Roll on 5G

With the next revolution in mobile communications already underway, it is high time IT made mobile its business

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I industry has revealed how 4G mobile networking services will be rolled out in the UK. EE, a new company and brand, will launch 4G offerings around the UK at the end of October, while the other major mobile operators are now clear to put their rival services on the market from spring 2013. This month’s cover feature looks at the potential impact of these services on businesses and their customers.

But already, one UK university is laying the groundwork for 5G mobile networks. In early October, the University of Surrey announced that it had won funding for a new ‘5G Innovation Centre’.

According to Professor Rahim Tafazolli, head of Surrey’s Centre for Communication Systems Research, the UK was not a driving force in the development of 3G or 4G technologies.

“Although the UK played an active role in the creation of 2G (GSM) cellular standards, it has increasingly fallen behind in succeeding generations of 3G and 4G standards,” he said in a statement announcing the win.

“The university’s industry partners have identified this proposal as the single biggest opportunity for the UK to regain a world- leading position in the development of 5G technologies and for the development of vibrant businesses around the technologies.” At the moment, 5G does not refer to a specific set of technology standards – and it may not for some time. It was not until decided that 4G refers specifically to the LTE (Long-Term Evolution) standard, and not WiMax.

However, there are some themes that experts expect 5G standards to address. These include pervasive networking, which allows a user to switch between mobile networks seamlessly, and so-called ‘cognitive radio’, technology that locates unused radio spectrum before sending a signal.

It is difficult enough to predict the real impact of 4G telecommunications on businesses; to do so for 5G at this point would be pure folly. But one thing can be said with some confidence: the typical IT organisation is more au faitwith wired networking technologies than with mobile telecommunications. Indeed, procuring mobile telephony services is often the responsibility of the facilities function rather than IT.

But mobile devices are the end-user computing platform of today and tomorrow. That means an organisation’s mobile network is an increasingly pivotal component of its information and communications infrastructure. It is high time IT made mobile its business.