Mobile data use has rocketed over the past five years, increasing 74 per cent alone in 2015 taking the overall global figure to around 3.7 exabytes per month.
We’ve only had 4G cellular networks for a few years, but all the wireless carriers are already talking about 5G. With 4G now entrenched as a global standard for our immediate future in developed markets, it is set to be usurped by 5G, but what does that mean for you? In short: faster speeds and more capacity, due to a more resilient network.
1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G
The G in 5G means it’s a generation of wireless technology. While most generations have technically been defined by their data transmission speeds, each has also been marked by a break in encoding methods, which make it incompatible with the previous generation.
1G was analog cellular. 2G technologies, such as CDMA, GSM, and TDMA, were the first generation of digital cellular technologies. 3G technologies, such as EVDO, HSPA, and UMTS, brought speeds from 200kbps to a few megabits per second. 4G technologies, such as WiMAX and LTE, were the next incompatible leap forward, and they are now scaling up to hundreds of megabits and even gigabit-level speeds.
How much faster is 5G compared to 4G?
5G will likely have average speeds of 100Mbps, which isn’t a huge step up from the maximum for networks already using LTE-Advanced, which tend to deliver download speeds of between 30-50Mbps in real-world conditions. In lab conditions, the technology most widely in use today can handle up to a theoretical maximum of 150Mbps.
However, 5G could be the last step-change in mobile technology, with some predicting a more additive and iterative upgrade process would remove the need for a full jump to ‘6G’. The current process is one of evolution for both hardware and software, but one that’s aiming at a potential 100 times increase in speeds… eventually.
When can we expect it to arrive?
As it stands now, 5G is expected to start rolling out globally around 2020, as it expected, there will be 24 million 5G subscribers by 2021. Less than 10 per cent of those connections will be in Europe though. It could be even fewer than that if operators follow through on threats to delay 5G rollouts if strong net neutrality laws are adopted. Europe lagging a little behind isn’t too surprising – countries like South Korea have been considering the specifications, implementation and deployment of 5G since as far back as 2008.
There’s still time for everything to change again before 5G actually arrives – and of course, there’s still time to introduce another completely new acronym.