Will there be 5G for Christmas (2020)?

It's that time of year when we start to look back over the events of the past year in order to understand what the European telecoms industry might be facing in 2015 and beyond. I think we can safely say, without risk of being accused of hyperbole, that this has been an extraordinary year.

We'll be looking at some of the biggest news stories and the impact they have had later this month. In terms of trends, the evolution of mobile networks and services has continued to dominate as operators across Europe roll out LTE, LTE Advanced, and Voice over LTE (VoLTE). At the same time, operators, vendors, regulators, standards bodies, and others have been spending an increasing amount of time investigating what 5G will be, and when it is likely to happen.

What is starting to emerge is that 5G could take the industry away from that traditional cycle that saw it move from 2G through to 3G and 4G. Andy Sutton, principal network architect at UK-based operator EE, was widely quoted earlier this year as saying that if we get 5G right, there may not be a 6G. Although it has not yet been fully determined what 5G will be, the idea is emerging that it will be a more subtle evolution that could have a fundamental impact on society.

Indeed, 5G is expected to spread beyond the usual suspects into other vertical industries, and blur the boundaries between different forms of access. No longer will consumers need to know or care how they access services on their various devices. Sutton contrasts the communications industry with the electricity industry, which has changed significantly over the years and provides services from a variety of sources without the consumer being any the wiser. Could that be the future for communications?

Our latest special report looks at 5G developments in Europe in order to gain some insights into progress so far, the role that Europe is, and wants, to play in this next generation, and whether 2020 is a realistic timeframe. You can read the report here.--Anne