What is 5G and when can I get it?

March 25, 2015

(credit: Huawei)

Imagine being able to download a full-length 8GB HD movie to your phone in six seconds (versus seven minutes over 4G or more than an hour on 3G) and video chats so immersive that it will feel like you can reach out and touch the other person right through the screen.

That’s the vision for the 5G concept — the next generation of wireless networks — presented at the Mobile World Congress show last week, according to re/code. Here’s what it will offer:

  • Significantly faster data speeds: 10Gbps, compared to one gigabit per second (max) with 4G.
  • Ultra-low latency (time to send a packet): one millisecond vs. 50 with 4G — particularly important for industrial applications and driverless cars.
  • A more “connected world”: The Internet of Things (wearables, smart home appliances, connected cars) will need a network that can accommodate billions of connected devices. Part of the goal behind 5G is to provide that capacity, and also to be able to assign bandwidth depending on the needs of the application and user.

“Ulrich Dropmann, head of industry environment networks at Nokia, gave a scenario where you might be cruising in your driverless car when, unbeknownst to you, a crash has just occurred up the road,” says re/code. “With 5G, sensors placed along the road would be able to instantly relay that information back to your car (this is where having low latency is important), so it could brake earlier and avoid another accident.”

So when might it be here? “The most optimistic targets would see the first commercial network up and running by 2020, but even that may be too optimistic. As with LTE, it will take years for the network to become widespread.”