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Is it just about faster phones?

No - though that's undoubtedly the short-term hook to attract subscribers.

One of the biggest long-term benefits of 5G will be the ability for mobile networks to provide more connections at once.

In theory, 5G will be able to simultaneously support more than a million devices per sq km (0.4 sq miles), a big jump over the 60,000-odd devices that 4G technology maxes out at.

But to make this possible, antennas will be needed all over the place - from lamp-posts to bus shelters, in addition to more of the rooftop masts we're already used to.

These in turn will support hundreds of thousands of data-capturing sensors that will allow the authorities and businesses to gain deeper insights about behaviour and provide "smarter" services.

Futurists envisage benefits such as a customer's smart-home automatically ordering the ingredients for meals that have been nutritionally tailored to their activities, while retailers make use of related data to ensure they have the right amount of stock to hand, thus minimising lost sales and goods going to waste.

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5G makes it possible to support millions of sensors tracking behaviour, the environment and other devices
So, while 4G made it possible to start controlling internet-connected devices from afar, 5G should enable a multitude of machine-to-machine communications, allowing decisions to be made for people rather than by them.

Technology analyst Stephanie Hare says: "5G will make our physical world go from 'dumb' to 'smart'.

"It raises questions about how much choice and agency we will have, as companies and governments will have more information with which to target messages and options to us.

"The risk is that we won't be able to opt out."
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