5G networks – is this the future yet?

The transition from 4G to 5G and its implications for the digital society have kept the relevant stakeholders busy for quite some time. The ever-increasing use of mobile phones has required vast investment measures by telecommunication firms in the past year. But as we are standing on the brink of that many call the Internet of Things (IoT), requirements for a broadcasting standard have increased dramatically. The new standard that is currently under development will need to offer higher capacity in data-transmitting, lower latency and should bear the possibility to create sub-networks for the direct communication between machines. Each of these goals is in conflict with the two other goals. Developers assume a density of up to one million devices that need to be connected to the network. Huawei, one of the industry leaders in the development of telecommunication hardware, suggests thinking about 5G not only by means of a telecommunication network, but also as the infrastructure supporting socio-economic development and driving industrial digital transformation.

In the development of 5th Generation networks, there seems to be a discussion primarily relating to two fields:

1.       Which communication standard from which standardization organization will gain the most acceptance from telecommunication and broadcasting firms

2.       Will the implementation take place in form of a standalone approach or by updating current networks

Earlier this year, the first telecommunication firms announced to start their 5G service at the end of the year. These firms relate to the standards adopted by the standardization firm 3GPP last December. However, these standards are not based on a standalone approach and would base on existing infrastructure implemented for 4G and LTE networks. A standalone 5G network, on the other hand, will require new base stations, new backhaul mechanisms and a new core network to be fully equipped for the future requirements.

The question at stake is, whether this are “true” 5G networks or rather a marketing instrument to exploit a first mover argument?