Juniper Research has released a paper that forecasts rapid adoption for the 5G wireless standard from 2025 onwards, with 240 million active connections by then. Still, this figure would account for about 3% of global mobile connections, so this does not represent the all-encompassing vision that some technology giants (like Samsung) are hoping to make a reality.
So, what is 5G anyway. In plain English, it’s a wireless standard (much like 4G / LTE) which holds exceptional advantages over current technologies, including higher data rates, greater user/device support, reduced latency, all this while demanding far less battery life than current standards. Juniper projects that, thanks to these advantages, “[5G] will result in an ideal environment for the proliferation of new connected service applications and devices.”
The report, 5G Market Strategies: 4G LTE Evolution, Spectrum Analysis & Opportunities 2015-2025, cites research author Nitin Bhas as saying that getting the spectrum right will be essential.
“It is critical to 5G’s success that the most feasible and appropriate spectrum bands are assigned, not only to support existing high bandwidth and capacity requirements, but also the wide ranging devices and applications contributing towards the Internet of Everything,” said Bhas.
Okay, so why is spectrum suddenly an issue? Well, as it turns out, it’s been an issue for longer than you probably know. As new standards get rolled out, the radio spectrum gets clogged up, leaving less and less room for newer standards to arise.
The radio spectrum isn’t just a technical hurdle, but a political one too. The use of radio frequency bands is regulated by governments in a management process known as spectrum allocation, or frequency allocation. In other words, providers can’t just flip a coin and pick out a frequency to use.
According to a 2014 report by analysysmason.com, the technologies being researched are in the very high frequency bands, otherwise known as the ‘millimetre’ range of the radio spectrum (15GHz, 28GHz, 60GHz and 70GHz). These bands are substantially higher than the ones employed by traditional mobile communications. Other issues that need to be addressed include the timing and cost of the spectrum.
Commercial 5G applications and services
Juniper doesn’t expect 5G to become commercially available until 2020, but when it does hit the mainstream, Japan and South Korea will be the first to jump on the bandwagon. It reports that several operators from this region have already handpicked their suppliers and commercial service dates. US operators are mum, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reviewing their options for what sounds to be an inevitable future. More in the full report at Juniper Research.