The great 4G rollout is still happening and although adoption, let alone coverage, is by no means complete technology stands still for no one. Already there are many in and around the wireless industry who are examining the prospects of 5G, the fifth generation of mobile connectivity.
Is It Even Real?
Let’s get one thing very clear: 5G is not around the corner, and it’s not even technically ‘in the works.’ There’s every reason to anticipate a serious need for a fifth generation technology, and plenty of research and analysis has been done on the subject. But as of yet, 5G is far more of a far-sighted speculation than a working model. Here’s what we know so far:
- 5G may be the wireless technology that ends the current confusion in which a single provider has both specific spectrum allocation and specific wireless technology. There would be a clear benefit in offering a unified global standard, and ‘smart radio’ technology would allow devices to simply hop on to any available spectrum.
Smarter, not faster
One of the most compelling concepts included in the 5G discussion has been that of ‘pervasive networks.‘ Simply put, smartphones would no longer be restricted to a single network, or even need to be actively switched between available networks. In a larger sense, this would be the basis for the integration of any number of devices in the “Internet of Things,” but such widespread connectivity will require 5G to feature intelligent distribution, so that your voice call gets priority over your washing machine’s firmware update.
- There’s a rough consensus that 2020 is going to be the year of 5G. On average, wireless generations have been spaced about a decade apart, analog wireless (1G) first appeared in 1981, 2G digital wireless in 1992, 3G began rolling out in 2001, and 4G started to become available in 2011. This makes an interesting exception to the usual increased frequency of technological advancement seen in most other fields.
The “Spectrum Crunch”
More importantly, there’s a very real worry that current wireless technologies will become insufficient to handle increasing consumer data demands. The popularity of mobile video is especially taxing on bandwidth, as is the general movement of data storage to a cloud-based model. Already major providers are fighting each other and the federal government for additional spectrum allocation and we may start to see a spectrum deficit as early as this year.
- In a sense, anything that replaces 4G will be 5G. Seen from another angle, however, 5G may not be where we’re headed at all.
What Experts Have To Say?
The Chief Technology Officer of Ericsson, Hakan Eriksson, is on record saying that there will only be refinements of 3G and 4G, rather than any distinct fifth-generation 5G technology. Going by the analysis of the wireless industry’s specturm, there is simply not much more room to grow; we’re near maximum bandwidth and throughput already. We may be forced to develop a completely different approach, unrelated to the “G’s,” or utilize existing technology in very different ways.
What excites you about the future of mobile wireless? Let us know in the comments.
Greg Buckskin is a technology and internet guru. He writes for CableTV.com. If You Wish To Write Articles For Whitec0de Magazine, then Click Here.