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4G? That's so near term! Here comes 5G

Posting in Technology

Seems like only yesterday there were no "G's".

But no sooner did the world observe the long, drawn out birth of 3G mobile phone networks, than 4G arrived. 3G took the better part of a decade to find its feet; 4G has been working its way in for a couple years or so. Both are basically bigger, better and faster than the 2G hummers of the 1990s, which trumped what we now retrospectively know as the 1G systems of the dear old 1980s, when wireless voice waves had yet to go digital, let alone carry an ounce of data, apps or Internet as today's singing, dancing doodads do.

Well, get ready to hit the next G spot.

Yes, "5G" has landed in the lexicon. And that means it has landed in the conference circuit. London-based research group Informa today announced its 5G World Summit, a gathering which asks the question, "What do the networks of 2020 and beyond look like?"

Informa is staging the 5G event within its June 23-25 LTE World Summit 2014 in Amsterdam. LTE is another phrase for 4G -- the mobile industry likes to talk in acronyms -- and if you insist on knowing, it stands for Long Term Evolution.

All a bit dizzying for someone like me who grew up Before G, or, with apologies to the Brothers Gibb, in the BG era.

So what do the networks of 2020 and beyond look like? 

Sorry to disappoint, but Informa's conference agenda answers the question with more questions. It promises sessions and subjects such as "Why do we need 5G?", "What does 5G really mean?", "What are the requirements of a 5G future?", "When will 5G be required?",  and the all important "What services/applications will drive 5G demand?" 

To that last one, I'm wondering if we can get an app that delivers world peace. I'd pay extra for the bandwidth if required.

More realistically, a story in The Guardian today said that the South Korean government is investing $1.5 billion to develop 5G that by the end of the decade will download feature-length films onto wireless devices in a second. Today it takes 4G an insufferable 40 seconds. TIME magazine said speeds will reach 1,000 times faster than "current technology."

That's progress. One can imagine the devices that might take advantage of the blazing delivery and big fat pipes. Phones, screens, eyeglasses, theaters, cars, classrooms, you name it. TIME noted that 5G will pave the way for "an expected seven trillion connected devices."

It will probably bring a lot of economic good.

And this being the mobile industry, it will certainly come with a lot of befuddling jargon. But wait until you see what arrives after 5G. That will really have you at sixes and sevens.

Cover photo of N Seoul communications tower in Seoul is from Gilad Rom via Wikimedia. South Korea could become the first 5G nation, by the end of this decade.


— By on January 23, 2014, 2:03 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure