Despite great disparities in wireless speeds across the globe, discussion of 5G networks has already begun. Earlier this year, rumors of 5G began to spread as the E.U. allotted a reported €50 million for 5G research, and Samsung’s progress with new wireless technology fanned the flames. But — while 5G as an actual accessible wireless speed is many years away — the investments in its development have been significant, and are likely to continue well into 2014.
It seems premature for Europe to be the place where initial work on a 5G network begins given the lack of prevalent 4G there; the U.K. just auctioned off 4G-ready spectrum earlier this year. Even in other technology-forward regions, there is work to be done; carriers are still actively ramping up their 4G LTE in the U.S. And China just got the engines going on its country-wide plans for 4G. But while Europe sits behind others when it comes to reliable high-speed wireless, perhaps looking that far ahead into the future will help it play catch-up. The Mobile and Wireless communication Enablers for the Twenty-Twenty Information Society (METIS) is Europe’s research and development group that is delving into 5G in part to look into ways of alleviating the pending mobile traffic jam of the future as mobile subscriptions increase globally.
Efforts in South Korea have significantly ramped up as well; reports note that the country is looking to have a network on which to test 5G speeds as soon as 2018. Seoul aims to have it commercially ready for consumer use by 2020 — the same year Europe’s METIS group aims to have 5G technologies deployed.
Europe’s dismal year for high-speed wireless progress was well-documented by the GSMA in October. But despite the continent’s sluggishness in 2013, perhaps the research driven towards 5G will give it a boost it needs to get up to speed with the rest of the world’s wireless networks. Big names including Ericsson and Huawei have already signed on. It will be interesting to watch the race to 5G over the next several years, especially with global hubs for tech development like South Korea already going full steam ahead.