While we’re still getting to grips and learning to make best use of current 4G networks, engineers already have their eyes set on the next generation. Research and development of 5G networks has already broken ground and is set to move faster as investment increases.
The big changes necessary to make 5G a reality are twofold. The first, to change the way the spectrum is managed to provide the medium for 5G. The second, to deliver the technology to allow mobile networks to take advantage of that medium.
Controlling the airwaves
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the body in charge of dividing up the airwaves. They ensure that essential services such as air traffic control, maritime navigation, television broadcasts and mobile phone signals can all share the same space without interrupting each other.
Previously, the spectrum was divided into frequencies and sold off in spectrum blocks as they became available. This led to a muddled organisational infrastructure with services all over the place. As new technologies came along they were squeezed into whatever free space there was with little apparent order.
With 5G, the ITU is comprehensively changing the way the airwaves are ordered. Rather than adding new services wherever there is space, all spectrums will be divided into logical frequency blocks. These blocks will offer faster speeds, less interference, more reliability and much more potential.
Three distinct frequencies will be set aside for 5G use, with the first becoming available in 2020. Unfortunately, until these frequencies have been decided, consumer product development cannot happen.
The growth and popularity of the internet of things has taken everyone by surprise. Add increasing numbers of connected devices, over 100 billion over the next decade, network capacity has to find ways to cope with that traffic. Capacity is the single biggest challenge facing mobile networks.
If you provide a technology that allows a user to download an HD movie to their mobile phone, you had better have the network to allow it!
Reliability is also key. If you’re going to create the means to operate driverless cars over a network or enable any of the hundreds of new uses predicted for 5G networks, they had better perform flawlessly. Such innovations aren’t going to be possible without guaranteed uptime. That’s why a huge amount of investment is going into mobile antenna technology.
Samsung and Huwaei, two huge players in the mobile phone market are already investing heavily in 5G. Both are competing and cooperating and are planning to run a trial network for the 2018 Olympic Games and World Cup.
Until the spectrum is decided and until a test network has been proven successfully, 5G is still very much future technology. For now at least,4G is becoming faster and more reliable meaning more of us have the confidence to run our businesses using it.