New phones tend to grab the limelight at Mobile World Congress and MWC 2017 has seen the launch of the LG G6, Sony Xperia XZ Premium and Huawei P10. There’s even been a return for Blackberry with the KeyOne, while Nokia has resurrected (and revamped) the classic Nokia 3310, complete with Snake.
These handsets show some of the key technology themes in play this year — 4K displays (Sony’s XZ has a 5.5-inch, 3,840 x 2,160 pixel screen), 4GB of memory, HDR, Gorilla Glass 5 and speedy charging. And while Nokia’s 3310 harks back to a time when we didn’t need to charge our phones every day, the ongoing development of 5G points to its future.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently drafted a report laying out the minimum requirements for 5G (IMT-2020) radio interfaces. These included increased reliability and quality of service (even at high speed) and peak download data rates of 20Gbps (10 Gbps for uploads).
Of course, real world 5G speeds will be a magnitude slower — the report specifies ‘user experienced’ data rates of 100 Mbps for downloads and 50 Mbps for uploads. But remember, that’s just the ‘minimum’. Speeds could (and should) be much faster.
Compare these with the current state of 4G/LTE networking and you can see that 5G offers a meaty upgrade. According to OpenSignal’s State of Mobile Networks: UK (October 2016), EE “clocked average 4G download speeds on EE at 28 Mbps, more than 3 Mbps faster than 3 and well ahead of O2 and Vodafone.”
5G isn’t just destined for future smartphones, however. The combination of higher data bandwidth, faster speeds and lower latency makes it perfect for the sensors and computers in connected cities and autonomous cars, not to mention virtual/augmented reality technology and all manner of Internet of Things devices. The IoT revolution can’t really start without it.
Tests for 5G are underway. Global network operators can already work with prototype devices at speeds up to 10Gbps using the 3rd Generation Intel Mobile Trial Platform.
AT&T will use it this year to enable residential and small-to-medium business customers in Austin, Texas, to stream DIRECTV NOW and access next-generation entertainment and enhanced broadband services.
The race to 5G is well and truly on. It’s why Intel is also joining AT&T, NTT DOCOMO INC., Vodafone, Ericsson, British Telecom, KDDI, LG Electronics, Swisscom, Huawei, Sprint and many others in supporting the 5G New Radio (NR) standardisation schedule. This could lead to large-scale 5G trials and deployments as early as 2019.
The new phones at MWC 2017 are certainly impressive. The LG G6 sports an 18:9 HDR, 5.7-inch, quad HD+ screen and Google Assistant built-in. The Blackberry KeyOne blends Android Nougat with a slick QWERTY keyboard, while the ZTE Gigabit claims to offer gigabit downloads with its Pre5G technology.
But there’s more to 5G than speedier mobile web browsing.
“The 5G revolution is no technology evolution. It is a total overhaul,” says Aicha Evans, senior vice president and general manager of the Communication and Devices Group at Intel. “It will disrupt industries, launch new categories and give rise to new business models – changing the way we experience the world and how we do business for the better.”
To learn more about 5G and what it can do, read our 5G Technology Overview.