4G may still be a relatively new phenomenon, but already there is talk of 5th generation broadband being a real possibility in as little as five years time.
While much of the world has yet to experience the full benefits of 4G services, technologically-obsessed South Korea has already announced a £900million investment to fund its successor, while Chinese firm Huawei is also spending $600 million on 5G research between now and 2018.
And at the same time Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to introduce 5G to the UK thanks to a partnership with Germany as the world prepares for a “new industrial revolution.”
But despite all the talk and promises of huge funding there are still people wondering exactly what it is that’s getting everyone so excited?
So if you’re still a little confused about what 5G can actually offer you and how it will change your life, here are the answers to just a few of those burning questions:
1. I’ve only just got 4G, so how far away is 5G technology?
Don’t trade in your handset just yet, at the moment 5G is more of a grand plan than a proposition. In 2015 the World Radio Communications Conference (which meets once every four years) starts negotiating how to standardise technical specs, meaning we might just see companies discussing the possibility of upgrading existing cellular and antenna towers across the world – that’s when the dream could become a reality.
2. OK, so what can I expect from 5G?
5G will be thousands of times faster than current 3G and 4G mobile networks, meaning you shouldn’t notice any delay when accessing the internet or using an app. You should also be able to transmit massive data files such as high quality digital movies pretty much without limitation.
3. Nice, but how does it work?
5G isn’t just about more bandwidth; it’s actually about boosting the efficiency of radio signals through advances in transmission and reception technology. Put simply a breakthrough will need to be made in the way that antennas connect to the network before 5G can really work – much like an increased water flow requires a wider pipe.
4. Now I’m excited. But is there anything that might stop it happening?
Probably the biggest obstacle at this moment in time is battery life. With more “hyper transceiving” at much, much higher speeds, energy use is going to go through the roof, and as we know, battery life isn’t great in mobiles at the moment as it is. Research is already underway into ways to reduce power consumption in devices – possibly through microchip design.
5. So come on then, how will it change my life?
Downloading will be much quicker for a start. With 4G, an 800 megabyte movie takes around 40 seconds to download; with 5G that would be cut to one second. There is also the possibility of something known as the “Internet of Things” – a concept of endowing ordinary objects with low-power internet connections. This could allow electricity meters to communicate directly with the National Grid, or a fridge that can tell when your milk is running low and orders more for you.
In the words of Prime Minister David Cameron: “This has enormous potential to change our lives.”