April 6, 2021

What is the difference between 4G and 5G?

5G has been consistently described as a game-changing technology that will bring about substantial improvements both to how mobile networks operate and to the benefits that mobile connectivity brings to society. But, according to research conducted by Mobile UK as part of our #5GCheckTheFacts campaign, many people have yet to fully understand what 5G can or will be able to do, or indeed how it differs from current 4G technologies.

 It is important that as we move to new 5G technologies we seek to explain what 5G is and the benefits it will bring and how it differs from and enhances 4G.

 For further information on the myths and misinformationsurrounding the technology please click here.

So, what really is the difference between 4G and 5G and why is it a game changer?

When 4G first arrived it was revolutionary. It brought the full mobile internet experience to our handsets and much of our activities today are based on how we communicate and utilise applications through our 4G connected mobile phones.

However, as more and more activity is focussed on mobile networks, such as live TV and video streaming, it has increased congestion on those networks. A major difference between 5G and 4G is this congestion will be removed.

Additionally 5G offers increased speeds, more reliable coverage and reduced latency. This means faster downloads of your favourite films and albums, quicker website browsing, and a better streaming experience in busy areas.

How fast will 5G be?

5G brings about the potential for speeds of 1 gigabit per second. On average 5G is expected to be up to 10 times faster than 4G which means that instead of 15 minutes to download a film today on 4G, with a 5G connection it will only be a few minutes. It will mean that connected devices that require fast upload and download speeds aren’t reliant on wired connections to work, making virtual reality much more accessible. For example using immersive VR experiences in hospitals, as studies have shown, can reduce chronic pain by 25%.

Is it all about speed? What about buffering and lag?

5G will also drastically reduce latency, or what is more commonly known as buffering or lag, from 30-40ms today to as low as 10ms in the future (in some cases this is quicker than how the human brain works). This opens up mobile networks to untethered virtual and augmented reality and means loading screens will be a thing of the past. It could revolutionise the future of mobile gaming and significantly reduce operating costs for the emergency services. In Dorset, a trial has shown that the police could save £170,000 by using 5G-enabled drones instead of police helicopters.

Capacity - Internet of Things – Machine to Machine connectivity

Perhaps the biggest difference between 4G and 5G will be its ability to act as a gateway for the Internet of Things or the connected world. Smart cities, autonomous cars, smart homes, industries, connected factories, and even wearables (like your fitness tracker) will only be possible with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of devices connected together working securely, reliably and uninterrupted. 5G provides the capacity to make this possible.

This level of connectivity will play a major role in achieving the UK’s climate goals, and is expected to save the UK up to 269 megatonnes of CO2 by 2035 – almost as much of all of England’s emissions in 2018 (280 megatonnes).

Network Slicing – Secure private networks

Currently every connected device has similar access to a network connection. With 5G it will be possible to ‘slice’ the network so that vital amenities such as the emergency services, local authorities as well as individual businesses will be able to operate on their own dedicated networks. On a busy festival site, network connection can be limited because of the number of devices connected in one area. This can be problematic for emergency response teams if an incident occurs. With 5G, response teams can have access to their own network to protect their connection so they can reliably communicate as the incident unfolds.

Mobile UK has also produced several information booklets that outline how 5G will help across several different areas of society. Please click below to find out more:

What about 4G? Is 5G a replacement?

While 5G represents a step-change in mobile connectivity and capabilities it works hand-in-hand with 4G. When you connect with 5G you are connecting to both 4G and 5G parts of the networks. 5G isn’t a replacement for 4G – it’s an addition to existing networks.

Initially 5G rollout will be focussed at the busiest locations in the busiest cities where it can make the biggest difference to the most people.

However, it is time to get excited about the opportunities and possibilities of 5G.

More information about 5G

For more information and to access useful information andmaterials about 5G, please visit

About Building Mobile Britain

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Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

Media Contacts

Gareth Elliott
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076

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