Need for speed

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 29, 2014

What’s in a G? Or 5Gs?

Imagine downloading the full HD file of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag — all 189 minutes of it — in one second. That’s about the time it takes you to move your cursor to the link and click on it.


Welcome to 5G.


It’s the next stage of wireless broadband, offering connectivity at speeds 100 times faster than the current fastest wireless network.

Which is?

4G, also called Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. 1G happened way back in 1981. 2G was out by 1992, 3G took almost a decade more to arrive, while 4G was relatively faster to entry in 2009.

So it’s all about speed?

That’s what the geeks are squabbling about. While Samsung and Huawei are targeting speeds, a whole bunch of others say 5G will be all about efficiency, with millions of devices hooking on to the same bandwidth, as the Internet transforms from a smartphone and computer network to an Internet of Things.( Network ready fridges and microwaves are already available!)

When will this happen?

Nobody knows. Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei has said it will have a 5G system up by 2020. In May 2013, Samsung claimed it had developed the world’s first 5G system, which boasted of a maximum speed of 10 gbps. Samsung says users can enjoy a series of services on the go — 3D games, films, real-time streaming of ultra high-definition video and remote medical services.

Why should faster be better?

Once operational, experts say 5G can change the world as we know it. Everything will go real-time. From telemedicine to coaching classes to prayer meetings — almost all forms of services can be done by people from wherever they are.

That would also mean passengers on high-speed trains would be able to access the internet even with the train moving at 500 km per hour, against the current limit of 300 km per hour. It expects the infrastructure to be ready between 2020 and 2026.

Can anybody catch up with the Koreans?

China and the US are already testing such systems. As are some countries in Europe.

And us?

We watch the little circle spin on our screens. In July 2013, a survey by web tracker Akamai ranked India 114 in terms of total internet speed. Its status on mobile internet is equally embarrassing.

The country still has to see 3G services mature. A few providers like Bharti Airtel offer 4G services, but gargantuan data costs and lack of proper infrastructure have slowed its progress. Which means 5G is still way off.

So my 5G phone won’t work here even if I get it on eBay?

Perhaps. There were reports that India and Israel have agreed to work on development of 5G telecom technologies.

Telecom and IT minister Kapil Sibal, who visited Israel in July 2013, discussed the idea with his Israeli counterpart Gilad Erdan.

But before that makes any progress, a slew of issues such as the availability of spectrum to ferry such high-speed data and the cost of building an appropriate infrastructure have to be sorted out.

(A weekly column which helps you ask the right questions)

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Published on January 29, 2014
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