AH Tech Talk: 5G Is Five Years Away, What Might We Expect?

Depending on your region, your carrier may not have yet even started deploying 4G LTE networks and we are seeing more and more stories about 5G mobile network technologies. Indeed, as it happens the first generation LTE network is not a 4G compliant standard: it does not meet the IMT-2000 Standard for 4G networking technology, but relatively few people care thanks to massive marketing spend from carriers all over the world and it's the network that customers are using. There are improvements coming for LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks, such as LTE Advanced, which will keep on improving the network speeds that we see from these devices. The IMT, International Mobile Telecommunications, have yet to finalize the 5G technology standard (this is due later in the year) but we've already seen companies talking and even demonstrating their own take on these technologies. As such, we know that it's the next generation of mobile networking technology but we don't have the detail.

Let me write about what it may be able to do, then. Just as we saw with the move from 3G to LTE networking, the chief given advantage is performance. This means a combination of fast download and upload data transfer speeds combined with highly responsive, low latency networks. Current LTE technology allows a theoretical maximum download speed of 1 Gbps and depending on the company you talk to, 5G speeds may well be ten times this fast. By latency, LTE networks have a latency of around 50ms and companies working towards 5G technologies are working towards a 1ms latency. This very low latency will be important when it comes to certain applications and services, such as interconnected driverless cars. The advantage of higher data transfer speeds will accelerate the current Internet use and allow for much richer media content streaming, such as ultra HD technologies including VR (virtual reality) layers

There are other potential advantages when it comes to network performance, including increasing the network capacity for a given slice of frequency and spectrum and, eventually, reducing device power consumption. The network capacity issue is important because the industry is expecting many millions of new Internet-connected devices to spring up as manufacturers and carriers jump onboard the Internet of Things (IoT) bandwagon. Our smartwatches, refrigerators, cars, home automation systems and far more are going to need a way to communicate with one another.

One difference between 5G technologies and the forerunner networks is that the business model used to pay for the new generation networks is going to have to be different. Customers expect their money to go further: they want higher data allowances for less per month. Instead, the carriers (and perhaps more realistically, the accountancy and finance teams working for the carriers) will need to reinvent the business model in order to pay for the new network. It's not clear how things will pan out but we may see the new generation networks carefully focused and concentrated for the first few years of deployment, even in the major markets. Of course, at this juncture we are still unclear as to how the technology will shape up. And depending on the manufacturer, the picture is looking a little different. Nevertheless, we can realistically expect the next generation of mobile networks are going to be faster in every level and will hopefully, eventually, reduce power consumption. However and unfortunately, we are still a number of years away from a commercially available 5G network. Depending on the manufacturer, we are at least five years out. We are likely going to have to wait until 2020.

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About the Author

David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.