“5G is the latest mobile technology. It brings greater speed, capacity and functionality to mobile services, opening up new opportunities for consumers, businesses and public services.”
“As 5G continues to expand, people are going to feel the impact of the 5G revolution.
…5G is expected to be the key for innovation in tomorrow’s future.”
In its simplest form 5G is just the latest in mobile technology. It brings greater speed, capacity and functionality to mobile services, opening up new opportunities for consumers, businesses and public services. 5G is the new, fifth generation of mobile technology. Like previous mobile generations, including 3G and 4G, 5G uses the radio spectrum. The radio spectrum supports all of the wireless services used by people and businesses every day including making a mobile phone call, listening to the radio or going online using Wi-Fi. There is nothing fundamentally different about the physical characteristics of the radio signals that will be produced by 5G compared to previous technologies like 3G and 4G. Compared to previous generations of mobile services, 5G offers faster internet speeds and the ability to connect thousands of different devices in a small area. (Ofcom 5G mobile technology: a guide)
The DIZ can transform the physical, economic and social environment to provide a platform for business and society to grow and prosper together in a changing technological world. 5G’s faster connection speeds, quicker downloads, lower latency and the ability to connect more devices is the foundation of this. It’s how Essex + Herts will level the digital playing field and empower residents by creating economic stimulus, improving public services and widening network coverage. Businesses in our place will benefit too. Digital infrastructure underpinned by 5G is the key to unlock a future proofed economy, ripe for innovation, where lightning quick speeds will improve daily working habits like remote working, file sharing and collaboration.
There are three major enhancements in communications that will be brought about by the progression from 4G to 5G. These are: faster speeds – 4G has an average speed of 25 35MB per second, whereas 5G has an average speed of 150 200MB per second. Lower latency (the time it takes for data to travel from sender to receiver) – this takes 40 milliseconds on 4G compared to under 10 milliseconds on 5G. Network slicing – 5G networks can be sliced, so that essential services and individual businesses can operate on dedicated networks to ensure reliable connections.
What does this mean for me?
5G is much faster than previous generations of wireless technology. But it’s not just about speed. 5G also offers greater capacity, allowing thousands of devices in a small area to be connected at the same time. The reduction in latency means 5G is also more responsive. This means gamers will see an end to the slight delays that can occur, when games can take time to reflect what they’re doing on their controller.
5G provides the tools to deliver ‘better connected homes’ and, recognising that for so many of us that space is also where we now work, help to deliver “new tools to help us do our jobs” that enable us to “work as effectively and productively on the move as we would in an office” (Mobile UK Guide – How 5G Will Improve the Home and the Workplace)
But the biggest differences go far beyond improving the way we use existing technology like smartphones or games consoles. The connectivity and capacity offered by 5G is opening up the potential for new, innovative services. Attributes of 5G, such as its increased capacity and lower latency, will enable greater enhancements in healthcare delivery to be made, building the progress already made through 4G (Mobile UK Guide – Why 5G Will Improve Healthcare) and 5G’s impact can deliver better social care, state of the art public transport systems ‘driven’ by digital connectivity and digitally enhanced enhance public access to services such as car parking and street lighting (Mobile UK Guide – How 5G Will Help Councils).
The most obvious and immediate benefit of 5G for business is the increased speeds the network will be able to deliver. Lightning quick speeds will accommodate and improve daily working habits like remote working, file sharing and communication and collaboration capabilities. But the benefits extend beyond just doing things faster. 5G brings ultra reliable low latency communications, meaning that it can be used to connect mission critical services, for instance remote monitoring of vulnerable individuals in their home, and provides real time data feeds. 5G is also a great enabler of technologies, such as AI and IoT, that will drive future innovation.
Health + Social Care
5G enables digital technologies, such as AI, AR and IoT, that will increase innovation and efficiency for better, more cost-effective health and social care. IoT devices and sensors, powered by 5G, also allow for data sharing in real-time that can deliver better outcomes for patients, residents, employees and the broader system alike. On top of this, 5G’s enabling of automation and driving of efficiency can also help to plug labour shortages across the sector.
