Although 4G LTE-A has yet to become the standard at the global level despite massively gaining popularity in developed markets, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is already working at defining the specifications for the next step in mobile communications.
Between June 10th and 18th, 12 delegates debated on the specifications to be established for the upcoming 5G network standard. The ITU has decided that 5G networks will have a peak speed of 20Gbps, or 20 times the peak speed specification of 4G LTE networks, which stands at 1Gbps.
One thing to bear in mind is that these are theoretical max speeds, and that the first 5G networks will likely reach much lower peak speeds. At the moment, the fastest LTE standard is LTE Cat 9, which provides peak speeds of up to 300Mbps, well below the 1Gbps speed specification of 4G networks. What this means is that while crazy transfer speeds are to be expected, 5G subscribers will not be able to download an ultra high-definition movie in just a second, which is what a download speed of 20Gbps would mean if put into practice.
5G networks will also be built with internet-of-things (IoT) devices in mind, as the ITU has established that 5G networks will be able to cater to more than 1 million IoT devices inside a 1 square kilometre radius at an average speed of above 100Mbps.
If you’re in favor of formal naming schemes, the ITU proposed 5G to be referred to as IMT-2020, but the final vote on the matter will take place in October. The 4G network standard is referred to as IMT-Advanced, while the 3G standard was referred to as IMT-2000.
The ITU expects the first commercial 5G networks to start opening for business in 2020, although a working example is being prepared for the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.