5 Years to 5G

#GNTECH hops into its (imaginary) DeLorean and teleports half a decade into the future to see how we’ll connect

In typical tech fashion, we have started looking ahead to the fifth generation of mobile telecommunications without wholeheartedly enjoying the 4G we have right now. Sure, it’s been around for a couple of years and to many, 4G is the thing you turn off to save battery.

To enter the fun world of mobile telecommunication technology, you will first need to familiarise yourselves with The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN), an association of mobile operators, vendors, manufacturers and research institutes. After that, skim through the 125-page white paper released in February this year on 5G. Yep, it is quite long and quite boring — but luckily, we’re here to summarise.

Now, 5G is popping up all over the news these days as it was a key topic for participants at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a mega trade show for telecom innovations. The new 5G technology is expected to deliver data speeds up to 1,000 times faster than the current 4G systems, enabling fast transfer of data from internet-connected devices, from fitness bands to self-driving cars.

The NGMN suggests that global carriers should deploy 5G wireless by 2020 in order to meet business and consumer demand. This will also give smart devices sufficient time to evolve in terms of hardware, software, and particularly operating systems.

To fulfil the 5G dream, manufacturers should also build the infrastructure that can carry mobile phone signals powerful and quick enough to unfailingly support split-second activities such as surgical operations or automatic traffic movement. Tech specialists at the Boston Consulting Group estimated in a January report that mobile companies would have to spend $4 trillion (Dh15 trillion) on research and investments by 2020 to develop 5G.

But why wait? That is exactly what US telecom giant Verizon thought to itself.

Earlier this month, the company announced that it would start field testing of the superfast 5G next year in order to accelerate the deployment of the new wireless system that could unleash innovation and new services such as driverless cars and remote surgery.

“5G is no longer a dream of the distant future,” said Roger Gurnani, chief information and technology architect for Verizon, in a statement. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to push forward on 5G and mobilise the ecosystem by collaborating with industry leaders and developers to usher in a new generation of innovation.” Verizon did not include a timetable for 5G roll-out but Gurnani told tech website CNET he expects “some level of commercial deployment” by 2017. Verizon said it was working with partners including Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung, establishing teams for testing the technology.

Across the pond, the UK is attempting to get a head start in the development of 5G as well, with the launch of Europe’s largest academic research centre. The 5G Innovation Centre will open at the University of Surrey with more than 170 researchers, making it the continent’s largest centre dedicated to the development of the next generation of mobile services.

The centre is funded by £12 million (about Dh68 million) from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and more than £68 million from a number of corporations, including EE, Huawei, Telefonica, Vodafone, the BBC, BT, Fujitsu and Samsung.

And with 2020 being an important year for Dubai and the country in general, the UAE will, without a doubt, be at the forefront of 5G mobile technology.

In a statement highlighting du’s LTE Advanced (also known as LTE-A and 4G+) deployments in May this year, Saleem Al Balooshi, Executive Vice-President, Network Development and Operations at du, said, “The roll-out of the 4G+ network is an important step on the road to 5G evolution.

“While we follow the technological evolution, concurrently we are evaluating the possible 5G features and technologies with our vendors, in line with the tentative timeline imposed by global standardisation bodies that [states] 5G technology should be rolled out in 2020.”

So there you have it. Expect 5G in five years with blazingly fast internet speeds on your iPhone 9/9S or Samsung Galaxy S11 Edge+. You read it here first.

— With input from AFP and Financial Times