Ultra low latency makes smarter, more efficient services possible – from remote patient monitoring to virtual consultations and connected ambulances (and so much more). 5G also enables private mobile networks, which offer greater control and flexibility so hospitals can upload large files such as MRI scans, for example. 5G can support remote observations, tests and lifesaving treatments to reduce the number of patients attending hospitals unnecessarily and improve the speed of diagnosis and patient outcomes, while also saving time and resources to ease the pressure on a stretched ambulance service.
5G + the Creative Industries
5G enables digital technologies, such as AI, VR and AR, that will drive efficiency across organisations and services, while powering more innovative, immersive and inclusive experiences that will engage diverse audiences. IoT devices and sensors, enabled by 5G, also allow for data sharing in real-time that can support remote production and deliver high-quality live experiences, while providing previously unseen levels of scalability.
5G also reduces latency by around 5x compared to 4G. It’s this that supports the secure sharing and remote manipulation of large data files, while powering innovative, immersive experiences like personalised content and mobile extended reality (XR). 5G also enables private mobile networks, which offer greater control and flexibility. For creative businesses, this could support the production and development of content by allowing creators to set up pop-up networks, for example, at a music festival.
5G + Public Transport
IoT devices and sensors, powered by 5G, allow for data sharing in real-time to monitor everything from passenger capacity, live train departures and traffic on the roads to minimise delays, make journeys safer and ultimately improve the passenger experience.
5g also enables high-quality video monitoring, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications and real-time control of operations, which improves both efficiency and safety.
5G + Freight + Logistics
IoT devices and sensors, powered by 5G, allow for data sharing in real-time to support everything from smart rerouting to providing a granularity of insight that can be the difference between tracking a shipping container and tracking every item in the shipping container. It also enables high-quality video monitoring, vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications and real-time control of operations, which improves both efficiency and safety while upholding supply chains.
Remote driving allows a human operator or remote driver to remotely control a vehicle via Vehicle-to-Network communication using a cloud-based application (for example, an autonomous vehicle that has encountered an unusual situation and is unable to proceed). This would not be possible without 5G and its low latency characteristics.
5G + Airports
IoT devices and sensors, powered by 5G, allow for data sharing in real-time to support much stronger collaboration between airports, airlines, ground handlers, air traffic managers, suppliers and retailers – to make end-to-end operations more streamlined and profitable.
5G supports the secure sharing of data that makes smarter, more efficient services possible – from predictive aircraft maintenance to passenger processing and baggage management. Fast and discrete 5G connectivity is improving different work processes related to aircraft, such as monitoring equipment in non-aircraft vehicles on runways, powering instant group communication to speed up activities like refuelling, optimising workloads for transferring baggage and carrying out maintenance remotely via a video link.
5G + Property Management + Construction
5G allows for data sharing in real-time that can greatly improve safety and compliance across the industry, while supporting sustainability initiatives. On top of this, 5G’s enabling of automation can also help to plug labour shortages and skills gaps across the sector, especially in the wake of property and construction’s ageing workforce.
5G’s capabilities also support everything from the secure sharing of data to enhanced collaboration between site and remote workers, fostering real-time, quick decision making and improving on-site safety.
Digital technology may be the most powerful, scalable tool the world has to tackle climate change. 5G is the facilitator that enables these technologies, such as AI, IoT and XR. 5G will connect Essex + Herts and gather data from across industries such as T&L and H&SC to manage congestion and enable digital services that negate the need for travel, while monitoring emission levels and providing insights to understand problems, track progress and ultimately drive efficiency.
