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Symbol of the change from 4G to 5G

What is 5G? Probably the world’s fastest mobile network – Part 2

30. August 2021 Published by Jana Greyling

Around 1.28 billion smartphones were sold globally in 2020, 225 million of them 5G smartphones – a number that will more than double to about 525 million in 2021, according to experts at J.P. Morgan. They estimate that the total volume will gyrate around 725 million in 2022.

More and more 5G-capable devices are being launched. It’s believed that around 149 new smartphones are have come on to the market in Germany in the past 12 months, 80 of them with 5G capability. The share of 5G devices offered by network operators is even higher: On average, two of the three smartphones offered by them are equipped with the new technology. That is most visible at Vodafone (5G devices account for 73 percent), whereas Telefónica is the most reluctant to date, with only every one-in-two device being 5G-capable (51 percent 5G share).

The latest Ericsson Mobility Report states that over 300 5G smartphone models were announced or launched commercially worldwide in 2020, and global smartphone deliveries are expected to increase by 7% year over year in 2021, despite the shortage of semiconductors.

The report forecasts that there will be 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions worldwide in 2026, accounting for 40 percent of all mobile subscriptions.

The 5G network in Germany

According to the consumer portal Verivox, the density of the 5G network cannot keep up with the availability of smartphones. Coverage also differs very greatly, depending on the network operator. “Deutsche Telekom says that it supplies 80 percent of the population with 5G, while Vodafone says its supply density is just under one-third. Telefónica only offers 5G in some large cities; 1&1 has not yet built up its own network,” stated the comparison website.

  • According to Deutsche Telekom, there are already more than 50,000 5G antennas in use throughout Germany – in around 5,000 cities and communities. Approximately 66 million citizens – or about 80 percent of the population – can now be supplied with high-speed mobile communications. Deutsche Telekom says that figure will be 90 percent by the end of the year.

  • At the end of 2020, Vodafone’s technicians were putting a new 5G antenna into operation every 20 minutes. A total of more than 7,000 5G antennas are now up and running at almost 2,500 locations in Vodafone’s network. The super-fast wireless technology is now available to more than 20 million people.
  • Telefónica Germany intends to establish a nationwide 5G network by 2025. There are around 150 5G stations in O2’s network to date, including in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Potsdam. More cities and, in particular, rural regions are to be added by the end of the year. According to Telefónica Germany / O2, more than 2,000 5G antennas now supply over 80 cities via the 3.6 GHz frequency. The network operator aims to provide 30 percent of the population with 5G by the end of the year. 50 percent of citizens are to have 5G coverage by the end of 2022 and the entire population of Germany is to be able to access O2’s 5G network by the end of 2025.

One reason for the 5G network’s complexity is that it has to be highly flexible to cope with various applications areas and the general technical conditions. Factors that play a role here include capacity, data transmission rates, coverage, reliability and latency. Users benefit from faster data rates and a high capacity in their mobile network when they watch high-definition videos or use virtual or augmented reality (VR and AR) applications, for example.

Whenever 5G is talked about, one term that’s always heard is latency. But what exactly does it mean? Latency is the period of time between an event and the occurrence of a visible response to it. It defines the time span in which a user’s activity on a mobile device triggers a subsequent reaction on another device. If autonomous driving is to become reality sometime in the future, it’s necessary to ensure that data and responses are transmitted in real time – because decisions when road safety is at stake have to be made in a matter of milliseconds. Real time means without delay here. “The latency in an LTE network is 15 to 20 milliseconds. That’s the amount of time that elapses between when we click on a link in a mobile browser and when the click is executed, for example. Latencies in 5G are less than five milliseconds, while researchers hope they’ll be below 100 microseconds with 6G. That’s 50 times faster than a bee beats its wings. A delay of milliseconds may mean the difference between life and death if a serious situation occurs on the road.”

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the fastest network of them all?

As the year 2021 ticks by, 5G rollout in many countries continues apace. In view of that, the company Ookla has published its “Global 5G Benchmark Report Q1-Q2 2021.” It analyses network performance and availability in 30 major cities around the world where it is commercially available.

According to the report, download speeds did not disappoint, since just about all the cities it looked at had median download speeds above 100 Mbps. Seoul and Abu Dhabi were the fastest internationally, with a median download speed of 467.87 Mbps and 421.26 Mbps respectively. Almost every city in the study achieved median upload speeds between 15 Mbps and 40 Mbps. Seoul stood out again with an upload speed of 49.92 Mbps. The experts also gathered data on 5G availability, in other words, whether or not users are able to consistently connect to a 5G network. In general, it can be said that availability was still below 50% in most of the cities examined. Only in New York (73.5%) and Amsterdam (51.2%) were users actually able to spend a majority of their time on 5G networks. In particular European cities, such as Rome (6.9%), Paris (7.2%) and Berlin (7.8%), still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to availability.

Comparison of download speed and 5G availability in the 30 cities. Seoul leads the way for 5G speed and 5G availability combined. German cities have a lot of catching up to do.

All in all, Seoul leads the way for 5G speed and availability combined. Whereas availability in New York and Amsterdam is high, the 5G speeds there are slower than in many other cities. European cities in particular are at the lower end of the scale in terms of availability and speed, whereas the Middle East in particular scores relatively highly in this regard.

The coming months promise to be pretty dynamic and exciting in the 5G arena. We’ll keep you up to speed about the latest developments.

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