President Obama will arrive in Pittsburgh to convene the first-ever White House Frontiers Conference which will bring together technology innovators from across the US. Innovators will discuss how science is shaping the 21st century, & will focus on how innovation can build smarter & more inclusive communities.
Wireless networks will soon become exponentially faster, & more versatile with the arrival of next-gen 5G-based networks in the next few years, which Obama is keen to advance. It’s obvious that 5G will bring in new wireless platforms which will create an array of new services & businesses. Self-driving vehicles will be dependent on the speed & responsiveness of 5G networks making them critical to the future. The Internet of Things (IoT) will connect billions of devices to the internet & also use 5G.
What is 5G?
5G is still quite a vague term, this is because its arrival is a long way off. The details are still under debate, with no publicly agreed upon standard for 5G networks. When it does arrive, it could come in the form of two things: as a dramatic overhaul of the radio spectrum of 2G, 3G, 4G and WiFi based on some new type of technology that helps to organise how each uses a segment radio spectrum, or simply as an extension of 4G technology as we know it.
If 5G sees a complete renovation of the world’s radio frequency bands, we will likely see the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), who regulates these bands, restructuring parts of the radio network used to transmit data, while allowing pre-existing communications, including 4G and 3G, to continue functioning. If 5G comes as just an extension of 4G technology, it is likely to bring some improvements, but will mainly concentrate on its ability to transmit data but far faster.
But while many view 5G as eye-meltingly fast mobile broadband, it is potentially much more than that. 5G will not only bring about some quite impressive speed boosts, it is also expected to bring about a ‘network revolution’ that will allow the growing number of connected devices to reach their full potential.
How fast is 5G?
Because no specifications have been set for 5G yet, no one knows what the true speed will be, but we do know that data rates of tens of megabits per second should be supported for tens of thousands of users. Trials done by some of the globe’s biggest networks have proven that 5G could deliver speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s average 4G LTE connection.
Samsung has successfully transmitted data at more than 7.5Gbps over a distance of 2km in 5G trials, while Huawei and NTT DoCoMo achieved 5G speeds of 3.6Gbit/s (3,600Mbit/s) in the first ever large-scale field test in October. That’s quite the step up from 300Mbit/s on EE’s LTE-A network. Researchers at the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) even managed an eye-wateringly fast 1Tbit/s (1,000,000Mbit/s) 5G speed earlier last year, hundreds-of-thousands times faster than current data connections.
More realistically, it’s likely that 5G will bring about speeds in the region of 10Gbit/s (10,000Mbit/s) by the time it reaches the masses. Of course, your phone or home network couldn’t cope with that kind of speed, but it could provide a wireless internet connection for a remote building or even community.
When will 5G arrive?
A new mobile generation has appeared approximately every 10 years since the first analogue 1G system, which was introduced by Nordic Mobile Telephone in 1982. The first digital-based radio signal, 2G, was commercially deployed in 1992, followed by the first 3G system in 2001, and 4G systems first appeared in 2012.
Two years ago, London Mayor Boris Johnson claimed that he would cement London’s claim as “the tech capital of Europe” by launching the world’s first major 5G mobile network by 2020. However, the assumption that there will even be 5G by this time is rather bold. Current 3G and 4G standards vary wildly from country-to-country and operator-to-operator and it is very likely that 5G will suffer a similar fragmented fate unless the industry gets its act together.
Either way, if it follows the same pattern as its predecessors, something called 5G should be with us by the first half of the 2020s.
Most of the world’s major network operators are behind 5G, for obvious reasons: it will improve their services ten-fold. Those involved include AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Docomo, Telefónica, Vodafone, ZTE, Ericsson, Korea Telecom and SK Telecom. There’s also quite a few consumer technology companies keen to tout the value of 5G, as it will bring obvious benefits for them and their upcoming products.
Samsung is one of the world’s leading researchers in 5G technologies, claiming it will be ready to launch consumer networks by the end of the decade. But so far, Samsung’s 5G technology is frail – it relies on a super-high-frequency radio spectrum and specialist antennas to pick up the signal. The signal is also disrupted by rain, while solid walls also provide a substantial hurdle.
Intel is also pushing 5G and is currently working with global operators on 5G development. It sees 5G as not simply a speed increase but a huge step forward that will require massive computing power to make full use of.
How will 5G change everything?
By the early 2020s it is expected that 50-100 billion devices will be connected to the internet. 5G will be required to provide the bandwidth necessary for all those Internet of Things (IoT) to communicate successfully. This could vastly improve the capabilities of connected cars, wearables, drones and so on, and even bring about a slew of completely new technologies that rely on super high data transfer speeds, which haven’t even been imagined yet. It looks to be a key component of numerous upcoming technologies, such as the full adoption of the driverless car or Amazon’s drone delivery service.