We’re on the brink of a connectivity revolution. While many of our mobile networks have already rolled out 5G here in the UK, handset availability and infrastructure is limited at the moment.
We expect the whole of the UK to be 5G ready by 2022. That means lightning-fast speeds and near-instant connections, giving users an unmatched experience when using their devices away from Wi-Fi.
The 5G network also marks a significant change for mobile apps and their development. Faster speeds and lower latencies, as well as standardised user experiences, gives app developers new opportunities to innovate.
For existing apps, 5G users are likely to have a dramatically improved experience when using their favourite platforms. Over the next few years, we’re likely to see a seismic shift in the digital landscape too, with new and transformative apps taking advantage of 5G technology.
What is 5G?
In simple terms, 5G is the next generation of mobile broadband. It will eventually replace, or at the very least supplement, our existing 4G LTE connection.
It will operate on three different spectrum bands, giving us a higher density of usage. It is worth bearing in mind that different mobile carriers will offer users different experiences depending on the spectrum band the operator runs 5G on.
When will 5G be ready in the UK?
5G technology has already arrived in the United Kingdom. Most phone providers now offer 5G plans to their customers, with just one outstanding provider not yet launched.
However, coverage is not widespread at the moment. Even providers that do offer 5G to their customers, many are not yet able to provide nationwide coverage. For example, O2 currently only offers 5G in 6 locations, while Three expect to launch to 65 towns and cities by the end of February 2020.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that not all phones support 5G. In many cases, it will be necessary to buy a 5G-ready handset and you may need to upgrade your contract too.
While we are still in the very early stages of the 5G network, things are likely to start moving quickly as more consumers adopt the new technology. We saw the same thing happen with the launch of the UK 4G network in 2012, with consumers and developers embracing the fast speeds and improved performance.
The benefits of 5G over 4G
It has been eight years since the nationwide launch of 4G. Since then, we have seen a rise in a range of innovative apps that have transformed the way we live our lives. From Uber and Snapchat to Google Maps and Dropbox, app development progressed significantly when mobile broadband improved.
While 4G facilitated a wide range of app innovations, we expect 5G to be even more transformative. There are three main 5G benefits, which include:
- Speed: We expect data transfer speeds to be about ten times faster than 4G. For example, a video that takes ten minutes to download with 4G could take less than a second with 5G speed.
- Fewer delays: Our existing 4G technology can lag, particularly with high-definition video. With 5G technology, we expect there to be reduced latency with no delays or glitches.
- Better connectivity: Cell towers with 5G should have higher capacity, allowing more people and devices to connect with each other.
For app developers, this means a greater opportunity to get creative. 5G won’t be limited to traditional mobile app development either. The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, automation, virtual reality and augmented reality are all likely to benefit from the 5G network.
Why is 5G important?
Many describe the introduction of 5G as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With faster speeds and improved connectivity, it’s easy to see why. The 5G network has the capacity to make real changes to the economy, giving consumers and businesses opportunities they would not have with our existing cellular system.
We are on the cusp of incredible technological advances. From self-driving cars to smart cities, the 5G network will allow further development and deployment of innovative technologies that are almost possible now. We are likely to see widespread adoption of these new advances, as consumers are given improved access through 5G.
The 5G benefits also extend past what we currently know. This next-generation network will give innovators the landscape to experiment, bringing new ideas we haven’t even thought of yet.
What changes can we expect?
With the 5G network still in its early days, it’s unlikely that we will see drastic changes in the immediate future.
As users, the apps we interface with won’t change significantly. However, we might notice that download speeds are much quicker and there are fewer lags when video conferencing.
Nevertheless, we expect to see smarter and more versatile apps as a result of 5G speed. We may even see new categories emerge, as well as increased adoption of more advanced technologies.
One key benefit of 5G is easier access to the cloud, which will mean that less data needs to be stored on smartphones or mobile devices. This improved cloud access will make using gaming apps and AI interfaces much faster and more user-friendly.
What challenges are there for app developers?
The good news is that the 5G network won’t automatically mean extra work for app developers. Most of the work will be down to the phone manufacturers to ensure devices are 5G-ready and operating systems to detect when 5G can be used.
However, a lot of apps will still need to be 5G ready. There are a variety of considerations to bear in mind with the new 5G network and these include:
Like with any new technology, there are increased opportunities for vulnerabilities and security loopholes. These security concerns may be particularly important for IoT devices and external platforms, especially those that have not traditionally connected to a network. It will be essential to evaluate any potential security risks and take measures to ensure apps are protected.
We expect that a more significant number of devices will connect with the 5G network, making it imperative that security is the number one priority.
- More users and devices
5G will give app developers an unprecedented opportunity to take advantage of new devices coming online. If you anticipate that 5G will provide you with access to a new group of consumers, take the time to think about if your business is ready to cope with the influx.
It may be prudent to develop a 5G business plan, with in-depth tech input to ensure you can make the most of the opportunity. If necessary, make changes to your existing apps to capture users already on the 5G network and begin building new 5G apps ready for when the rollout is widespread.
- Multiple versions
Developers have the opportunity to check for a 5G connection and take advantage of it. You may want to create multiple versions of your app to cater for 5G users or give consumers additional settings that won’t appear when connected to 4G. For example, you could add extra features to a VR/AR app or a high-quality environment for a video streaming app.
This is a great way to test out how your business can perform in the 5G landscape, as well as give your 5G users additional features.
What industries will benefit the most from 5G?
There’s no doubt that the 5G network is going to transform the digital landscape. Even something as simple as a consumer using a 5G browser will have positive effects for businesses, with improved loading speeds and bandwidth.
However, there are some industries that are likely to feel the benefit of 5G the most. These include:
5G offers the logistics industry real-time connectivity to improve safety and efficiency. By communicating with their surrounding environments in real-time, vehicles will be able to adjust and react to situations effectively. This could reduce accidents and improve speeds.
The 5G network has the potential to revolutionise the healthcare industry. From real-time information about availability (for example, A&E waiting times) to better access to resources (like mental health support), it is possible that we could see a dramatic improvement across the healthcare landscape – as well as a significant cost reduction.
Manufacturing is known for its early adoption of innovative technologies. With the benefits of 5G, even more automation could be possible. Faster speeds and improved precision may open up opportunities for efficient manufacturing processes too, like warehouse management and quality control.
Some of the key 5G benefits are faster speeds and reduced latencies. With this in mind, we expect augmented reality and virtual reality technologies to become mainstream when 5G is fully operational. This could have a far-reaching impact. From navigation and tourism to the arts and gaming, there is an excellent scope for AR/VR innovation with 5G.
- Smart cities
Smart home gadgets are becoming increasingly commonplace. However, 5G is likely to bring even more advances to our daily lives. We have the opportunity to use the 5G benefits to automate transport systems, utilities, resources, crime detection, community services and much more. These ‘smart cities’ may help to improve efficiency and cost management.
What happens next?
The 5G rollout is in ‘watch this space’ status. The next couple of years will be critical, particularly as 5G devices become mainstream and consumers buy into 5G plans. In the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities that app developers can take advantage of now. From making tweaks to existing platforms to preparing for the future, there’s no doubt that keeping up-to-date with the latest updates is essential.Want to learn more? Browse the KIJO blog for our latest news and industry insight. Or, if you want to talk to us about your requirements, get in touch with our friendly team.