The Road to 5G Begins

Carl Weinschenk
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Five Reasons Wi-Fi Will Overtake Traditional Telecoms

Ina Fried pointed out in a Christmas Eve story at All Things D that the 4G/LTE map of the United States is just about filled in. The same can be said, to a greater or lesser degree, about the other developed economies. Developing regions are not too far behind.

So the natural thing to do is talk about 5G.

The wheels of progress inexorably turn. In mid-December, the European Commission and the 5G PPP Association launched a study and research group aimed at developing the new standard. The news was reported by Ericsson and other sites:

The 5G PPP will address the novel infrastructure requirements that will be needed to cater for these challenging and unprecedented growth and performance characteristics with a specific attention to energy efficiency. There may be a need to redefine the value chains, reinvent the roles and relationships between the players, whilst opening new innovation opportunities. At the same time, the introduction of virtualization and of software based network functionalities will require more flexibility and reactivity from the networks.

EE Times provides many of the details about the new organization in particular and 5G in general through an interview with 5G PPP Chairman Werner Mohr. He told Rick Merritt that the plan is to launch as many as 20 research projects in 2014 using a budget of about 250 million euros. Merritt points out that it is not the only 5G research initiative under development.

So 5G won’t happen soon. Indeed, the story says that current estimates suggest 2020 as the arrival year. But once it comes, it will be a big deal: The story suggests data rates as fast as 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) operating at millimeter or centimeter frequencies. This speed would enable machine-to-machine (M2M) communications with latencies as low as a few hundred microseconds.

The 2020 timeframe for commercial services is echoed by Tech In Asia. The site relayed a report in the Korean-language QQ Tech that discussed the South Korean government’s intention of conducting 5G tests in 2018 and commercial services in 2020. No carriers were named in the report. The aim, according to the story, is to control 20 percent of the global market. It has invited 150 experts to a meeting to discuss the technology.

Expect a lot of jockeying for position. In addition to the Korean initiative and the 5G PPP group, the Europeans have started METIS 2020. The idea, according to a FierceWireless story, is that the continent is way behind other regions, such as Korea and the United States, in 4G deployment. Why not, then, just skip ahead and go all-in on 5G?:

The European Union, therefore, intends to not just hop on the 5G bandwagon, but actually steer it. "I want 5G be pioneered by European industry, based on European research and creating jobs in Europe, and we will put our money where our mouth is," European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said in February 2013.

Many other groups and companies will vie for position. In telecommunications, the six years until 2020 is an eternity. But the huge amount of money on the table makes it certain that planning will get serious quickly.

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