5G arrives in the UK: What is 5G? Find out how it can help mission-critical services

5G is set to transform the way we communicate and live. Find out more about this new technology, as EE is the first network to launch a service for customers.

EE - part of the BT Group - has launched 5G in six cities across the UK, with more cities being added later.

Find out more about what 5G is and how it can be used.

[Read more: BT and Nokia to collaborate on development of 5G]

What is 5G?

In the future we’ll be using the internet more and more to share content, stream video, game and communicate, demanding a fast and stable connection.

There will be more connected devices, as well as phones, tablets and laptops, there will be more internet of things devices and cars. All this places increasing pressure on the bandwidths delivered by today’s 3G and 4G services.

4G is the current high-speed connectivity standard; 4G speeds can be up to 1Gbps at peak. 5G is much faster, allowing you to download and upload data more quickly. 5G will be up to 2.3Gbps, possibly rising to 10Gbps in the future.

At the 2017 Mobile World Congress, BT CTIO Howard Watson talked about some of the advantages of 5G and why it’s so important.

“Over the next three or four years the mobile industry is going to revolutionise and that’s where 5G comes in. Much more bandwidth, much greater capacity, much lower latency and an explosion in devices and that’s why 5G is critically important to us.”

Latency is the time between an action being performed (such as clicking a video link) and a reaction occurring (the video playing), as data travels between two points. 5G has low latency, which means things happen more quickly – this is particularly useful for business applications like remote surgery (see below)

[Read more: Which life-saving situations can drones be used for?]

Were there 5G trials?

In October 2018 EE turned on the UK's first network trial in Canary Wharf, in partnership with the Canary Wharf Group. 150,000 people pass through the area every day, making it a good site for high-capacity testing. 

Fotis Karonis, 5G Technology lead at the BT Group said: “This is the latest milestone in our 5G rollout – a live test of our 5G network, in a hugely busy ‘hotspot’, where we know there’s going to be demand from customers for increased mobile capacity. 

With constant upgrades to 4G, and laying the foundations for 5G, we’re working to always be able to deliver what our customers need – both consumers and the vertical industries that will make the greatest use of 5G. We were UK pioneers with 4G and today we saw the UK’s first live connections on 5G - this is a huge step forward for our digital infrastructure.”

What cities are getting 5G?

The UK’s first 5G service from EE launches initially in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester.

100 new 5G sites per month are being added, providing 5G later in: Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow

Ten more towns and cities will get 5G in 2020, these are Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton.

How can 5G help mission-critical services?

Earlier this year, King’s College London played host to a live 5G demonstration between BT, Verizon and Ericsson and the university, showing how 5G can be used by operators to deliver services, such as disaster relief. 

Mission-critical services, including first responders and those who look after infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and water supplies, require real-time communications and often need to work across different countries or locations.

Older generations of mobile tech have played a critical role in delivering these services, but 5G will take this to the next level, as BT and its collaborators showed in two demonstrations in Central London.

Demo 1:  Simulating an autonomously operated drone delivering medical supplies to a pre-determined location. The drone is sent a mission over a 5G radio connection, confirms it has received its orders and is launched remotely. The drone is then fully autonomous, and uses markers on the ground to deliver the medical supplies.

Demo 2:  An autonomous drone provides real-time video surveillance to a remote location, simulating a disaster zone too remote or dangerous to reach. The drone has a 5G radio connection, but connects to a Verizon network in the US to receive its mission. Instead of landing, it hovers and streams HD footage, before returning to where it started.

Check out the video below to find out more:


What is 5G Network Slicing?

5G Network Slicing is when operators can run multiple dedicated networks simultaneously using the same physical infrastructure.

Different slices are used for different services and allow each to work effectively without being affected by bandwidth.

For example, network slices at a music concert could include

  1. General internet access
  2. Live video broadcast to TV
  3. Broadcasting a 360-degree video experience to VR headsets
  4. Emergency services communication

Check out the video below to find out more.

[Read more: BT and Huawei announce research into 5G network slicing]

How else can 5G be used?

One of the most interesting ways 5G may be used in future is for remote surgery.

BT and Ericsson have been working together on a connected glove that enables surgeons to operate remotely to perform procedures even though they might be in a different room.

The doctor wears a connected glove that uses 5G to connect to a robotic arm which performs the physical part of the surgery. The robotic arm includes pressure sensors which allow the surgeon to feel what the robot feels.

BT demonstrated the technique at New Scientist Live in London, which you can watch below:

Read more: What is the internet of things?


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