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5G Wireless: Reality looks to catch up with hype

Jon Gold | Jan. 3, 2014
What do vendors mean when they talk about next-generation wireless?

Gillett says this new degree of flexibility ought to be an important part of 5G, offering a number of handy features.

"There's a bunch of crazy things that you can do, like change ... frequencies in the middle of a transmission," he says, also citing the ability to use variable amounts of bandwidth, as needed for demand.

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One of the few things that is clear about 5G is that we won't see it in the marketplace for some little time most sources agree that the 2025 time frame for 5G-enabled goodies at retail is the best guess.

What's more, there also seems to be general agreement on the broad strokes of what 5G should accomplish the European Telecommunications Standards Institution recently hosted European Commission principal scientific officer Mário Campolargo at the future mobile summit in France. In a keynote, Campolargo outlined some of the same issues raised by Atreyam and Mathias, including spectrum limitations and the challenges posed by the so-called "Internet of things."

And just a month before that, Ericsson CTO Vish Nandlall said much the same thing at GigaOm's Mobilize conference in San Francisco. The flexibility and intelligence in 5G, he said, should be similar to cloud computing.

"[Different applications] will actually get different slices of the network with different technologies," Nandlall said, according to IDG News Service.

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So the good news, for businesses, is that the technology isn't something that will have to be dealt with tomorrow. What's more, according to Gillett, the future looks promising.

"For businesses, I gotta think, ultimately, this is about lowering the cost of communication, making [it] more reliable and ubiquitous, and less having to think about it," he says. "Frankly, from the point of view of an end-user, why should you have to think about switching from the wide area network to the local network?"

But despite the hints at the shape of the technology to come, and broad agreement about what, exactly, 5G ought to be able to do, concrete details are thin on the ground. A great deal can change between now and then.

"It's still pretty early to be speculating on, say, new use cases or new behaviors that might become possible," Gillett says. "And when you start thinking 2020, you start to wonder, are phones going to be earrings? Is it going to be an implant? ... a spray-on tattoo that I wash off once a week?"

Only time, it seems, will tell.

 

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