Makeover for mobile phones: Ready or not, 5G wireless is preparing for its big day

Posted in: Mobile & Wireless at 23/04/2017 23:52

[registration] After years of hot air and hyperbole, the fifth generation (5G) of mobile-phone technology has entered its final phase of testing, in preparation for its debut around the world. The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), an industry group for mobile phones, has still to sign off on a 5G reference design that satisfies all its members. But that has not stopped manufacturers from introducing 5G chip-sets and modems for wireless carriers to test. The hope is to get 5G mobile networks up and running in time, at least, for the winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018. Japan has its own plans for the technology when it hosts the summer Olympics in July 2020. Expect wireless carriers to start rolling out their 5G networks in earnest shortly thereafter.

The race to launch 5G is reminiscent of the rush to do likewise with Wi-Fi in the 1990s, when equipment makers hurried out interim gear both in order to influence emerging standards (and thus lock in their own particular patents) and to get a foot in the door ready for when the technology took off. Which it duly did. Many believe 5G could be an even bigger change. Hype aside, the technology is more than just a faster, better and more efficient network for mobile phones. It makes many things possible that were previously just pipe dreams.

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