“Mobile technology makes a leap about every ten years”, stated Steve Mollenkoft, CEO, Qualcomm Incorporated, in his keynote speech this morning on day two of Mobile World Congress.
He has a point…the 1990s saw the introduction of 2G, followed by 3G in the 2000s, then 4G emerged not so long ago around 2010 – and now we are talking about deploying 5G as early as 2018. Dr. Chan-Gyu Hwang, CEO, KT Corporation, excitedly announced that they will be deploying 5G in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
South Korea the first to deploy 5G
One must ask why there is so much noise around 5G, when we are lacking standards and consistency in deploying LTE – in fact, Europe is trailing behind the advanced economies of Asia and the U.S. in its deployment. There is, however, every reason why Dr Hwang should be so excited – South Korea has already been very successful in its deployment of LTE. He commented,
“Korea is the world’s most connected country, achieving 100 percent LTE coverage in just two years with a 63 percent penetration rate.”
Self-drive cars driving the need for lower latency
So why the big drive for 5G? In essence, it is to solve the problems that 4G currently can’t. Ken Hu, Deputy Chairman and Rotating CEO, Huawei, nicely summed this up, saying,
“4G can’t reach the number of connections needed”, adding that there is the “problem of latency and speed.”
It is clear that IoT and the new connected world are driving the need for a new, faster technology with lower latency. In fact, it is the driverless car which is really pushing the latency issue. 4G has a latency of about 50ms, which is not good enough for self-drive cars – they require latency of about 1ms. This is especially important for urban driving, where the driverless car will need to communicate with and process a plethora of devices and obstacles such as traffic lights, other cars, pedestrians etc.
5G will support the connected devices era
The importance of the need for 5G to support the increasing amount of devices connecting to the network was exemplified by Stephane Richard, CEO, Orange, saying that “5G will support the connected devices era”. He predicted that by 2020 there will be between “30-50 billion objects connected to the internet” and that “5G is the key to the Internet of Things world.”
5G will allow the omnipresence of the internet which will help contribute to making the technology more human. The internet will be able to sense the real world better through probes and sensors, and applications and services will become more relevant and aware. This will, however, require the network to support many more devices, and 5G will be designed to do just this.
EU Commission fully behind 5G deployment
As always with the new development of technologies, there is the issue of regulation, spectrum auctions and harmonizations, and the investment needed to develop and deploy. Gunther Oettinger, Commissioner, Digital Economy & Society, European Commission, is fully behind pressing ahead with 5G, and indeed wants Europe to become a world leader in deployment. Oettinger really stressed that 5G is all about innovation, especially for the softwarization and virtualization of the network which will allow the deployment of additional new services quicker. He sees it as playing a large role in EU industry and believes 5G will allow the EU to become more competitive. The EU has given €700 million to get 5G up and running. Oettinger did however admit that there is still a lot of work to do on a governmental level, and said that Europe needs to take a common approach to spectrum – it needs to be harmonized across Europe and it can no longer be fragmented, he said.
5G is definitely about tomorrow but we do need to think about it today. Devices and new services are constantly being added to the network and we need to ensure that we develop a technology that is future-proofed and will be deployed by operators. We can’t make the same mistakes as those made with 3G. Stephane Richard made a very good but sobering point as he closed, saying,
“Let’s enjoy 4G LTE. 5G has to be launched at the perfect time for IoT revolution. We need to remember the delay between launch of 3G and delivery of services – timing is critical.”