“5G can help detect leaks and reduce water wastage” as well as “reduce CO2 emissions by supporting the transition to green energy”. There are also benefits to be realised in the reductions of industrial emissions and the use of 5G technology to replace emission intensive human interventions. 5G technology, and those it will assist, “can help rid the planet of 269 megatonnes of carbon by 2035… and could help facilitate an 85% reduction in emissions per unit of data transported than today’s mobile phone networks.” (Mobile UK Guide – How 5G Can Help Meet the Climate Change Challenge)
5G will also have an impact on our own personal contribution to addressing the environmental challenge. Because 5G is a more efficient technology than 4G due its faster delivery of activity it is estimated that while “one kilowatthour (kWh) of electricity is required to download 300 high definition movies using 4G, one kWh can download 5,000 ultra-high-definition movies using 5G. Vehicles will also become cleaner and less polluting with the support of 5G, as traffic information is collected and transmitted to them “to optimise the fuel efficiency of your vehicle and reduce traffic flows and congestion.” And 5G technology can also help us to reduce our food waste, reduce our personal energy consumption and help protect the natural world. (Mobile UK Guide – How 5G Will Help the Environment)
Whilst 5G is different to 4G it is important to understand that, at its core, 5G is fundamentally reliant upon exactly the same principles of radio frequency transmission as 4G and the previous generations of mobile phone communication. These frequencies are illustrated in the following Mobile UK graphic where you will see how the radio frequencies associated with 5G, at both its lower and higher levels, sit within the spectrum of radio frequencies that we utilise and live with in our everyday lives. Radio frequencies are found in the home – remote controls, radios, microwaves – and in the natural environment – visible light, ultraviolet.
The radio frequencies used, even at the highest frequency that 5G will operate at, remain within what is referred to as non-ionising radiation. This radiation does not have sufficient energy to break chemical bonds or remove electrons, as opposed to ‘ionising radiation,’ which occurs at much higher frequencies and is generally considered to be hazardous to humans. (Mobile UK Planning).
A number of key research publications and articles have reinforced this view. Public Health England https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mobile-phone-base-stations-radio-waves-and-health/mobile-phone-base-stations-radio-waves-and-health points out that “Independent expert groups in the UK and at international level have examined the accumulated body of research evidence. Their conclusions support the view that health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures are below international guideline levels.”
Which Magazine https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/06/is-5g-safe-everything-you-need-to-know-on-the-5g-powered-future/ reinforced the view that “The wavelength 5G operates at is non-ionising radiation. That means it doesn’t produce enough energy to damage the cells in your body, which can cause cancer” and, on concerns about the proliferation of masts 5G will require, that “although there will be more masts, they are low-powered and act more like signal repeaters, relaying the signal from one mast to the next.”
UK5G, the national innovation network dedicated to the promotion of research, collaboration and the industrial application of 5G in the UK, reinforces the message of 5G’s safety stating that “The resounding opinion of health agencies worldwide, including the World Health Organisation and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), formally Public Health England, is that there is no cause for concern over the rollout of
5G infrastructure. Just like our TVs, remote controls, home Wi-Fi and so on, the strength of a 5G signal is
extremely weak. Therefore, so long as the international guidelines on public exposure are followed, there are no risks to public health”
Cancer Research UK https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causesof-cancer/cancer-myths/do-mobile-phones-cause-cancer acknowledge that 4G and 5G mobile signals “use higher frequency waves than older mobile networks, but they still don’t have enough energy to damage DNA to cause cancer.”
And the World Health Organisation https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/radiation-5g-mobile-networks-and-health concluded that “To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. …Provided that the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, no consequences for public health are anticipated.
The DIZ has, in conjunction with Mobile UK, developed a set of co-branded 5G guidebooks that set out some of the benefits of and address some of the concerns held about 5G. These guidebooks focus on particular sectors of society and industry but include facts and figures more widely relevant. For more information and additional guides go to to the Mobile UK website.
We have prepared a number of Frequently Answered Questions and Answers but if you require further information or have a question not listed here do get in touch via the Contact Us page
How is 5G different from 4G?
