While current mobile networks typically use bands of between 450MHz and 2.7GHz, 5G is likely to rely heavily on super high frequency bands of between 6GHz and 100GHz.
These are known as millimetre-wave bands and the mmMagic (Millimetre-Wave Based Mobile Radio Access Network for Fifth Generation Integrated Communications) project is one project which is putting them to the test.
As part of that Orange France has just been issued a licence by the French regulator ARCEP to conduct tests in these frequencies in the French town of Belfort, until the end of 2016.
Millimetre-wave spectrum bands could offer far greater capacity than the bands being used by the likes of 4G and that will be vital given that there are likely to be billions of devices connecting to mobile networks by the time 5G comes about.
But it doesn’t work in quite the same way as lower frequency bands, as the distance and ways in which it travels are different, such as how well it passes through walls and windows and the ways in which it bounces off buildings. Hence the need for comprehensive testing to study this and find ways to use frequencies in the range effectively for a 5G network.
These tests by Orange France and mmMagic are just one of a number of millimetre-wave trials around the world and that in itself is just one part of the complex 5G puzzle, but given many industry bodies aim to have commercial 5G networks in place by 2020 time is slowly but surely running out.
However, while we may see 5G by then there’s a good chance that it won’t be running on millimetre-wave frequencies, with that instead arriving up to five years later.