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‘5G experience’ touted for 4G phones as trial demos gigabit speeds

Got a 4G phone or dongle? You could one day enjoy a ‘5G-like experience’ – at least according to ZTE. 

Despite 5G not actually being a thing yet, Chinese tech giant ZTE has revealed ‘pre-5G’ concept technologies at the LTE World Summit in France. 

The concept, ZTE says, could give users faster and more reliable connections on current-gen 4G devices. 

An Ericsson MINI-LINK transmission node - ensuring that all yr Snapchatz and Internetz happens
An Ericsson MINI-LINK transmission node – ensuring that all yr Snapchatz and Internetz happens

Dr Xiang Jiying, ZTE’s CTO of wireless products said: “With next-generation 5G technologies being deployed in 2020, there were industry concerns over what technologies will be used in the next six years. 

“To address this, ZTE proposes to apply some of the 5G technology on top of 4G to meet users’ requirements.” 

While ZTE might be able to guarantee faster speeds on its 4G phones through clever manipulation of existing software, it still won’t be 5G or even ‘pre-5G.’ 

Planning ahead for the future is all well and good, it’s impossible for ZTE, or any other chipmaker, to say what pre-5G is before 5G itself is defined. 

If one company second-guessing 5G wasn’t enough, Ericsson has announced a successful test of what it’s calling ‘pre-standard 5G technology’ – 5Gbps on the 15GHz band. 

While these speeds are impressive – faster than Samsung’s ‘5G’ trial last year – it’s unlikely the 15GHz band will be used for 5G mobile transmissions. In the UK, radio frequencies between 800MHz and 2.6GHz are currently used for mobile services and Ofcom wants to auction off a chunk of the 700MHz band for future services. 

Recently the EU and South Korea announced plans to collaborate on 5G development and harmonise standards, so that a 5G phone bought in Seoul would in theory work in Shoreditch, Skegness or anywhere else in the world. 

Ofcom wants an auction to be done and dusted by 2018, so we’re not expecting hard details of 5G standards to emerge until closer to the time. 

In the meantime, companies might want to be wary of prematurely branding their products ‘5G ready’. T-Mobile in the US called its HSPA+ network ‘4G’ before adopting LTE, while here in the UK, Three was banned from marketing its fast DC-HSPA+ services as ‘3.9G’. 

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