The three major differences between 4G and 5G are: faster speeds 4G has an average speed of 25 35MB per second, whereas 5G has an average speed of 150 200MB per second. Lower latency (the time it takes for data to travel from sender to receiver), which takes 40 milliseconds on 4G compared to under 10 milliseconds on 5G. Network slicing 5G networks can be sliced, so that essential services and individual businesses can operate on dedicated networks to ensure reliable connections.
How can 5G help the environment?
5G will greatly benefit our economy and society. Mobile UK explores 5G’s ability to reduce emissions, with data from 5G digital connections able to calibrate cars, vans and lorries to minimise the CO2 that they emit. Plus, 5G technology can also measure and monitor the environment far easier and speedier than humans and existing technology. Ultimately, 5G will mean that action can be taken sooner to prevent or address environmental damage.
Is 5G safe?
In short, yes. The
World Health Organisation concluded that after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. Provided the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, no consequences for public health are anticipated.
Why do we need so many masts?
5G coverage and the many benefits it brings is dependent on masts. There are currently some 95 million mobile phones and millions more devices in use in the UK, all of which need to be within range of a mast to function. Therefore, more base stations are needed in areas of high mobile usage and more are also required to bring coverage to rural areas. However, every mast is strategically placed to maximise coverage and we only build the necessary number of masts.
Can mobile network operators (MNOs) share masts?
MNOs can and do share masts. In 2020, EE, O2, Three UK and Vodafone signed the £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN) in order to build and share 222 new UK mobile masts, including 124 new sites in Scotland, 33 in Wales, 11 in Northern Ireland and 54 in England. Vodafone and O2 (now Virgin Media O2) have previously undertaken a joint venture with Cornerstone which allowed Vodafone to use O2 masts and vice versa with a combined 18,000 masts across a single network grid. EE and Three have previously undertaken similar reciprocal arrangements. Despite the competition between major MNOs, they realise that 5G will bring countless benefits and elevate regions, businesses and people alike, so they are ready and willing to work alongside the government and local authorities to bring 5G to fruition.
What factors drive and determine the locations of masts?
Finding suitable sites, securing planning permission and building mobile phone masts is a carefully thought out process. Engineers pick sites that best meet the technical, logistical and economic requirements. However, to provide the strongest mobile signal to as wide an area as possible, there can’t be too many geographical features in the way as these may block the mast’s signal. Masts also need their own power and what’s known as backhaul data connections to the wider network which often consist of underground fibre optic cables that require the landowner’s permission to run. While consideration is of course given to aesthetics and making use of existing infrastructure, ultimately masts need to be placed deliberately to provide the best coverage, to meet customer demand. Local councils (and residents) also have to grant permission before building can commence.
Can masts be disguised to blend in with the environment?
In some instances, masts may be disguised to blend in with the environment but only where applicable. There are some masts that have been created for instance to look like trees, but these only really work in situations where the mast is not viewed close up, for instance at the side of a motorway. Ultimately, masts have to do their job while also being sturdy and cheap to build, so form must follow function.
What is the difference between macro cell and small cell units?
Small cell units consist of radio equipment and antennas that can be placed on structures such as lampposts, the sides of buildings, or poles. Typically, they are about the size of a shoe box and are essential for transmitting data to and from wireless devices. Small cells make use of low power, short range wireless transmission systems (or base stations) that cover small proximity outdoor and indoor spaces. Macro cells are deployed on rooftops or masts that typically come in two types: towers and poles (also referred to as a monopoles which look like larger lampposts). Macro cells are larger in stature so signals can be sent and received over several kilometres. It’s important to know that small cells don’t replace the need for macro cells, they serve different purposes and work together to deliver the coverage and capacity that citizens and businesses require. Macro cells provide the wide ranging coverage and capacity to an area, whereas small cells are a location solution designed to being much better performance to the end customer in locations with a high density of demand such as the entrance to a train station. To meet the increasing demand for connectivity, both macro and small cells will be needed.