Mobile networks have come a long way from the most basic 2G that cropped up in the 1990s. Today, 3G has become the normal standard in many parts of the world, with 4G becoming increasingly common. The speed of the network is part of what drives new technology – the type of ubiquitous apps that we take for granted today wouldn’t be possible with the slower speeds of a 2G network. The next generation will be 5G, which will offer what seems now like impossibly fast data transfer speeds. But what will this really look like, and how far off is it?
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One of the first hallmarks of a 5G network will be its high speed. It’s believed that a 5G network would be capable of running a wireless data connection at 800Gbps, which goes 100 times beyond what is currently even being tested. To put that into perspective, it would be the equivalent of being able to download 33 full length feature films per second. On a daily level, a network this fast would end common problems we have today with video buffering or frozen calls. Data transfer would seem to be almost instantaneous, allowing major leaps in other forms of technology from remote surgeries to driverless cars. Devices would be able to communicate with each other at lightning fast speeds, boosting efficiency and safety.
At the same time, a 5G network’s capacity would have to be vast enough to support its rapid speeds and high demand. There will be up to an estimated 100 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, and current structures would find it difficult to cope. While 4G LTE networks make it easier for us to stream music and videos, these activities hog a lot of network bandwidth. As more consumers acquire tablets and smartphones worldwide, the demand for bandwidth will continue to grow. Mobile operators need to find new strategies to offload traffic from base stations, in order to cope with all of this increase in data traffic. Nokia Networks’ small cells is an example of how networks are coping with this demand. Small cells are used by a number of operators to boost network capacity and cope with the growing demand from billions of users. This might be essential to put a 5G network in place. Small cells connected to superfast networks will most likely be the wave of the future.
The Bottom Line
At the moment, a 5G network is still just a theory, and is a few years away. Many countries, including South Korea, Russia, and Japan, are investing heavily in research to try and bring a trial network into play over the next few years. However, don’t expect to see a global 5G network until at least 2020. There are a few major issues to overcome, including the high cost of putting this type of network into place. Logistical issues including the need for a huge jump in network capacity will also push the rollout date back a few years. But with the use of small cells and other types of networking technology, it won’t be too long.