5G mobile specifications announced
The specifications for the next generation of mobile devices have been released by the International Telecommunications Union, and the new standards are set to be finally approved in November this year.
Currently, the top standard is 4G which has been in place since 2009 and the upgrade to 5G looks to be a big step up. The 4G connection runs the world at the moment – everything from businesses to gaming to social media – and that is all done at a speed of approximately 1Gbps (gigabits per second). 5G is set to offer a minimum connection speed of 20 Gbps, which has the potential to really revolutionise the world.
In addition to the raw speed promised by 5G, it must also be able to handle one million devices per square kilometre in order to connect everything from traffic lights to wireless kettles onto the network. That might sound like a lot of devices, but in dense urban areas we will approach this upper limit easily.
5G devices also must be specified to drop into a low-energy mode when not in use, thereby helping to reduce our overall energy burden and, hopefully, not burn through resources too quickly. It is easy to extrapolate from here and assume that this will also have positive ramifications for the battery life of devices, something which is always an issue.
This is all very exciting, but it does raise a quick concern. Telecom companies are really not known for being generous or aiming to improve the consumer experience beyond the bare minimum without being pushed into it. Customer care has never seemed particularly high on the agenda of these technology giants. So why are they planning such a big giveaway?
Well, a hint may be gleaned from a 2016 meeting of the top European telecom companies in Brussels. In return for demonstrating wondrous 5G technology and bringing it to market in 2018, these corporations were quite clear in their demand that net neutrality regulations be weakened in their favour.
Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers should provide access to all content and applications regardless of the source and without favouring or blocking particular sources or websites.
This has long been the bane of telecom companies which lust after the ability to exercise market power and exploit content providers for profit. The fact that the internet is free for everyone, a true leveller for humanity, is not something which telecom companies hold dear. A platform which allows the free dissemination of politics, culture and art is not of interest to corporations who would prefer an open marketplace where the richest can buy as much influence as they want, and people who can’t pay don’t get heard.
5G is expected to be vital for everything from self-driving cars to mobile healthcare, but that knowledge doesn’t really detract from the nagging feeling that telecom companies are about to hold the internet hostage in return. It isn’t hard to imagine a future where the idea of a free internet where everyone could express their creativity equally is nothing but a memory of a better time.