When Will 4G Be Upstaged by 5G?

While mobile users and networks alike are still getting to grips with 4G, there is already a lot of talk about the future development of 5G internet. Speaking at the CeBit trade show in Hannover earlier this month, David Cameron announced a collaboration between the University of Dresden in Germany, King’s College University London, and the University of Surrey, to develop the next generation of wireless internet.

Development of 5G TechnologyIn his speech the Prime Minister insisted that the UK, in collaboration with Germany, could not afford to miss out on developing 5G at a time when the world is in a state of permanent technological revolution. While he fully backed the 5G research saying that “With 4G, an 800 megabyte movie takes around 40 seconds to download; with 5G that would be cut to one second,” he gave no indication of how the research was to be funded. He did, however, report that £73m would be set aside for research into the Internet of Things, a concept that we have discussed in a previous post.

So when is 5G likely to arrive in the UK and how exactly will it differ from the 4G that is currently available? An interview with Any Sutton, EE’s Principal Network Architect and a member of the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, provided a few answers to these questions, although he was keen to point out that 5G is still being defined.

According to Sutton the next generation of mobile internet will be introduced in the UK around eight to ten years from now as users demand more from their smartphones and tablets and require ever more data at even faster speeds than 4G can provide. He indicates that mobile manufacturers are also already researching 5G, and many have joined the 5G Innovation Centre. While some prototype 5G devices are already being developed these are far from complete.

5G will increase peak and average data speeds, as well as increasing capacity to support a greater number of mobile devices. While 4GEE can currently provide peak speeds of up to 300Mbps, and may eventually evolve to offer 1Gbps, 5G is likely to be able to deliver speeds of 10Gbps or more, shared among multiple users. 5G is likely to be used as a viable alternative to fixed line broadband, a trend that we are already beginning to see with 4G in rural areas.

The UK and Germany are not the only countries to be investing in research into 5G. The South Korean government has pledged to introduce 5G within six years and is investing $1.5billion in research and development. A spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Science and Technology said “We helped fuel national growth with 2G services in the 1990s, 3G in the 2000s and 4G around 2010. Now it is time to take pre-emptive action to develop 5G.” Samsung, a South Korean firm, has already begun testing 5G technology with impressive results, but has indicated that this technology is unlikely to appear in a handset before 2020.

In the meantime the ongoing evolution of 4G and its rollout across the UK means that we can all begin to enjoy ultra-fast mobile internet and all the benefits that it can bring.