5G is coming: this is the FCC's big plan

FCC Tom Wheeler

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants 5G wireless to be available starting in 2020 and has laid out its plans to push the technology forward.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is pushing for a proposal that will open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks. "That's damn important because it means U.S. companies will be first out of the gate," says Wheeler. It should be noted that the UN has also proposed a 5G roadmap for 2020.

High-band spectrum, like the unlicensed 14 GHz band, will allow companies to begin building infrastructure to support the next generation of wireless technologies, including faster mobile internet and Wi-Fi speeds.

The FCC isn't planning to define specifications for the 5G network, leaving it up to private companies to produce and agree on standards like it did for 4G. However, Wheeler expects 5G to be 10 to 100 times faster than 4G and offer sub-millisecond latency, citing a scenario where surgeons could use VR to perform procedures on patients.

Wheeler also added that many applications for 5G haven't been imagined yet, though it'll likely change the Internet of Things.

But bringing 5G to reality will be a technical challenge for companies as it will require extensive updates to cell towers. The high-band spectrum that will be opened up has shorter range and therefore require more cell towers.

Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have already begun testing 5G. Other companies working on 5G technology include Google and Samsung. Hopefully these companies can work together on creating a standard to ensure interoperability with different devices on different networks.

We likely won't see 5G for another several years but the actions of the FCC will ensure US wireless companies won't lag behind the rest of the world. The Commission is voting on this 5G proposal on July 14.

Lewis Leong
Lewis Leong is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He has an unhealthy obsession with headphones and can identify cars simply by listening to their exhaust notes.