Mobile data use has soared over the last five years as users increasingly turn to data-heavy streaming and apps become more and more sophisticated.

4G is more than capable of handling these, but when more complicated applications begin to emerge, such as those required by the Internet of Things (IoT), will it be up to the task? The techies aren’t convinced, and that’s why they’re working on 5G.

5G mobile data is in the pipeline and is due to hit the UK market in 2020. It is being developed to match the pace of innovation we are seeing across many industries. That means it will need to have huge capacity and be very fast.

Early signs are that it will live up to these expectations. The developers are already talking about download speeds of 10Gbps – that’s more than 1,000x faster than 4G. To put this into perspective, with 4G, a full HD film can be downloaded in approximately 10 minutes. With 5G that time would be more like 10 seconds. That’s also a lot quicker than the fastest fibre broadband speeds on the market today.

These speeds would go some way to enabling the execution of one of the most talked about IoT applications: driverless cars. To turn autonomous vehicles into a reality, multiple connected devices – including obstacle sensors, traffic lights, and brakes – will need to communicate with each other extremely quickly. This demands virtually a zero time-delay between sending and receiving signals. In the industry, this delay is known as ‘latency’. At present 4G offers 50 millisecond latency. 5G promises 1.

IoT is also enabling advances in healthcare, allowing physicians to conduct examinations and perform operations remotely. When it comes to medical applications, lightning fast connectivity is, literally, vital.

Whereas 5G could be with us in 3 years’ time, the main thing holding back innovation could be network coverage. Although EE currently has the best coverage of the four providers, it still only reaches some 75% of the UK. Full nationwide coverage could take a lot longer than 3 years to achieve.