First 4G then 5G... but 4.5G? Yes, this is a thing: Here are six things you need to know

 
Oliver Gill
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City A.M. understands that holding your phone up closer to the sky will not lead to better mobile reception (Source: Vodafone)

Most of us know what 4G is. And plenty of us have heard of 5G. But 4.5G? You're making that up right...? No we're not.

Here are six things you need to know about the latest evolution in mobile phone technology.

1 – What is 4.5G?

Anyone into technology, or knows someone that is techhead, will be aware geeks can be an impatient bunch.

The roll-out of 4G actually started back in 2013 by EE. 5G is unlikely to be getting to Blighty’s shores until 2020. And the Conservative party yesterday pledged in its manifesto to make sure "the majority of the population" can receive 5G by 2027.

So to placate the unquenchable thirst for faster mobile speeds, 4.5G – LTE Advanced Pro (or LTE-A) –has been developed.

2 – How fast is it?

About two to three times the speed of 4G.

That means download speeds could be between 14-21 megabits per second (Mbps) compared with 4G’s 7-12 Mbps.

Read more: Official stats: The worst performing mobile, broadband and landline firms

To put this into context, this is faster than the government's minimum standard for fixed line broadband, called the Universal Service Obligation (USO), of 10 Mbps.

3 – Is the 4G roll out over then?

No. The main mobile firms are still rolling out 4G. EE and Vodafone have led the way on this but Three and O2 also are increasing their coverage.

Below are maps of 4G coverage across London.

If you are in a beige area right now and reading this on your mobile, you may not be able to see the beige area because you're in a black spot and unable to download the maps, if that makes sense...

(Click or tap on the images to see them in full screen)

4 – When will 4.5G be available?

In small pockets of the country, it’s already here! For example, EE has it running near to Wembley Stadium, which the firm sponsors.

EE call the technology 4G+, a map below is where the firm say it is already running in London.


(Source: EE)

Meanwhile Vodafone have 4.5G in London, Birmingham and Manchester. The UK's other two networks (Three and O2) have been quieter about what their plans are for the technology.

Read more: In your back yard? O2 to prep London for 5G by wedging in 1,400 phone masts

Ultimately this is a bit of a marketing tool. The mobile firms want to be able to either charge more, or gain additional market share from the roll-out of 4.5G.

The technology is there, it comes down to whether it makes sense financially to make the investment to roll it out in specific areas.

But similar to many other competitive markets, once one of the major players rolls it out, the others will likely follow suit so they are not at a competitive disadvantage.

5 – Is my phone 4.5G ready?

Most newer models are, yes. But there are plenty that are not.

The key phrase to look out for on the specs is "Cat 6". If you have an Apple iPhone, you’ll need an iPhone 6 or above, for example. Other popular phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S7 should be fine, as well as Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL.

Read more: Rolling out 5G will keep the UK a tech leader

6 – What does it mean for 5G?

Not a lot really. 4.5G really plugs the gap between the technology.

Many industry experts believe 5G will be game changing. A chief executive of a major UK telecoms infrastructure firm recently told City A.M. 5G could change the world by industrial revolution-type proportions

Read more: Vodafone attempts to draw a line under a turbulent year

Others, such as the chief executive of Vodafone, Vittorio Colao, reckon 5G will be the culmination of an evolution. He said earlier this week: “How important is 4G+ and 4.5G? They are both very important.”

“Is 5G important? Yes, but it is a journey? It is not a black and white. You need 4G+ you need everything. And then we will transition… Each generation brings more.”

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