By 2020, the UK is expected to be using 5G, the fifth generation of mobile communications.
At present, it is unknown exactly what 5G will offer but it is widely thought that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will define a 5G network as one that can transmit data at 20 Gb/s.
This would allow people to stream hours of HD media on their smartphones out of the range of WiFi. It is set to give people more capacity and be more responsive to users’ needs. It is expected to be hundreds of times faster than the current 4G networks.
Exactly when 5G is introduced is up to the developers. They are currently engaged in a race to achieve the fastest levels of testing.
A number of companies are currently working on bringing 5G to the market, each developing new elements.
One of the most recent developments is the Qualcomm 5G modem. Announcing the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, Qualcomm said it had been designed to support original equipment manufacturers (OEM) involved in building the next generation of mobile devices. It is also intended to aid operators with early 5G trials and deployments.
These OEMs will be able to test 28 GHz communications, with 800 MHz channels that support up to five Gbps throughput.
However, the modem is only expected to begin its sampling process from the second half of 2017.
Other companies have been engaged in testing for 5G networks, reporting that they have achieved ever faster speeds.
It’s not just mobile device streaming that is expected to drive the need for 5G. The Internet of Things (IoT) will also be largely dependent on the development of 5G. With billions of devices becoming connected, there will be a need for reliable and fast internet services.
These devices will all need a network to connect to and 5G aims to provide that. It will make it possible for these objects to communicate with infrastructures and other devices in order to achieve different aims, but will all share the goal of making things more convenient.
Autonomous cars are one tech advancement that will be reliant on 5G. Driverless cars are being developed by many different firms, with Uber actually launching a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US.
The development of 5G will lead to driverless cars being able to communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure. It is hoped that this will lead to a reduction in road accidents and, therefore, fatalities.
Other elements of the IoT will aim to make things easier for people in their work and personal lives. For example, it could be possible to see which seats on a train are available as it pulls into the station.
Energy saving could become easier, which is particularly relevant to smaller businesses operating in their own small buildings – or home workers who need to use electricity in their homes in order to work.
Despite the value of 5G, delivering it to the whole of the UK may cause some problems for networks. There are some very remote regions in the country that might pose a challenge to providers.
This has already been the case with 4G, which is currently not accessible to everyone in the UK. There are many parts of Wales and Scotland that have no 4G coverage. Although this will not be a big concern for the majority of businesses, there are still those that operate in these largely rural areas.
If these companies cannot access 5G networks, but their competitors in other regions can, this could lead to an unfair advantage since it is hoped that 5G will lead to increased business productivity.
The impact of 5G is currently largely unknown as there is no defined idea about what it is. However, most experts agree that it is going to be faster than anything we have seen previously and is likely to make things much more simple for most people.
Work will likely become easier as 5G will allow quicker downloads and the ability to work online even if there is no WiFi connection. This could see companies boosting productivity and becoming more competitive.
It just remains to be seen how much of the country 5G will cover and whether everyone will be able to benefit from the potential it currently possesses.