It feels like it’s barely been a year or two since 4G (commonly known as Long Term Evolution) came on to the market. Currently, it’s the world’s most used standard of telecommunications and data transfers. And, as older technology gets shut down (like Australia’s legacy 2G network), we keep looking to the future. If LTE is fast and handy, then what will the next generation of mobile telecommunications hold? 5G devices aren’t a standard yet, but it is a gleam in some electronics engineer’s eye. It’s time that standards were drawn up for the next stage in global communications technology.
While Mobile World Congress 2017 has unleashed a host of new devices, some of them are also touted to be “5G ready”, with modems that can send and receive data at 1Gbps. A truly astonishing rate! However, you will probably say there are no networks out there capable of running at that speed. And you’d be right. Even so, 5G devices like the Sony Xperia XZ Premium will barely scratch the surface when it comes to internet speeds. The proposal for 5G networks is looking at single cells being able to transfer data at 20Gbps and simultaneously cover at least a million devices per square kilometre. The technology for such dense connectivity hasn’t even been invented yet.
Obviously, covering that many devices per square kilometre has nothing to do with shoving every living person into a giant dense city and leaving them there to stare at their phones all day. It’s about connected cities and Internet of Things…things. But that would also mean the cell towers would be better at large sporting events or concerts where the network can still get jammed up. There are also the issues of energy usage and spectrum to solve.
With the promise of much higher data speeds comes promises of instant access to the cloud. There’s also the dream of downloading 4K movies nearly instantaneously on to your phone. Even things like multiplayer augmented reality games like Pokemon Go! might become properly augmented with a point.
So far though, 5G devices remain a dream rather than a reality. And that’s OK. The aim is to get it ready by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. That sounds like a long time, but in reality it’s only three years away. Hold your horses, because expensive new telecommunications technology will take time to roll out. Right now, just sit back and enjoy 4G, which is already pretty damn fast.