Huawei has shown the UK media its collection of 5G-enabled devices going on sale soon to complement the imminent launches of at least two 5G networks (with the other two following closely behind).
The event wasn’t just to show off the 5G devices, but also a chance for Huawei and other guests to talk about some of the key benefits of 5G, and how everyone will need to go ‘beyond the hype’ and set realistic expectations.
Although most discussions about 5G has been about speed, there is a lot more than just faster data speeds. However for those who don’t yet have a fast wired broadband, this could still be the most important consideration – and even more so than getting faster speeds on a handheld device.
When 5G networks get turned on in the UK, coverage will be limited for a while, but where there is coverage will come great capacity gains, which will be particularly important for places like airports, railway stations, stadiums or shopping centres.
EE recently said that 10% of its network geography (equating to 30% of its overall capacity) will be 5G enabled. Ben Wood of CCS Insight equated this to being given access to a first class lounge, or exclusive access to the fast lane on a motorway.
5G will therefore bring benefits to early adopters, with 4G (and 3G and 2G) remaining as a fallback. It would now seem to make sense to adopt 5G, especially if signing up to a new handset for 24 or even 36 months, whereby 5G will have really developed during the minimum contract term.
Due to the similarities between 5G and existing 4G networks, it is likely to be a lot easier to roll out 5G than 4G was too, meaning we may not have to wait so long. With the ‘shared-spectrum’ 5G introduction in Switzerland recently, over 90% of the country will have 5G access (albeit not at the maximum speeds) by the end of this year.
Lower latency is another huge benefit, which may be a hard sell to most consumers but will be rapidly jumped on by gamers and those who can benefit from less delay before data starts flowing – like screen sharing, file synchronisation, video streaming – and in due course, allowing machines to communicate in real-time with each other.
It soon became clear from the various discussions that a lot of services will come as 5G matures, and a lot of the fanciful ideas are still some way off, like fully autonomous cars that the industry has been, perhaps unwisely, giving as an example of what 5G will offer.
5G is certainly ready today, but a lot of things won’t happen overnight.
Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
Already announced last year alongside the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, The Mate 20 X has now been given the 5G treatment. With the need to fit in the separate 5G modem (we will probably have to wait until September to find out more about the Kirin 985 SoC, widely expected to incorporate 5G natively), there have been some changes.
The most notable is the reduced battery capacity, down to 4,200mAh – although this is still high in comparison to a lot of competing 5G-enabled handset variants. Another change is the loss of the 3.5mm headphone jack, which was also necessary as part of the process of incorporating more antennas for 5G.
However, the phone retains its large 7.2-inch display with support for pen input, and also has the same Mate 20 Pro camera setup, comprising a 40-megapixel main sensor, 20-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera.
Like the original Mate 20 X, the Mate 20 X 5G also has Huawei SuperCool, which is an advanced cooling system that keeps the temperature down when gaming and sending or receiving data.
The phone will be available to pre-order in late May, with the handset going on sale in early June. Retailers will ultimately include EE, O2, Three, Vodafone and other sellers, with a SIM-free price of £999.
Huawei Mate X 5G
I’ve already had a chance to see Huawei’s folding Mate X smartphone on many occasions, and today was no exception.
A price for the 5G Mate X has not yet been released, and neither has a release date beyond ‘Q3’.
With all of the problems Samsung has had of late with the Galaxy Fold, I wondered if this might have had a negative impact on interest for the Mate X, given people might be put off buying any folding device now.
However, Huawei was keen to tell me that it has had quite the opposite effect and more people than ever before have expressed an interest in the premium folding smartphone, first shown at Mobile World Congress at the start of the year.
With the addition of 5G it will be quite a formidable offering – although it will definitely remain very exclusive and far from mainstream.
I can definitely see folding phones having a future, and every time I see the Mate X it looks even more polished than the last. The hardware is still the same, but the software is always being optimised and Huawei told me that Android Q should also bring many improvements too.
Huawei 5G chipset for IoT
A variant of the Balong 5000 5G modem has been produced for companies to use in various Internet of Things connected devices, of which the possibilities are pretty much limitless.
While quite large for a first generation chip, the size will naturally decrease as time goes on.
Now it will be up to companies to start producing 5G-capable devices, and we can likely expect to see a fair few of these later in the year, with IFA (Berlin, September) a very likely contender for unveiling some of these creations – once a large number of 5G networks will operational around the world.
Huawei Wi-Fi 6 5G Router
Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of adopting 5G will be those who get access to it from home or work, using a device like this 5G router.
It offers speeds of up to 4 gigabits down and 1 gigabit up, shared with up to 64 users simultaneously.
The latest router, also known as the 5G CPE Pro, features Wi-Fi 6 to ensure you can actually take advantage of those higher speeds when connecting to it.
A price and release date has yet to be confirmed, but a price of around £500 was hinted at.
Vodafone has already announced a July 3rd launch date for its 5G network, while EE is rumoured to be launching even earlier – perhaps as soon as the first week of June. O2 and Three are yet to give dates but shouldn’t be far behind.
5G is most certainly happening and soon, and it’s now time to start getting excited – but without unrealistic expectations. It might not sound sexy to merely talk about faster speeds and lower latency, but these two things (along with greater network capacity) are really all anyone really needs for the time being.