want to grab a bite to eat, you can switch on your phone’s location settings and get a list of nearby eateries. You can look at each place’s ratings and find out how far away it is in minutes and kilometres. Once you’ve decided on a restaurant or café, you can use your preferred map app to find your way there.

5G can simplify the whole process. Just scan your surroundings with your 5G-powered phone and watch while information about nearby eateries pops up on your device’s screen. You’ll see what kind of food they serve, ratings, reviews and directions. That’s the magic of fast 5G network speed and quick reaction time (or low latency).

Multi-person story sharing

No doubt you’re familiar with stories on various social media apps. What if you could combine your visual stories with friends, family and even complete strangers? 5G lets you do just that!

Imagine you’re at a wedding or on holiday. One of the many benefits of 5G is that it can enable you to bring together photos and videos from multiple people to create collaborative storyboards. What this means is that a number of creators can share and edit visual content simultaneously and in real-time.

5G enables this type of multi-person story sharing because of its fast response time (low-latency), higher data speed and massive capacity — all of which are necessary for bandwidth-hungry video.

Shopping

When you need new furniture, whether it’s a kitchen table, a bed or a couch, finding the perfect match can be challenging. You need to measure up your space and decide whether the new item will look good or not.

With 5G internet, you can take most of the guesswork out of the process. You have the potential to download specs from the retailer and use your smartphone to look at a 3D model of the item in your personal space.

A combination of advanced technologies, including AI and AR (Augmented Reality), can let you play around with different virtual furniture options in various locations around your home. 5G makes the process fast, simple and a lot less frustrating.

Will 5G work on my phone?

You need a 5G smartphone or 5G tablet to use the 5G network. There are already some excellent 5G devices on the market from well-known names such as Apple and Samsung. More 5G mobile devices will continue to arrive as 5G becomes more mainstream.

Where is 5G available?

At Vodafone, we’re rolling out our 5G network in Australia to selected areas of major cities. Stay up to date with our 5G coverage checker to see if 5G is available where you live. If you have a 5G approved device, you’ll still be able to connect to Vodafone’s 4G/3G network. When 5G arrives in your city or suburb, you’ll be ready to experience the many benefits of this new generation network.

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