when-will-high-speed-5g-arriveYou’ve probably already heard the hype about the upcoming 5G network and its lightning-fast speeds. As 4G has become increasingly commonplace, tech companies and consumers alike are looking for the next big thing that will take networking to the next level. Some estimates reckon that 5G will be here in as little as five years, while others say it’s much further off. So what is the truth about 5G, and what barriers are in place that could delay the timeline? Here’s a closer look.

How it works

What exactly is 5G in the first place, and how will it work? One of the hallmarks of this technology will be its high speeds – 5G networks would enable you to download a feature film in the span of a second or less. You’d be able to access the Internet from your mobile device even when travelling at high speeds or with high volumes of other users on the same network. This will be achieved using multiple input multiple output (MiMo) technology, which uses a number of small antennae servicing each individual data stream. Multiple base stations will also most likely be used, to provide the needed coverage for this type of network. We could be seeing base stations in every home at some point to accommodate its needs. Yet at this time, no one really knows how exactly the network will work in reality because it’s still in development – these are the technologies that have shown the best results thus far.

Factors to overcome

One barrier standing in the way of a mainstream 5G rollout is the fact that there is no global set of standards to define it and its technology thus far. Standards must be defined before it will realistically be able to proceed. Another factor to think about is the cost. At the moment we enjoy relatively affordable data rates, but when 5G is rolled out this could mean a temporary spike in our phone bills. This could prevent it from being adopted by all users. Furthermore, existing mobile devices aren’t up to the challenge just yet of taking advantage of this new technology. Smartphones of the future will need much greater battery power, and will need to be more powerful in general to handle the level of tasks that 5G will enable.

The general timeline

It’s been estimated that many of these challenges can be overcome and that 5G will be available by 2020, but are we still on track for this timeline? South Korea is leading the way by investing 1.5 billion dollars in upgrades in a push to get a trial network up and running by 2017. And 5G with Nokia Networks and other providers is also being tested worldwide. It’s suggested that it won’t truly hit the mainstream until closer to 2025, however, while the rest of the world catches up.

Is 5G really needed?

With so much excitement having been built up around this type of technology, there’s also another side to the coin. Some experts wonder if we really even need 5G in the first place. While proponents claim that it will enable future technologies like connected cars, appliances, and the “internet of things,” while others say that consumers don’t necessarily need or want these very technologies. So in the end, the timeline of when we finally see 5G as a mainstream service may ultimately depend on consumer demand.

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