5G mobile networks are still a ways off, but the FCC is already making plans for the new standard. At the 4G Americas symposium, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai stated that the transition to 5G would involve a greater amount of FCC intervention than any prior mobile network and also discussed what are the capabilities of the new network.
A number of companies are already working on developing the 5G mobile network standard, but the definition of 5G has not been set yet, and it could provide anywhere from 10 to 50 Mbps of Internet bandwidth with low connection latency of around 1 ms.
"Over a year ago, I visited Samsung's research lab near Dallas, Texas, where engineers are hard at work developing 5G base stations and mobile technologies," Pai said. "Using multiple-input, multiple-output antennas no bigger than a Post-it note, they have already demonstrated that 5G technologies can deliver mobile speeds well in excess of 1 Gbps. More recently, I attended Intel's demonstration of its 5G research at the FCC's headquarters. Intel showed me how it can beam signals off tables, buildings, or other objects to find the most efficient, highest-capacity connection."
Companies in the private sector aren't the only ones preparing for the transition to 5G, however, as the FCC is also working on ways to help innovate the 5G standard. A major barrier to increasing mobile Internet performance is the limited band spectrum currently allocated to consumer use. The FCC had plans to widen the mobile Internet spectrum to 300 MHz by 2015, but it has managed to only allocate half of that.
To resolve this problem, Pai identified 12,500 MHz of spectrum available on the 24 GHz, 32 GHz, 42 GHz, 70 GHz and 80 GHz bands, which could be used for mobile Internet. Because of their high frequency, these bands operate with around a 1 mm wave band capable of providing users with plenty of bandwidth. Pai stated that the FCC recently voted against using these bands, but he believes they should be re-examined for mobile Internet use.
Infrastructure & Financing
As the number of users with mobile service plans increases, an important step in supporting 5G networks will be creating networks with greater transmitter density. To achieve this, Pai wants the FCC to officially support network architectures similar to the one Sprint is currently planning, where it will deploy tens of thousands of small transmitters to expand its area of operations and reduce the load placed on any single transmitter.
In order to help motivate companies to invest in these upgrades, Pai believes that the FCC needs to remove regulations that discourage companies from investing in their networks.
Ready For 5G?
Although 5G networks likely won't be here until 2020, it is important that the FCC is working towards adoption of 5G now. By making plans for the infrastructure, the FCC can ease the deployment of the hardware that will enable 5G networks, and also hasten the development of the standard.
Michael Justin Allen Sexton (or MJ) is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. As a tech enthusiast, MJ enjoys studying and writing about all areas of tech, but specializes in the study of chipsets and microprocessors. In his personal life, MJ spends most of his time gaming, practicing martial arts, studying history, and tinkering with electronics.