What is 5G? What you need to know about the new mobile technology

Nassos Stylianou
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5G will be the "lifeblood of the digital economy and digital society" (Source: Getty)
According to the EU's digital technology chief, Neelie Kroes, it will be the "lifeblood of the digital economy and digital society".
But what do we know about 5G, the fifth generation of mobile connectivity?
In truth, not much - yet.
While the UK tries to grapple with 4G, 5G has been a rather vague concept, with the discussion around it mostly marketing hype so far.
But following Monday's agreement between the European Union and South Korea, a "milestone in the global race to develop 5G mobile technologies" according to Kroes, we could soon find out what it's all about.
Part of the pact, which includes cooperation between the two sides on research, involves collaborating with mobile industry firms from both regions on the development of the necessary networks for 5G.
In addition, the pair will work towards an agreed definition of the new technology, its key functionalities and target timetable by the end of the following year. That should hopefully go some way to clearing things up for the industry.
What will 5G do?
The recent focus on 5G stems from the massive growth in the use of communication technologies, especially wireless ones, and the expected boom in connected devices known as the internet of things over the next few years.
The internet of things is a growing network of household devices that can be controlled through smartphones set to revolutionise a range of sectors.
The expectation is that with the help of 5G, mobile apps and services in the near future will be able to connect to anything at anytime – from people and communities to physical things, processes, content and other goods in much more flexible and reliable ways. Therefore, 5G will enable billions of devices to be 'always turned on', allowing them to be run without physical interaction.
This will be done not by enabling more bandwidth use, but by improving the efficiency of the trasmission and reception signal technology, which will be developed.
While a lot of details surrounding 5G may be hazy for now, one thing is for sure - it will be much faster than existing technologies.
Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment provider Huawei predict that 5G will deliver peak data rates of over 10Gbps, 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks. This should mean that users will not get a lag when going online for a chat or when using a mobile app.
The EU said it estimates that with the new technology, a high-definition movie could be downloaded in six seconds compared to six minutes with 4G.
But if all goes well 5G won't just be faster, it will also bring new functionalities and applications with high social and economic value.
The high expectations for 5G are reflected in the money being spent. The EU is investing €700 million over the next seven years, with industry expected to match this investment by up to five times to more than €3bn.
Huawei announced it would invest a minimum of £350 million in research and innovation for 5G technologies by 2018. For more on 5G, you can find Huawei's report '5G: A Technology Vision' report below.

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