The Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona on Sunday and alongside a number of big announcements regarding new smartphones and gadgets came one detailing plans for 5G, the next evolutionary step in mobile data. Over the past five years, the amount of mobile data we use has increased to a staggering 3.7 exabytes per month thanks to a growth in apps, streaming services and a resounding opinion that we should have access to high-speed internet whenever and wherever we are. Because of this, 4G is straining under the weight of our expectations and developers are hoping that 5G will soon step up to the plate.
A recent report from the National Infrastructure Commission stated that “5G means seamless connectivity. Ultra-fast, ultra-reliable, ultra-high capacity transmitting at super low latency. It will support the ever larger data requirements of the existing network and new applications from augmented reality to connected vehicles and the Internet of Things, and many more, as unknowable today as the 4G services we take for granted would have been a decade ago.” This essentially means that 5G should be able to handle more data, be able to connect with more devices, reduce latency (buffering…..ugh) and overall be a lot more reliable.
This Utopian vision of 5G connectivity may remain that way, however. T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray claimed that 5G is not yet ready and that the technology still had a number of hurdles to overcome before it can begin to thrive such as the ability to use millimetre wave frequencies for mobile services. Ray dismissed companies currently deploying 5G throughout the U.S, stating that the developments were not yet there for fixed-wireless services.
Nokia took a step closer to the 5G network at the MWC with their unveiling of 5G First. Their CEO Rajeev Suri stated that 5G is “not hype and soon to come reality” with a release set some time in late 2017. Samsung also focused on their development of 5G, unveiling a commercial launch of 5G products for 2018 that will be trialled in the UK this summer. This includes a ‘radio base station’ that users can install into their homes and that Chief Executive Time Baxter claimed that would remove “the pain of expensive and time consuming fibre installations and instead network operators can provide super fast internet to homes and offices quickly and easily.” (Both Nokia and Samsung are those that Neville Ray berated as they are currently working alongside US companies Verizon and Intel to deliver 5G services in U.S homes.)
Large scale development of 5G wasn’t initially expected until at least 2020 but now developers are claiming that we could see it’s release as soon as 2019. As with all technologies, this depends on where you are on the globe for example countries such as South Korea have been regarding 5G specs as far back as 2008. It all remains vague but in order for it to happen this soon, all of those involved in the industry must continue to work together and in order to adopt worldwide harmonisation (take The Internet of Things as an example), 5G developers must take into consideration devices that are made specifically for one country.