While the launch of 4G mobile broadband is still fresh in the memory for some, the telecoms industry is still pushing forward and preparing for the launch of the next generation of connectivity – predictably dubbed 5G.
It seems like only yesterday Kevin Bacon was introducing the UK to the faster internet speeds in adverts from the EE network – which was founded as the result of a merger between Orange and T-Mobile and was among the first to promote 4G.
Although it can be hard to believe this campaign took place over 2012 and 2013, 4G is now over four years old in terms of its commercial availability – and that's a very long time in consumer technology.
To put that into some kind of perspective, the original iPhone launched in 2007, but in 2002 the original Nokia 3310 feature phones were still very widely in use – but the gulf between the two devices seems huge.
The huge differences between those two products are clearly ones of functionality – the iPhone offered things not even possible on feature phones. So if everyone is largely happy with their 4G smartphones, it would be understandable if people had questions over what good it is to upgrade to 5G in a few years. ? del
With this in mind, we've come up with a few pointers as to what could be the characteristics and benefits of 5G broadband.
One of the main advantages of 5G technology is that it is expected to drive the next wave of mobile application development – in particular the Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT will connect billions of devices and is therefore likely to require new equipment and devices and accelerate ever-growing consumer demand for data.
This is a simple concept that basically amounts to connecting devices over the internet and letting them communicate with one another – and one of the most popular examples is the smart fridge. It may sound silly, but if a fridge was able to identify when it was running low on essential items like milk, then it would be able to either send you a text message to let you know, or even automatically add some to an online grocery shopping order.
IoT is already in use in the form of smart meters, which have functions such as allowing the resident to turn the heating on remotely, or set it to turn down the temperature if it gets warm or off if no one is home.
Smartphone companies are working together to help develop a stronger 5G ecosystem. For instance, Samsung recently announced a collaboration with Finnish mobile company Nokia.
It is hoped this will help both vendors to align their product portfolios more closely with 5G specifications.
Both companies feel that the success of 5G will be largely dependent on the mobile industry's ability to establish strong multi-vendor solutions that address any potential issues with new use.
Executive vice-president of mobile networks products at Nokia Frank Weyerich said: “Collaboration between vendors is crucial for 5G to enable new business in the mobile market and other industry sectors.
“The joint interoperability testing between Nokia and Samsung is an important step for making 5G work across networks and devices, fostering early 5G availability and success in the market.”
So when is 5G likely to be launched in the UK? No set deadline has been established as yet – but 5G is expected to be a major pillar of the economy in the 2020s and trials are already being planned.
Samsung and Arqiva have announced an agreement to conduct the first 5G trials in the UK, which will have a particular focus on fixed wireless access.
This will take place in London in the second half of 2017 and is intended to demonstrate the potential for 5G to serve as an alternative to fibre deployment for delivery of fast broadband services.
Both companies believe the UK serves as an ideal starting point for 5G technology introduction within Europe, as the country still has comparatively low broadband penetration. This is combined with promising spectrum conditions and a service economy that is ideally suited to exploring new internet technologies of this nature.