5G (5th generation) mobile networks will be the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards. 5G is also referred to as “beyond 2020” and does not describe any particular specification in any official document published by any telecommunication standardization body.
The world has witnessed four generations of mobile communication technology, with each new generation extending the capabilities and enhancing the end-user experience compared to the previous generation. It is generally assumed that fifth generation (5G) mobile communication systems will emerge around 2020.
Globally, there are research activities underway examining 5G mobile broadband. As of the first quarter of 2014, 5G was not defined and there were no detailed requirements agreed upon by key stakeholders. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) initiated activities on defining requirements for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)-2020, similar to how ITU has previously defined requirements for IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced. Eventually, this could lead to what is commonly referred to as “5G”. However, as of today, there is no clear definition of or detailed requirements of 5G. The European Union (EU) is investing a significant amount of money for research and EU leadership in 5G. China, Korea and Japan also have a number of initiatives underway with funding by the respective governments.
The best way to understand the requirements for 5G is to understand what, more generally, will be required of mobile communication, from end-user and service provider points-of-view, in the “2020 and beyond” era. The identification and elaboration on these requirements and corresponding technology components to address are the key activities for the 5G-related activities currently going on around the world.
The more obvious requirements needed for 5G include support for a large number of connected devices and flexible air interfaces, “always online” capabilities and energy efficiency; all which may not be acquired by a simple upgrade of current systems, but will require new protocols and access technologies altogether. Other technology features include: Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV); critical communications such as public safety, enhanced 9-1-1 (e911) and Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA); as well as machine-to-machine communications.
The ITU’s Radiocommunication group established Working Party (WP) 5D to address the network of the future as early as 2011, and in February 2014, through the leading role of WP 5D, ITU-R is finalizing its view of a defined actionable timeline towards “IMT for 2020 and beyond” and the key elements of “5G” in partnership with wide range of stakeholders in the “5G” community.
In 2015, ITU-R plans to finalize its “Vision” of the “5G” mobile broadband connected society and future IMT. This comprehensive framework of “IMT for 2020 and Beyond” will provide an industry and government consensus view. It will also be instrumental to the World Radio Conference (WRC) 2015 where deliberations on additional spectrum in support of the future growth of IMT will occur.