Superfast fifth generation, or 5G, mobile internet services are already on offer. But the major impact of 5G on our lives is still under development.
While most people know that 5G offers much faster data download and upload speeds – and allows far more devices to access the mobile internet at the same time – we won’t understand its full impact for a few more years to come.
That’s because the roll-out is still progressing and the technology needs to develop fully before we can realise its full potential.
Having been the first UK mobile operator to launch 5G services in 2019, our EE 5G network is currently live across more than 160 locations and growing. We’re the only operator with more than 55 per cent 5G availability in any city today – including in Cardiff, and this will build further as we continue to invest in our networks.
But to understand fully how 5G applications could help transform the lives of consumers, businesses and public services, requires collaboration and co-innovation between the public and private sectors – across telecommunications companies, government, the entire technology industry and customers.
That’s why BT was pleased to join the 5G Wales Unlocked project as the mobile network partner, as part of our commitment to help understand the potential of increased connectivity. We see this project offering real opportunities to look at the potential of 5G in areas like transport, tourism and farming in rural and semi-rural areas.
“BT is already making ambitious, long-term commitments to drive high performance 5G further and faster ”
For BT, this is part of a range of customer showcases and trials of the technology we’re delivering as partners to help demonstrate the transformative benefits of 5G.
Other pilots include a UK-first trial of 5G technology by BT and Belfast Harbour to develop a Smart Port vision, using a 5G private network; with University Hospitals Birmingham, we trialled the first remote-controlled ultrasound scan using haptic technology over a live 5G network in the UK; and in manufacturing, we’re working in partnership with Hyperbat – one of the UK’s largest independent vehicle battery manufacturers – to connect teams at different locations using a 5G private network and virtual reality, to speed up the manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles.
5G is already revolutionising gaming and immersive entertainment experiences, while for businesses, the advancements can help speed up the digital transformation of major industries, boosting productivity and efficiency, and creating new services.
While the initial focus of the 5G rollout was on highly populated areas – with the network now available in most large towns and cities – we’re also looking at how it could help communities and businesses in more rural areas, and this trial in Wales will be very important in that context. It’s a logical next step after research we carried out with partners across rural Wales to understand how we can make full use of connectivity, in our Smart Rural report.
BT is already making ambitious, long-term commitments to drive high performance 5G further and faster, and to integrate it at the core with our fibre network. Openreach was first to fibre, EE was first to 5G and together, we’ll be first to merge these technologies together.
Over the coming years, we’re preparing for huge growth in demand for bandwidth-hungry applications such as high definition 4K content streaming, augmented and virtual reality, and high-quality video conferencing. Demand on BT’s mobile networks is growing by 40 per cent every year.
BT Group announced recently plans to offer 5G in all parts of the UK by 2028, with millions of customers set to benefit from the quicker network. The network will cover 4,500 square miles of rural areas with the super-fast mobile service, filling in any gaps in the 5G network with solutions such as drone or satellite technology.
Developments in 5G are moving quickly – both in the UK and internationally – so it’s vital that rural areas are not left behind.
We will be keen to work with Welsh Government to unlock 5G for all our communities.