Q

Is it too early to start planning for 5G?

The development of 5G is gaining buzz, but is it too early to seriously discuss 5G for mobile networks? Mike Jude explains the issues.

5G planning is being discussed in some organizations, but is it way too early to be talking about that?

Unless we can reconcile and normalize frequency spectra, 5G wireless doesn't really matter. The various generations of wireless have been focused on pretty much one thing: how to increase the throughput to a mobile device.

Right now, LTE could conceivably increase transfer rates to nearly 1 GB but can't because there is a lack of spectrum to support such connections. Mobile devices can handle much higher data rates than the cellular network can deliver, which is why, for example, AT&T offloads high-capacity streaming to Wi-Fi when it can. In order to support a 5G standard, we simply need more spectrum. But where is the needed spectrum going to come from?

There is spectrum out there, but figuring out a way to make it available has turned out to be a regulatory mess. And although a 5G standard is also supposed to accommodate micro autonomous cells with rapid hand off, I suspect that it will require a huge amount of investment to make it work, which I don't think will happen soon.

I would say 5G is something to keep an eye on, but I don't expect it to happen right away. For the record, LTE is not really 4G or HSPA+. It just has gotten a pass. For LTE to be 4G, it has to deliver a much higher data rate.

Learn more about 5G:

  • 5G is coming, but not soon: Learn why industry experts say we may not see 5G until 2020.
  • 5G and cloud storage: Learn why 5G could make the cloud a viable option for production data storage.

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This was first published in May 2014

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