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What is 5G?

5G is the term used to refer to the emerging generation of mobile technology.

Previous generations of mobile communication have brought immense changes to society with video phone calls, High Definition (HD) streaming and faster broadband connectivity including 4G and Wi-Fi.

5G brings new levels of capability to this existing technology with higher speed of data, lower latency, higher energy efficiency and improved performance.

Not just a 4G upgrade

5G is much more than an upgrade of previous technology. It is a radical step-change and has the potential to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the whole country. The technology will provide opportunities to boost productivity and the economy, and enable more innovative uses of technology in both the private and public sectors, such as within healthcare.

With proper levels of investment, it will help to define how Scotland’s citizens tackle the future together as they build a net-zero carbon, inclusive society.

Rollout in Scotland

The UK’s commercial telecommunications operators are already on the 5G journey, investing large amounts in the rollout of 5G technology but there remain massive opportunities for other sectors to participate in this change. There is real opportunity for the setup of private 5G networks, in communities, in industry and indeed in partnership with large telecommunications operators.

Collaboration between commercial operators, innovative technology companies and the public sector, including the Scottish Government and local councils, is more critical with 5G applications than ever before, so we can identify and develop use cases, explore business models and grow the network. This will ensure that all communities and stakeholders reap the benefits.

The Internet of Things (IoT), aligned with new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR), is part of Scotland’s future where billions of devices will be connected collecting, transferring, analysing and actioning data. 5G will become the network capable of handling and exchanging this immense volume of data.

This has been made possible by an explosion of distributed computing power through integrated Cloud-based services with interconnected data centres. The arrival of quantum computing and edge systems takes this to a new level and means that data can be processed closer and faster to the point of delivery, resulting in ultra-low levels of latency. Latency is the amount of time between a command and its corresponding action; 5G will make this delay imperceptible.

New applications

5G will allow the emergence of new applications, such as connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) or data-enriched local healthcare diagnosis, which will require responsive and extremely reliable communications systems.

On an individual level, it will allow ultra-smart mobile devices to move seamlessly through different modes of wireless connectivity as citizens journey from their homes, travel to their places of work or move around to enjoy their leisure time.

What’s the difference between 5G and earlier generations of mobile technology? Read our Knowledge Bank article on How is 5G different?

Article published June 2020