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The Fifth Generation Of Mobile Communications

May 7th, 2015 by

1, 2, 3, 4 – 5G could be just around the corner.

With most people just getting used to their upgraded 4G device the news that 5G is within sight, and could be within our hands in as little as five years’ time is probably a bit galling. It seems miraculous that with a reported 8% of the UK population alone using 4G technology we could be heading towards the next generation, but the University of Surrey has different ideas.

Working on the development of ‘the future of wireless technology’, the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the university is “bringing together leading academic expertise and key industry partners in a shared vision” … “ to define and develop the 5G infrastructure that will underpin the way we communicate, work and live our everyday lives in the future.”. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

The evolution of a generation…

Back in the early ‘90s, second generation (2G) mobile connections reigned supreme. Enabling us to initially send text messages (SMS), then picture messages (MMS) and a very early (and very slow) internet connection (WAP). As with most things,  users decided that 2G was too slow, so the third generation (3G) of wireless mobile communications was born. With more complex data transfer requirements, 4G followed suit in the late ‘00s to enable faster transfer speeds. Put simply, as the demand for sending bigger files has risen, mobile technology has advanced to provide a network to meet the consumer’s expectations.

In 2001, 3G networks were proud of their max speed of 384 Kbps. The ante was upped in 2009, when 4G launched with 100 Mbps speeds. However, both pale in comparison to the expected data transfer speed of 10 Gbps which we can expect from the fifth generation.

A vision of the future?

This month saw the release of the Amazon Dash Buttons (which were not, as many first thought, just an elaborate April Fool). Although the buttons have come under fire as ‘clunky’ and a step in the wrong direction, the release appears to be the first step towards the connected home, as enabled by the Internet of Things. Why are we mentioning the Dash Buttons, you ask? As we hurtle towards the connected world, the need for a more advanced wireless technology will heighten: 5G will be the answer to this demand.

The Internet of Things may be a thing of the future, but one thing is certain: with it will come an exponential increase in the amount of data being transferred around the world. If your fridge becomes sentient, its ability to request a replenishment will open up new avenues of data transfer whilst generating masses of data which current 4G networks can’t hope to cope with.

According to those in the know, 5G could be in our hands by as early as 2020. Members at the 5G Innovation Centre say they hope to demonstrate the technology to the public as early as 2018, so our lives could be picking up the pace before we know it. This begs the question: when will we slow down? Will we see a sixth generation of mobile communications technology before we reach 2025? It doesn’t seem unlikely…

What do you think? How fast do we need to develop our technology? Tweet us @UK2.

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