It’s not entirely clear when 5G will launch, but it’s believed that it might start to become commercially available in 2020.
News about 5G is thin on the ground because right now it’s still an undefined technology, but Ofcom is working hard to define the standards for its use and has now called for the mobile industry to help plan for the future spectrum requirements of 5G.
Currently Ofcom is primarily looking at spectrum above 6GHz for 5G, as large blocks of spectrum will be required to achieve the highest speeds and those are difficult to find at lower frequencies.
It’s not a perfect solution though, as it can’t carry a signal as far as lower frequencies, so that’s one of the difficulties that 5G will have to overcome if highband spectrum is used.
6GHz spectrum is also already being used for scientific research, weather monitoring and more, so Ofcom will have to ensure there’s a large enough supply of it for 5G without impinging on its other applications.
Still, Ofcom has ambitious plans for 5G and the UK’s role in it. Steve Unger, Ofcom Acting Chief Executive, said: “We want the UK to be a leader in the next generation of wireless communications. Working with industry, we want to lay the foundations for the UK’s next generation of wireless communications.
“5G must deliver a further step change in the capacity of wireless networks, over and above that currently being delivered by 4G. No network has infinite capacity, but we need to move closer to the ideal of there always being sufficient capacity and 5G coverage to meet consumers’ needs.”
As well as a near infinite capacity 5G is expected to support speeds of between 10 and 50Gbps, which at the upper end would be more than 3000 times faster than the average 4G speed of 15Mbps.
All that extra speed and capacity could not just allow it to support high demand in busy areas and enable users to download and upload files in an instant, but also open up new applications, such as real-time holographic video, which Ofcom suggests could be used for anything from allowing relatives to virtually attend family occasions, to 3D medical imaging, allowing surgeons to oversee operations while thousands of miles away.
It’s not entirely clear when 5G will launch, but it’s believed that it might start to become commercially available in 2020, so we could be just five years away from completely redefining what’s possible with a smartphone.