5G on the horizon? – what you should know

The next generation of mobile connectivity, 5G, is in the concept stage in the (3GPP) standardisation process. Ofcom’s chief executive has said we could be as little as five years away from 5G in the UK market. This matches our prediction that if high, and ultra-high, definition television uptake continues to increase at the current rate MNOs will run out of spectrum bandwidth again within five years.

> See also: Network maintenance: the key to 4G and 5G success across the UK

Currently, as of the last ETSI mobile future workshop, the following timeframes for 5G roll-out are regarded as feasible: research, development and innovation to be carried out up to 2020; Scoping 5G up to 2020; Operational deployment after 2020; Optimised 5G for technology expected to be available and cost effective around 2025.

It is also worth noting how WiFi as a technology is a step ahead of 4G/5G and can already deliver multiple 1Gbps (theoretically up to 8 Gbps with 802.11ac today – if the kit supports it). So where ultra high bandwidths are required there will be a technology available much earlier than 5G.

What are the driving forces behind the acceleration of 5G?

For consumers, mobile data and video consumption is exploding as we increasingly use bandwidth-draining applications such as Skype and Netflix on our smartphones and tablets.

We’re increasingly demanding higher quality data services wherever we are and the current networks in place —3G and 4G—are unlikely to meet users’ future needs. 5G will further enable the adoption of media rich real-time information exchange which meets clear needs for the consumer but will also allow new ways of working in the business world. This will allow businesses to interact with and engage their customers in new ways.

5G could potentially provide up to 1000x capacity increases with the use of higher frequencies. In addition, significant power savings and easier to deploy end-to-end services are all key aims of 5G.

From an operational standpoint, capacity and coverage continue to be challenges for operators. 5G will not necessarily help coverage but will help capacity with vendors already trialling 5G being able to deliver 5GBps, possibly rising to 10GBps.

The least understood reason for needing to deploy 5G is for the benefits it brings to lower latency – potentially reducing from 60ms to lower than 10ms. 5G is very much pre-standards, so before we have a clear idea of its scope and capabilities, much work will need to be done to deliver these results in real world environments.

The 5G standards will dramatically increase speed, quantity and delivery of data from 5G enabled devices, helped by the move from just mobile to ubiquitous wireless connectivity. This will make the sharing of large amounts of data from nomadic workers and remote data collection points faster, allowing companies to respond faster to change.

The challenge here is coalescing this data with other data sets (eg social) so consumers feel a fair value exchange for allowing access to and manipulation of this data.

> See also: Leading the 5G charge

5G will deliver faster wireless broadband with a larger coverage area than previous standards (i.e. higher average bits/Hz and at a lower average C/N). This will make the user experience of mobile and flexible working better.

The intersection with Cloud Services adoption in business is a critical factor here. Small Businesses and start-ups are starting to gain access to ‘big business’ services by adopting innovative and flexible cloud apps.

Superfast, low latent, ubiquitous coverage will support and possibly accelerate this adoption by allowing creative service definitions with near seamless provision and almost no downtime, again moving from mobile to ubiquitous wireless connectivity.

And while 5G is therefore not strictly necessary for IOT and M2M technological developments, it could certainly help immensely. 5G will contain transmission modes which will allow a large number of devices/sensors to be connected.

5G as a world standard in harmonised bands would drive cost and risk out of the radio technology. This allows the 5G radios to be embedded in devices at manufacture. The device owner could then connect the device if they wish and no additional hardware has to be integrated post purchase.

Sourced from Nicolas Ott, Managing Director of Telecoms, Arqiva Telecoms

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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