London will be ready to host the fifth generation of mobile telecoms technology by 2020, according to Boris Johnson, the capital’s mayor. 5G technology promises mobile data speeds that far outstrip the fastest home broadband network currently available in the UK.
With speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second, 5G will be as much as 1,000 times faster than 4G, the latest iteration of mobile data technology. The gains brought about by 4G are already being felt by businesses whose employees are often on the move.
3G does not have the capacity to cope with modern mobile working demands. Workers in urban centres often feel the effects the most, with slow and sometimes non-existent mobile connections common in peak hours. Because 4G networks have higher base speeds, they experience less of this peak-hour strain. There is more than enough capacity to share for core services, such as e-mail and web browsing.
5G will make communications so fast they become almost real-time, putting mobile internet services on a par with office services
On top of this, 4G provides an additional speed boost for increasingly important business services, such as mobile video conferencing and cloud computing. 4G also allows for cost-effective, stable international calls on data calling services, such as Skype, even at peak times.
5G will, however, make communications so fast they become almost real-time, putting mobile internet services on a par with office services. Huawei, the Chinese telecoms giant that is a driving force behind 5G research, says 5G will allow any mobile app and any mobile service to connect to anything at any time, “from people and communities to physical things, processes, content, working knowledge, timely pertinent information and goods of all sorts in entirely flexible, reliable and secure ways”.
It will provide greater network stability to ensure that business-critical mobile functions do not go offline and the speed necessary to give employees a fully equipped virtual office almost anywhere. If broadband services do not experience significant uplifts in speed, 5G might even prove to be a cost-effective alternative to fixed-line services in ten years’ time.
Mobile data could prove to be the answer for businesses that operate outside the reach of broadband networks or suffer from slow fixed-line service. Because the cost of putting up mobile data masts is far lower than installing fibre optic cables, operators may well decide that 5G is speedy enough to be used to reach rural areas as an alternative to fixed lines.
To give you a picture of just how fast 5G will be, Huawei estimates that the download time for an eight gigabyte HD movie will be just six seconds, compared with seven minutes over 4G and over an hour with 3G.
Nokia believes 5G will be a system that provides a “scalable and flexible service experience with virtually zero latency” – latency being the time needed for a packet of data to move across a network or series of networks. Combined with the anticipated growth of the internet of things over the next decade, this means a more connected world of instantaneous information is just around the corner - industry experts predict 50 billion devices will be “connected” by 2020.
Yes, deployment still seems a long way away and yes, sizeable challenges remain such as infrastructure demands and spectrum capacity. However, with existing mobile technologies likely unable to meet market demands beyond 2020, 5G is inevitable and its impact will unarguably be transformational, for businesses and consumers across the globe.