The head of the UK’s 5G test centre predicts that mobile connections running the next-gen tech should be able to access top speeds of 800Gbps.
Professor Rahim Tafazolli said that at the moment, the single-digit gigabit speeds that have been achieved in testing are just the tip of the iceberg.
Such speeds mean you’ll be able to download hundreds of HD films in a second, making streaming stutters a thing of the past. It’s not just about fast download speeds though – Tafazolli predicts that 5G will see self-driving cars, smart grids and the growing ‘internet of things’ connected and communicating with each other.
Prof. Tafazolli heads up 5GIC – the 5G Innovation Centre – an R&D centre located at the University of Surrey in Guildford.
5GIC partners include Samsung, which recently demonstrated test transmissions of 1Gbps to a unit travelling at around 60mph on a racetrack, and Huawei, which is planning to launch 5G services in Russia in time for the 2018 World Cup.
Before 5G services can launch in the UK, the 700MHz band needs to be cleared and a frequency auction needs to take place. Telecoms regulator Ofcom wants this to happen by 2022 at the very latest.
As well as clearing sections of the airwaves currently occupied by Freeview, manufacturers will need to figure out how 5G can coexist with current 3G and 4G services. Until standards begin to emerge and frequencies for 5G are allocated, this can’t happen.
Sara Mazur, head of Ericsson Research told the BBC: “The network will need to cope with a vast increase in demand for communication.”
“Only once these frequencies are set and established can product development begin. It will have the reliability that you currently get over fibre connections.”
Low latency of less than a millisecond means that lag on video calling and streaming services like Skype and iPlayer will be barely noticeable to the human eye.
The 15GHz and 28GHz radio frequencies have been used by the likes of Ericsson and Samsung in their respective 5G tests. In the UK, Ofcom has earmarked the lower 700MHz frequency band for 5G. Right now it’s unclear if the same technology can be used to deliver the same kinds of service on a different frequency.
Meanwhile, Huawei has invested £5m into the UK’s 5G research facilities at the University of Surrey following other funding from organisations including BBC, BT, EE, Fujitsu, Samsung, Telefonica and Vodafone.
The money will allow 5G to be tested in real-life scenarios, kicking off with the implementation of a private 5G network around the University of Surrey’s campus.
Tafazolli added: “This world-leading test bed will be used to develop proof of concepts, validate standards and test vendor interoperability. It will be progressively upgraded as 5G technology emerges, to allow the next wave of applications and services to be explored.”