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The future is 5G

5G wireless networks are expected to emerge in the market between 2020 and 2030

Cellphone image via Shutterstock

or 5th generation mobile technology is a term used to describe the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G standards. 5G is expected to meet the diverse requirements of the future.

There has been a new mobile generation appearing about every tenth year. The 1G system, was introduced in 1981. This was followed by the 2G system which started to roll out in 1992 and the 3G system made its appearance in 2001. 4G systems were standardised in 2012. Thus, mobile communications technologies that are expected to appear beyond 2020 are referred to as 5G.

However, there is as yet no agreed definition of 5G as it is still very much in the concept stage. It needs to be noted that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations agency that defines industry standards, nor standardisation bodies such as 3GPP and WiMAX Forum have established standards for 5G technologies as yet. Thus, for some skeptics, all talk of 5G, even before 4G has properly taken off, is merely a marketing gimmick. Marketers love to appropriate such terms for their advertising campaigns.

Players like Ericsson expect 5G solutions to not consist of a single technology but rather an integrated combination of radio-access technologies. This would include existing mobile-broadband technologies such as HSPA and that will continue to evolve and will provide the backbone of the overall solution beyond 2020. There will also be new complementary technologies. Smart antennas, expanded spectrum and improved coordination between base stations will be some of the new innovations.

Why 5G is required
5G is needed because of the explosive growth in video traffic, the acute shortage of spectrum, the growing need to minimise the energy requirements of web devices and network infrastructure and to cater to the insatiable desire for higher data speed rates.

For the customer, the difference between 4G and 5G technologies will be in higher  speeds, lower battery consumption, better coverage, higher number of supported devices, lower infrastructure costs, higher versatility and scalability or higher reliability of communications.

The METIS project, co-funded by the European Commission, aims at reaching worldwide consensus on the future global mobile and wireless communications system. The overall technical goal is to provide a system concept that supports 1,000 times higher efficiency as compared with current LTE deployments.

The University of Surrey has been given the go-ahead to set up a 5G Innovation Centre backed up by a total of £35m investment from a combination of the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund and a consortium of key mobile operators and infrastructure providers including Huawei, Samsung, Telefonica Europe, Fujitsu Laboratories Europe, Rohde & Schwarz and AIRCOM International.

Though there is no globally agreed 5G standard yet, South Korea is exploring spectrum bands like 13 GHz, 18 Ghz and 27 GHz for 5G technology, which will be capable of transmitting data at speeds in excess of a 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps).

Taiwan, which now lags behind in the development of 4G technologies after having wrongly bet on the now less accepted WiMAX technologies wants to be in the forefront to develop 5G technology.

Major companies in wireless technology are also jockeying for position to influence the next wave of standards beyond 4G LTE. In the Metis project, Huawei is playing the leading role in the Radio Link Technology stream.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics, which has announced that it wants to make available 5G to the public by 2020, said that it had successfully tested ultra-fast fifth generation data transfer using millimeter-wave transceiver technology in May 2013. Semiconductor company Broadcom has unveiled a new combo chip that promises to deliver the fifth generation of broadband wireless connectivity.

Outlook
In order to sustain the continuous growth of wireless business, and to support the industry’s response the ‘Big Data’ challenge, 5G wireless networks are expected to emerge in the market between 2020 and 2030.

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