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5G: Far away, fantasy, or time to get ready?

5G: Far away, fantasy, or time to get ready?

Britt Cooper

‘The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed’William Gibson

It may seem a bit far-fetched to contemplate a world where data speeds go beyond 4G, rolling out now in selected markets around the globe. Many people still complain about inconsistent 3G coverage, and a wait-and-see attitude prevails in some countries about just how fast 4G (LTE) will really be.

Operators however have seen the uptake of – in the main – faster connections and increased data usage, and are well motivated to use quality-of-service as a way to differentiate themselves. Market share awaits the brand that deploys the fastest network. Whilst on the other side of the equation, smartphone manufacturers are on a clear product development path to support ever more robust applications, faster downloads and fatter, high-definition video streaming suitable for 3D.

All of which points to a world beyond 4G/LTE. Network equipment vendors and handset makers are already claiming ‘5G’ advances, and data transmission rates that look like light speed in comparison to 4G (in a controlled laboratory setting). All of this follows a pattern familiar to those who observed the run up to 4G/LTE. More breakthroughs can be expected in the coming months and years, eventually pointing to a business case for network deployment.

Or will it? There have been concerns from engineering circles that the high-frequency wavebands required for 5G Mobile Data aren’t suitable for the long-range communications across mobile networks that 5G is meant to enable. Having said that, The University of Surrey has recently established a 5G Innovation Centre with backing from Huawei and others. Some are starting to refer to LTE Advanced as a potential 5G or ‘5G lite’, so you can see momentum building for the next big thing.

Whatever we call it, the industry is on a forward march to a faster data speeds and more and more data consumption. We expect all of this to escalate in the next 4-5 years.