The next mobile networks

In 2011, there was a huge debate about what qualified as a 4G network. Today, flagship devices have to run on LTE (or Long Term Evolution) networks. But in 2011 many devices - such as the HTC Sensation 4G, Samsung Galaxy SII, etc - either had 4G in their name or advertised themselves as running on 4G networks. More often than not, these devices ran on HSPA+, a slightly faster version of the 3G network. Rolland Banks in Mobile Industry Review gives the rundown on 5G.

Banks notes that LTE has rolled out at different rates in different countries. The United States has the highest number of LTE subscribers (140 million), followed by Japan (51.2 million).

Source: Statista

Source: Statista

Now that it has been established that 4G is LTE, what's next? According to the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance there are characteristics that allow networks to qualify as 5G:

  • Data rates of several tens of Mb/s should be supported for tens of thousands of users

  • 1 Gbit/s to be offered, simultaneously to tens of workers on the same office floor

  • Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections to be supported for massive sensor deployments

  • Spectral efficiency should be significantly enhanced compared to 4G

  • Coverage should be improved

  • Signalling efficiency enhanced

This graphic shows the speeds and benefits of 5G networks. Source: Nokia

This graphic shows the speeds and benefits of 5G networks. Source: Nokia

Another question is how fast does a network have to be to qualify as 5G? Banks outlines these:

At the moment all there is to go on are lab tests and theoretical calculations made by mobile operators and equipment manufacturers. For example, last year Samsung managed to deliver speeds of 1 Gbps using 5G, and speed that makes it possible to download a 1 GigaByte (GB) TV show in less than 10 seconds.
But in practice, the speeds we might see as consumers could be anything from 10 Mbps to hundreds of Mbps…the dream of just being able to click to download content and have it appear almost instantly still seems a long way off.

Banks says that while speed is improved with 5G, capacity will also increase. With the onset of the Internet of Things (IoT) where everything has a connection to the network, 5G will be very welcome, as it is estimated that 80 billion IoT devices will be on our networks by 2020. However, it will take this long for true 5G networks to roll out. 

Source: Mobile Industry Review