The internet plays a pivotal role in our lives, thanks to broadband piped through our homes. But 'fifth generation' 5G will take this a giant step forward.
It will enable mobile phones to use wireless broadband that matches the best fiber optic speeds. We will be able to rip out old phone lines and internet cables that clutter the house – and instead use mobile reception for all our needs.
Experts believe 5G will lead to an explosion of new 'smart' gadgets that talk to our mobile phones through more reliable superfast signals – offering everything from fridge cameras that order groceries when the contents are running low, to robot chauffeurs that can take us around in a self-driving car.
The possibilities of this connection of gadgets – known as the ‘Internet of Things' (IoT) – seem almost limitless.
The 5G technology will start by making pin-sharp video phone calls the norm so we can ditch our landlines if we haven't already.
And with broadband download speeds of perhaps 200 Megabits per second (Mbps) – which is more than four times faster than the current average home broadband speed – the technology will also help us economize and be more secure.
Smartphone apps controlled by 5G will monitor our heating and lights – turning gadgets off when not needed – while providing 24-hour security with cameras viewed from our phones.
Get It to Everyone. But all of the good that is forecast for 5G will only happen when 5G is available to everyone. In the UK, where 5G is moving more quickly than in the U.S., Ernest Doku, a technology expert at comparison website uSwitch, said, “5G has the potential to transform the way we live – but at this stage, it is no silver bullet as we still need to ensure everyone has access to the connection before it can change the world.”
Last year, it started was rolled out in several major cities though connectivity was still small and patchy. And you need an expensive new smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 to gain access.
So far, Apple devices cannot connect to the 5G network, and the revolution cannot begin in earnest until they do – which may happen when the latest iPhone models come out in September.
Beware New Malware. New 5G technology offers an exciting opportunity to improve our networks – but it also opens a new door for fraudsters.
One of the critical concerns is the threat of so-called ‘stingrays.’ This is where a criminal intercepts your mobile signal with a copycat aerial that tricks it into sharing encrypted identifying data about the phone.
Using this information, the fraudster knows what handset you are using, can track your exact whereabouts, and might even be able to hack into your phone operating system’s software.
Cybersecurity expert Colin Tankard, of Digital Pathways, said, “The public needs to be aware of the dangers of this new technology – and with more gadgets being hooked up to 5G, it increases the risk of problems if you should get hacked.”
Tankard believes those that embrace 5G must ensure they add a layer of security to their smartphones by downloading ‘virtual private network’ (VPN) software on to their handsets via an app and using a subscription service.
Doku says: “Although it may be exciting to be among the first people to embrace this new technology, prices for 5G phones and access to the 5G network should both fall if you hold on for at least 12 months.”
Also, as a newbie, you may initially be disappointed as national coverage is still poor, and the number of gadgets connecting to 5G is limited.
But the potential for 5G to transform the way we live and manage our homes is really exciting.