November 24, 2015
Some people in the United States are just now connecting to a 4G network—limited infrastructure in rural areas and financial strains have kept plenty of people off the faster and more reliable network. While these numbers are starting to improve, it demonstrates the fact that the US is not as connected as one might think.
Compared to countries like South Korea and Japan, America’s 4G connectivity ranks surprisingly low, at about 78 percent penetration. Even smaller countries like Kazakhstan and Uruguay have proportionally more 4G subscribers than the US. This may explain why the US, along with the European Union, China, and South Korea, can’t agree on the future of telecommunications; more specifically, they can’t decide what 5G is going to be, how, and when mobile users will be able to access it.
In late September, China and the EU agreed to work out a definition for 5G by year’s end; South Korea and the EU made a similar deal back in June 2014. So, why all the confusion?
It’s hard to define something that doesn’t exist yet, especially when countries have various degrees of existing saturation with prior cellular standards. There are obvious goals, including faster data rates and more advanced Wi-Fi networks, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In this case, the sky really is the limit.
Recently, collaboration between Russia’s St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University and Ford Motor Company has come to fruition. The project included modifying satellite communications so cars on the highway can actually talk to each other. This type of integrated technology is at the nucleolus of 5G, and the “Internet of things” space.
The next iteration of cellular standards will depend greatly on companies that will provide the infrastructure needed to support this advanced connectivity. Forget faster movie downloads – 5G is all about connecting devices of every imaginable variety (think: refrigerators, cars, and cell phones) from all around the world.
Even the Olympics will have a part to play in the advancement of 5G technologies. The 2018 and 2020 Olympics are forcing South Korea and Japan to make some important decisions about 5G, as aspects of the technology are slated to debut at the games, albeit mainly for business and industrial needs rather than the general public.
The future is looking to be much closer than people previously suspected. Both the EU and South Korea have even agreed to begin collaborating on research as soon as next year. As far as the US goes, no such agreements have yet been made.
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