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2023: The year of UK 5G?


~ The rollout continues to expand its reach ~

As the new year gets into full swing, we can look back at the progress made to roll out 5G in 2022, and what we can expect from 2023. While many of us have been left less than enamoured by the UK’s lagging 5G rollout, 2023 could be the year we see things change for the better. Here, Kristian Torode, Director and Co-Founder of business mobile provider Crystaline, explores 5G’s current status and its potential business benefits.

5G, which is approximately ten times faster than 4G, was first launched on a large scale in 2019, but many countries are yet to make it readily available. However, the market is continuously growing in terms of coverage accessibility and 5G-compatible devices. According to Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2022 report, seven out of every ten UK premises should now be able to get 5G reception from at least one mobile operator. Compared to 2021, that’s a 20 per cent increase.

5G network expansion

Ofcom reports that there are 12,000 5G mobile sites in the UK as of the end of 2022, double 2021’s figure. With more sites, and therefore better access, 5G mobile traffic has trebled in this time period and now accounts for nearly ten per cent of all UK mobile traffic.

But this is also where a problem lies, with a BBC report finding that many users are still unable to reap those 5G benefits. As the number of compatible devices grows, so does the user base, placing pressure on the infrastructure to keep up with demands for fast and reliable connectivity. 

Many places in the UK are still without the backhaul infrastructure and masts required to provide 5G connectivity, often due to local objections and the necessity to obtain planning permissions to expand national coverage. However, considering the rapid growth of 5G and the major operators’ pledges, that is soon to be changed.

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The latest umlaut report revealed individual operators’ plans to expand their 5G coverage. EE plans to cover half the UK population by early 2023 and has pledged to offer 5G to the entire UK by 2028. As of March 2022, Vodafone has 5G in 141 locations across the UK. The two other major mobile network operators — Three and O2 — also have ongoing network investments to expand their coverage. While in the UK, the 5G rollout has been slower than expected, these statistics suggest that 2023 will be the year change.

Business mobile devices

5G also affects mobile device manufacturers. The same Ofcom report also found that the number of 5G-enabled mobile phones doubled in 2022, now representing one in five devices on the market. Looking back at the last year, major device manufacturers continued to only release 5G-ready models. These handsets include Apple’s iPhone 14, Samsung’s Galaxy S22+, and Google’s Pixel 7. From a business perspective, this is only a positive thing as there are no additional fees involved for equipping your workforce with a 5G-ready phone — it just comes as standard. 

In terms of mobile contracts, 5G generally does not cost more than a 4G contract. However, 5G consumes data more quickly, so it’s worthwhile to select a mobile plan with sufficient, or unlimited data to avoid additional charges. Working with an independent business mobile provider like Crystaline would ensure that the plans selected for your business are the most appropriate and cost-effective solution for your individual needs.

What does the future hold?

5G can benefit business productivity through improved speed and capacity — it can currently reach speeds of over one gigabyte per second (Gb/s). 5G also offers reduced latency and connectivity in as little as one millisecond. These benefits equip businesses with instant connectivity to communicate and collaborate from anywhere — whether that’s in the office, at home, or on the go. 

This is particularly interesting, considering 16 per cent of businesses operate a work from anywhere policy according to an Owl Labs study. According to the same study, about 62 per cent of workers aged 22 to 65 claim to occasionally work remotely. 5G connectivity gives employees the peace of mind that their connection is reliable enough to work as productively on the go as they would in the office.  

As the rollout continues across the UK, 5G connectivity enables a better way of working for employees across all industries. If each of the operators keeps their 5G promises, we’ll see a wider range of coverage that makes 5G accessible, not just for those in big cities, but across the whole nation.

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