When we attended Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year we saw more IoT and connected devices on stands than ever before. Car manufacturers from Ford to BMW showcased improvements in autonomous driving, and IoT focused solutions were being touted in every hall. Underpinning these advances are the industry’s plans for 5G mobile networks. So, we thought we’d give you a quick rundown of what we’ve been hearing, and what we think you can expect.

What will 5G look like?

5G will offer speeds to end-users that will enable more data-intensive tasks at a higher quality. Autonomous cars, for example, are expected to be transmitting 4,000 gigabytes of data a day to build up complex 3D maps of our environments and to accommodate the requirements of hundreds of on-board sensors.

Once the technology becomes more prevalent in the coming years, we can expect:

  • Faster data speeds—some industry players expect their 5G networks to be 10 times faster than today’s current 4G networks
  • Significantly reduced latency—latency associated with 4G clocks in around 50 ms, whereas 5G should be no greater than 4 ms including a specification of sub 1 ms for new critical applications such as vehicle-to-vehicle technology, where decisions need to be made and communicated instantly
  • Explosion of IoT—specific low-power wide area networks (LPWAN) are being rolled out to accommodate IoT devices on fixed wireless networks for niche and vertical markets; meanwhile, narrowband 5G networks like NB-IoT and LTE-M will have the capacity to support IoT devices and systems for both mobile and fixed applications, and will play a key and integrated role in connecting and carrying data across IoT networks

While still very much on the horizon, we anticipate that the industry will see some of the first commercially deployed 5G networks between 2019 and 2020. And with the release of draft 5G guidelines by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), network infrastructure providers can begin to develop their networks in line with a common set of industry standards. Furthermore, there were a handful of key announcements and presentations recently that caught our attention and suggest a bright future for 5G, particularly in the U.S.:

  • Legislation that enables progress – The industry saw huge support from the leading regulatory body in the U.S. at MWC. The FCC’s new chairman Ajit Pai, discussed the decline in U.S. broadband investment and stated the Commission’s intention to employ a new philosophy of “light touch” regulation to help the wireless industry develop and deploy the required infrastructure to enable 5G technologies.
  • New standards for 5G New Radio (5G NR) – 3GPP, a wireless standards group for the industry, has been making steady progress on an emerging standard for 5G wireless radio that’s entering interoperability field trials from multiple 3GPP-member companies in the second half of 2017.
    Commercial applications underway – Rolling out in 11 US markets by mid-2017, Verizon will offer a pilot service with speeds in the gigabits per second range worthy of the 5G label. It’s not geared for mobile users; instead it’s optimised for individual homes as a broadband replacement. Meanwhile, AT&T has been working on both mobile and fixed pilot applications.

It is safe to say that 5G development is picking up steam fast. If the impact 5G has on society is anything like 4G, then it’s also likely warranted.

Just as 4G availability has allowed for the global rise of the smartphone, the rollout of 5G is bound to enable the global rise of other devices and services that end-users, once accustomed to, won’t be able to live without. So, while 5G is still a few years away, its potential is rightfully making a buzz in the industry – and in our offices!