First, there was 1G. Then, there was 2G... and 2.5G... and 3G. Oh, and then there was 4G, which is the set of mobile standards we’re on right now. 4G technology, or "ultra-broadband," is the most recent set of speed standards for mobile Internet connectivity.
Of course, as researchers and carriers have for all previous standards, they’re already looking towards the future. That future is—wait for it—5G.
So what exactly is 5G? As participants in the networking and carrier space, our team here at Telx has a vested interest in keeping an eye on the latest connectivity standards. The good news is that research and development on 5G is, unsurprisingly, already underway. The bad news is that standards are still unclear and it remains to be seen whether carriers and others will even be able to make the anticipated release date of 2020.
In examining the current state of 5G, one of the most pressing questions is what exactly 5G entails. It was just weeks ago that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defined fifth-generation networks as 20 gigabits-per-second. The 5G network, notes the Korea Times, will also have capacity to provide more than 100 megabits-per-second average data transmission to over one million Internet of Things devices within 1 square kilometer. The official name for the 5G network will be IMT-2020, and the target for commercializing the network worldwide is set at the year 2020.
If that sounds simple in abstract, reality is much less cut-and-dried. So much about 5G is still a giant question mark that even current test equipment, like Ericsson's 5G prototype, has an uncertain future. How, ComputerWorld asks, can Ericsson know for certain its 5G equipment will be small enough for tomorrow's mobile devices when so much about 5G is still unclear?
Not to mention the infrastructure challenges that come along with 5G. NYU believes that millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies will be the only way to keep up with mobile data demand—and the U.S. is much farther behind on mmWave technology than other countries. Even if there was exact clarity on what 5G is supposed to be, its implementation path is unclear, especially for companies in the U.S. All of which is to say that a rollout date of 2020 is ambitious, to say the least.
Will 5G mean great things for consumers? Yes! The next generation of wireless networks will undoubtedly revolutionize the way consumers interact with devices, and you can expect the IoT to continue to proliferate as network technology catches up. Imagine being able to download a high-definition movie to your phone in 10 seconds.
Unfortunately, as exciting as a 5G future may be, 5G itself is right now surrounded by uncertainty. We’ll embrace it with open arms when it’s here, but there’s still a lot of catching up to do before the fifth generation of networks becomes a reality.
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