What is 5G and When is It Coming?

What is 5G?

5G is the term used to describe the next-generation of mobile networks. The 4G Network that we now are familiar with will be superseded by the next generation of mobile network in 2020. 5G technologies are early in their development, but wireless researchers and executives made steady progress defining future 5G networks, and have managed to speed up the schedule for the first phase of standards-based 5G deployments. There is no exact schedule for when 5G will be fully available commercially, however there is a reasonable expectation of it finally arriving in 2020. Currently, there is no standard defined as to what exactly 5G will be. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will release the final standard, which is also being referred to as International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)-2020. The mobile industry standards body will submit a proposed specification to the ITU to be part of the IMT-2020 standard. Mobile operators and vendors all participate in the 3GPP specification process.

The Vision

The vision of 5G is becoming clearer as we move closer to 2020.Experts suggest that 5G will achieve network speeds of 20 Gb/s or higher and have a latency that is virtually non-existent. It has been muted that 5G may even be up to 100 times faster than 4G. It is worth noting that currently even the fastest home fibre broadband connections top out at around 240Mb/s. This projected efficiency will facilitate the continuous roll-out of developing smart cities worldwide, allowing the connectivity of person to person, city infrastructures, public safety, traffic management, machine to machine learning and sophisticated transport network opportunities. These new 5G networks are also expected to have always-on capabilities and be energy efficient, all of which will likely require new protocols and access technologies.

The Technology

Many envision 5G being the network for the Internet of Things (IoT). In order to support a huge number of devices, many of which require longer battery life, the 5G network will have to be extremely efficient in its low-bandwidth transmissions and have enhanced coverage. 5G will be built on a structure known as multiple input, multiple output (MIMO), that is integral to 4G technology, only it has progressed to a technology that uses many antennas, combined with signal processing, to communicate with several users on the same frequency, at the same time. Carriers have added capacity to crowded frequency brands below 6 GHz, where most consumer electronics operate today.

Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei and Intel are already developing the next generation of mobile networks. But when will 5G arrive and just how much better will it be? It’s still early days for 5G, but Ofcom thinks that you’ll be able to buy a 5G phone in 2020. Verizon and AT&T are expected to start rolling out 5G networks in 2018 in the US. It’s still an open question of what customers will do with their upgraded service and how much they will pay for it.  

What will be the outcome?

In recent years, engineers have set sky-high expectations for 5G. They’ve spoken of 5G as the wireless network that will unleash radical new technological advances in every possible realm, not just smart cities. They have promised that it will enable autonomous cars, streaming virtual reality, and remote surgeries. In the annual Brooklyn 5G Summit in April, a keynote about how 5G would improve industrial systems Kenneth Budka of Nokia Bell Labs predicted that 5G technologies would “fundamentally transform human existence”. With the promise of lifesaving remote surgeries it most certainly would!

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