When Will We See 5G on Mobile and Why Do We Need It?
When Will We See 5G?
There is plenty of buzz and excitement around at the moment about 5G mobile networks, but what exactly is 5G and what benefits will it bring to ordinary mobile users? 5G will be the latest in a series of technological advances in mobile communications technology, which have come around roughly every ten years. 1G arrived in 1982, 2G in 1992, 3G in 2001 and 4G in around 2012. Each has brought greater capacity, vastly increased speeds and significantly reduced latency. 5G, expected right on schedule around 2022 will bring the next leap forward in all three measures and more.
Why Do We Need 5G?
But with 4G already fast enough to watch streamed content on your phone in HD and play multi-player games online in real time on the bus to work, you may wonder why we need 5G at all. Are we just being greedy or spoiled, always demanding more?
In fact, we don’t just want more; we need more. If the much talked about Internet of Things (IoT) is to become an inter-connected reality, and deliver its full potential, the network needs significantly more capacity and much faster bit rates.
What Will 5G Deliver?
With 5G still very much in the development stage, there are no hard and fast standards for 5G systems, but in late 2014 the GSMA, which represents over 800 mobile telephone operators, agreed a set of criteria that 5G should aim for. These include:
- Increased speed of 1-10Gbps
- Reduced latency of 1-10ms
- Increased connections with up to 100x more devices
- Increased bandwidth of 1000x current levels
- Increased availability – perceived to be 99.999%
- Increased coverage – perceived to be 100%
- Reduced energy usage to 10% of previous
What Will This Mean For Users?
If 5G achieves its aims, you will be able to download a full HD movie in just a few seconds instead of a few minutes, with reduced latency allowing you to start watching straight away. 5G will also help to realise the full potential of virtual reality and augmented reality, opening up a whole world of new experiences.
The increased bandwidth and speed will mean no slowing down or access problems when the whole family, or the whole office is online. This last part is crucial with the advent of the Internet of Things, as no one wants their online movie buffering because their fridge is online hogging all the bandwidth. Joking aside, with 50-100billion devices expected to be connected to the IoT, it is crucial to create a high capacity system to accommodate them.
How is 5G Research Progressing?
5G research is already big business. The UK Government has invested millions in the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, and world leading Chinese technology company, Huawei, announced in 2013 that it would be investing $600m in 5G research. Other major players are spending big money too, including Ericcson, Google and Qualcomm.
The first successful tests have already been done, with Ericsson achieving 5gbps in 2014, and Huawei reaching 11.29Gbps soon after. Last year, Ericsson achieved a cumulative 20Gbps on two simultaneously connected devices.
So, When Will We Truly See 5G?
Small scale 5G tests are already underway everywhere from rural China to metropolitan areas in the United States. Ericsson and Samsung both plan to demonstrate 5G systems at the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018, and the football World Cup in Russia in the same year, while TeliaSonera aims to introduce a limited service in Stockholm in 2018.
However, despite the fast pace of research and development, it is unlikely that 5G will meet its original deadline of 2020 for widespread roll out. Much like 4G, it is likely to be a slow process, with upgrades to transmission masts, mobile devices and other equipment delaying widespread 5G availability until around 2022 – right on time for the next ten-year leap.