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4G is so last year: UK takes 5G for a spin

Posting in Government

The British Isles may only recently secured 4G networks -- but it's not stopping them from galloping ahead in the race to play with the idea of 5G technology.

The University of Surrey, England, has announced that a proposal to set up a world research hub for fifth-generation mobile technology (5G) is a step closer after receiving £35 million ($56 million) in funding.

The university has been granted £11.6 million ($19 million) from the UK government, and an additional £24 million ($38.4 million) from mobile operators and infrastructure providers including Samsung, Telefonica Europe, Fujitsu Laboratories Europe, Huawei and AIRCOM International.

The funding will be used to create a specialist 5G Innovation Center, aimed at improving and expanding UK telecommunication research and innovation.

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, leader of the University of Surrey's Center for Communication Systems Research (CCSR), said:

"There are massive challenges and opportunities facing the sector. The global telecommunications industry, valued at $2.1 trillion per annum, is already responsible for 6% of world GDP. Mobile communications data traffic is expected to increase 1,000 fold by 2020, by which time there will be an estimated at least 50 billion Internet-capable devices."

4G was in development ten years ago, and even though the rollout has not been as rapid as some would like, potentially 5G research could help put Britain back on the technology map. Tafazolli noted:

"Although the UK played an active role in the creation of 2G (GSM) cellular standards, it has increasingly fallen behind in succeeding generations 3G and 4G standards. The University's industry partners have identified this proposal as the single biggest opportunity for the UK to regain a world leading position in the development of 5G technologies and for the development of vibrant businesses around the technologies."

The increasing rate of mobile data use means that work needs to be complete well in advance of 5G's deployment. Furthermore, limited spectrum needs to be rationed efficiently, and ways need to be found to use green technology in setting up the network.

Speaking to PC World, Tafazolli said the test-bed for 5G is likely to be on trial by the end of 2013. However, just as 4G took over ten years to introduce to consumers, 5G networks will not be on the horizon anytime soon.

Currently, EE is the only company in the UK on the brink of launching a 4G network. It is due to begin service this month.

— By on October 9, 2012, 12:26 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure