Super-ultra-fast 5G to land in Europe in 2022

There may never be a 6G though

While Telstra is testing 4G LTE-A with mobile data speeds reaching 450Mbps, a UK-based telco, EE, has decided it's time we all heard about the next generation - crazily called 5G and capable of delivering speeds of over 1Gbps.

EE held a special briefing where the telco's Principle Network Architect, Professor Andy Sutton, explained: "When we talk about 5G, we're talking about a network that may be introduced in about a decade.

"The standards will be ready by about 2020, and maybe we'll see some of the Asian operators go a little bit sooner as is generally the norm," - which is what the South Korean government and Huawei have also predicted.

The 5G networks are likely to work their way into the business arena before they become available for consumers, adding additional waiting time before we can reap the rewards of even faster internet on our mobiles.

Trails of 5G have already begun in Japan, with Docomo and Fujistu teaming up to offer faster speeds in some cities, while Samsung in South Korea has also got in on the action, but it's still early days for the technology.

No giant leap for 5G

While we're likely to see the marketing teams for networks and phone manufacturers pushing the 5G buzzword in the years to come, it's not going to be as huge a leap, in terms of technology, as the radical shift from 3G to 4G.

In simple terms, "4G takes us up to 1Gbps, 5G is everything beyond that," Sutton noted.

"5G is still at the fundamental research stage, and it's designed to complement 4G and LTE-Advanced networks."

The development of 5G looks to make the network more flexible, with a larger capacity and reduced latency for instantaneous internet access.

EE predicts that video usage on mobile devices will account for 67% of all mobile traffic by 2018, and 5G will help make that a reality, as well as providing support for 4K and 8K streaming by 2030.

Ed Ellis, in charge of Network Strategy and Forecasting at EE, said "we could potentially see 4K adoption and devices coming around much quicker than we were initially expecting."

Ellis explained that this means we'll need networks that are able to cope as "the required bit rate to support those videos leaps massively - and the capability 5G delivers makes that a reality."

6G. What 6G?

As the Internet of Things also starts to ramp up, EE reckons that by 2020, each person in the UK will have on average 27 connected devices.

Most of those are devices you're not even going to notice, things such as automatic curtains and lights that adjust in accordance with the time of day - but that's a huge leap from the two devices the average person currently owns.

This massive increase in connected devices is another reason why 5G is so important and why it's an evolution of 4G, as these new connected devices are already being woven into the developing LTE-Advanced services.

Sutton said that it takes around 10 years from the point of conception to the practical implementation of a new generation of network, and he predicts "this 5G network is going to be around for 10 years plus before we move on to 6G."

Before you get totally carried away with a sixth generation network, Sutton warns "there may not be a 6G if we get 5G right."

"We may change the way we evolve networks from that kind of generational shift to a more subtle evolution of capacity and capability based on some of the things we're working on for the 5G world."

In the meantime, you may return to your 4G device and stare vacantly at the screen as you await the arrival of 4K video streaming with zero latency, and internet speeds that will knock your socks off.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phones and Tablets Deputy Editor

John (Twitter, Google+) got his first phone aged 12 and since then he's been fixated on all things mobile, churning his way through a multitude of handsets, tablets and operating systems. Signalling his arrival at TechRadar by becoming a Guinness World Record holder in his first week (for the highest score on Super Mario Bros using a giant controller), John hasn't looked back since.