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22 October 2019

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What are the key differences between 4G and 5G?

Fifth-generation networking is here, with the launch in 19 major cities across the UK in 2019 and due to be available to consumers on a wider scale by the end of 2020. In this article, we take a look at the key differences between 4G and 5G.

4g 5g

Did you know 4G launched in the UK in 2012? That was over 8 years ago!

When fourth generation mobile connectivity was introduced, it was the successor to 3G. With mobile speeds up to 500 times faster than 3G, 4G allows support for HD TV via your phone not to mention high quality video calls, fast mobile browsing, and even running a small construction office from it.

6 years is a long time for anything in the technological world and 4G is now common throughout the world, but this is about to change. The Internet of Things is now a real possibility and 4G will not handle the volume of connections with an approximate 20 billion connected devices by 2020 so we need a new successor, 5G.

What is 5G?

5G is a new digital system for transforming bytes – data units – over air. It uses a 5G New Radio interface, along with other new technologies, that utilises much higher radio frequencies (28 ghz compared to 700 mhz – 2500 mhz for 4G) to transfer exponentially more data over the air for faster speeds, reduced congestion and lower latency

This new generation is creating hype, trials in major cities are realising the capabilities of this new network with demonstrations of autonomous vehicles, 360˚ Video with VR, and 4k surveillance. To put it simply, 5G is smarter, faster and more efficient than 4G.

Does 5G work differently to 4G?

In general, 5G will operate in a similar way as previous generations of cellular networks did, relying on a large number of cell towers joined and creating areas for coverage using radio waves,  however using advanced technologies to really enhance this mobile networking technology.

This new generation uses a higher frequency of radio waves than 4G, thus leveraging a higher number of devices per meter than 4G. With 4G supporting about 4,000 devices per square kilometre, whereas 5G will support around one million. This means more Netflix streaming, voice calls and You Tube carried, without interruption, over the limited air space.

Current mobile network technologies operate like floodlights, illuminating an area but with a lot of wastage of the light/signal. 5G uses a new technology called Massive MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) which uses multiple targeted beams to follow users around a cell site – this improves coverage, speed and capacity.


5G benefits:

  • Lower latency – The amount of time that passes from the moment information is sent from a device till it reaches the receiver. Simplified the current 4G network is around 50 milliseconds, compared to fibre broadband that is just 10 milliseconds. 5G can not only match this, in best cases we have seen less than 1millisecond delays! This not only enables faster downloads and uploads of files such as building plans and emails, it is critical for industry operations, such as remotely-controlled heavy machinery.
  • Greater speeds – The new generation will not just close the gap on fibre broadband speed it will overtake it considering on average the line speed of around 60Mbps, and 5G tests showing 350Mbps that’s 3x faster! 
  • Better network efficiency – 5G will use more efficient signalling techniques to improve connection density and traffic capacity in order to improve network congestion

5G considerations:

  • Rollout – There is some considerable investment required by the government and mobile operators to make this possible, however operators such as EE and Vodafone are ramping up installations and working with local councils to have new masts installed weekly.
  • Coverage – Currently 5G is only available in some cities and this is down to the first point – rollout. 5G needs a dense set of masts however this isn’t as much of an issue as it sounds. The size of the masts are so small they could and are being mounted to street lights amongst other sites.

Comparison table of mobile technologies

To put things into perspective, we take a look at the most recent mobile technologies side by side in the table below.

3G, 4G, 5G comparison


Overall, 5G is well on its way and is set to be the catalyst for connecting humans and machines for new business and economic opportunities. A real time, fast and reliable mobile network enables the industry to cut loose from the restrictions that come with fixed line – avoiding long installation times and providing more flexible options, increasing productivity and reducing costs.

UK Connect are dedicated to being at the forefront of technology for the construction industry and partner with the UK’s largest 5G innovation centre at the University of Surrey. Interested to find out more? Call 0333 015 5368 to find out how 5G can benefit your business today.



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