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December 11, 2014

ABI Research: 5G in 2020 Rare, 5G in 2025 Huge

It's perhaps one of the biggest truisms the technology sector contains: everything that is now is at least somewhat overshadowed by what's next. So much so that, in some cases, what's brand new today could be meaningless and obsolete in a matter of months. Those who are into 4G, meanwhile, have little concern about this, according to a new report from ABI Research that suggests that 5G will be a while in coming, but when it shows up, will go over in a big way.

The ABI Research report notes that 5G is going to take quite some time in getting started. 5G, the next generation of mobile connectivity, will be rare even five years from now as 2020 starts to dawn. But in 2025, it's going to be a very big connectivity method indeed. The reports suggest it will take just over five years for 5G to go from brand new to 100 million subscribers, which is unusual in and of itself as that represents two more years than it took 4G to reach the same point. But 5G networks, according to reports, will be much more complex and thus more difficult and costly to build, which will somewhat slow the growth rate.

Early 5G builders, meanwhile, have a lot in common. The biggest builders of 5G networks are China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States, countries with large, heavily-urbanized populations that feature large numbers of companies aggressively pursuing developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) market. This combination of factors leads to an increased demand for connectivity, and often wireless connectivity, meaning that 5G growth will be a necessity despite the complexity of the networks in question.

A 5G network is likely to prove less a centralized network of devices reporting to a central tower and more a decentralized network with a heavy reliance on small cell technology, a good alternative in urban environments where line-of-sight is often impossible under, say, the 30th floor. While this is a useful building structure, it's also one that's going to have some regulatory headaches involved in its construction; the issues of concentrated RF beams in wave spectrum is said to be one of the biggest potential problems needing addressed. But with these challenges will also come new modes of addressing said challenges, including the rise of massive multiple input / multiple output (MIMO) systems and 3D beamforming, with spectrum used flexibly and able to shift from fronthaul to backhaul and back as needed.

One thing is quite clear; the demand for bandwidth will not be falling any time soon. With an ever-increasing number of ways to spend said bandwidth, from mobile workforce applications to video conferencing, from the rise of cloud-based operations to IoT operations, from gaming to streaming video, the options are only on the rise, and so too must the network rise to meet said options or risk losing out to anyone who's prepared to meet that challenge. 5G may well be well-suited to the operation, but by 2025, it's hard to imagine what we'll be doing with the network then, let alone how well this new technology will meet demand.

Still, the network must evolve. The better job it does, the better off we'll all be, and the more likely we'll be to put new technologies to work improving our lives. Only time will tell just how well it all works out, but we certainly look to be on a good start toward a brighter future.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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