While networks are still rolling out both 3 and 4G, 5G is already in the pipeline with Ofcom advising the service could be up and running in Britain by 2020. Although 5G is still five years away, much has been done to accommodate the development over the last few years with more research and trials to follow.
£35m in funding was granted to Surrey University in 2012 by mobile operators keen to stay ahead of the curve, along with infrastructure providers and the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund to research 5G. In addition to research, the grant also funded the creation of the 5G Innovation Centre where trials are still being undertaken, funded by Samsung, Huawei, Fujitsu Laboratories and the UK government. Alternative work is being carried out in Japan and China.
Interestingly, at the time the grant was received, Prof Tafozolli, Professor of mobile wireless and communications and Director of the university’s research declared, “4G for us is old hat. We started working on 4G 10 years ago,” offering us a glimpse into how the university stays one step ahead of the industry and the time it takes from concept to implementation.
May 2013 saw Samsung announce that the core technology to transmit 5G had been developed. The ‘adaptive array receiver’ was announced with ambitious claims of transmitting data at more than 1Gbps over a 2km distance. Although the announcement focussed on success, there remains more to do in developing all components to enable 5G to transmit. By 2020 it is thought that 50 billion to 100 billion devices will be connected to the internet so, with the electricity costs of running the networks being so high, cost-efficiency needs to be considered in conjunction with the advancements in technology.
Fast forwarding to February 2015, The University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) achieved 1 Tbps speeds in laboratory tests, the fastest to date. Prof Tafazolli now believes it is possible to run a wireless data connection at an astounding 800Gbps – that’s 100 times faster than current 5G testing. To put that into context, according to the BBC, a speed of 800Gbps would equate to downloading 33 HD films – in a single second.
What is 5G?
To answer this question, we first refer you back to our previous blog, The 1G to 4G Journey which explains how mobile devices evolved from ‘voice only’ to the data-only 4G (the ‘G’ stands for ‘generation’). 5G is an advancement on 4G as it transmits in an entirely new way which allows for dramatically faster speeds.
The main differentiator is the term “harmonisation of the radio spectrum”, as coined by Prof Tafazolli himself. Data is transmitted via radio waves, which are split into various frequencies – and each frequency (or band) is regulated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). As new technology is developed, their frequencies are being squeezed into an increasingly tight spectrum and this is where problems with speed and reliability occur.
5G needs more space to deliver the standard now required. As such, the ITU is completely restructuring parts of the radio network to transmit data – all without imposing on currently-functioning 3G and 4G frequencies. So, why is 5G such a priority? With the ‘internet of things’ evolving rapidly, more inanimate objects require connection alongside the smart devices we already use en masse.
With promises of transferring mobile data up to several hundred times faster than 4G and the ability to stream ultra-high definition content, will you be upgrading in 2020?