What Comes After 4G?

Illustration for article titled What Comes After 4G?

Wait wait wait, we're talking about 5G mobile data now?! Ugh, but we just got 4G squared away. In any case, the ball is already rolling on the next generation of cellular technology, so we might as well figure out what in the hell IMT-Advanced is.

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IMT-Advanced is the prototype of what 5G mobile broadband will be...

IMT-Advanced will not be the next mobile data technology that Verizon or Sprint or AT&T try and sell you. It's what the WiMAX's and LTE's of the world will look to when jockeying to become the next mobile data spec. IMT has been one of the most influential organizations in developing mobile broadband standards over the past couple of decades, and now that they've put the finishing touches on their IMT-Advanced spec, that trend will continue. Think of it like those proto-cars at auto shows; you'll see them someday, but they'll go through some changes before hitting the road.

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...brought into existence by the same people who created WiMax and LTE...

Two current standards are currently approved by IMT as meeting their Advanced spec: WirelessMAN-Advanced and and LTE-Advanced, which are based off the pre-existing WiMax and LTE technologies. LTE-Advanced is the obvious front runner, but you never know what could happen between now and then.

...that will promise faster data transfer speeds of 4G...

This is probably the least surprising part of 5G IMT-Advanced. It will be faster than 4G LTE and WiMAX. Both WiMax and LTE both promise theoretical download speeds over 100 Mbits/second. IMT-Advance technologies will have a theoretical max of 1 Gbit/second. Daily Trends says you'll theoretically be able to download a 720p TV show in 90 seconds or less. FAST.

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...fewer dead zones...

IMT-Advance technologies will not only to be able to allow more connections at each individual cellular hub, but will facilitate seamless handoffs when moving from one hub to another. Hopefully, that means good things for cities such as SF and NYC, which are affected both by heavy clusters of smartphone users and signal killers that are tall buildings.

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...and could mean the end of data caps...

More bandwidth means less stress on the networks of mobile providers. Less stress on mobile networks means less of a need to impose data caps on consumers. If IMT-Advance delivers on its promise, we could see upward aspiring companies become competitive by racing to lift data caps.

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...as early as 2014.

The earliest implementations of IMT-Advanced could arrive in a couple of years, as Daily Trends ponts out, but it'll be longer than that before you see national coverage and a solid ecosystem of handsets. 4G LTE just grew into its own shoes, which came roughly four years after 3G did the same. Still though, how do you not get excited about 5G?!

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Original Image via Lifehacker

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DISCUSSION

Do we even have true 4G yet?

"In 2009, the ITU-R organization specified the IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced) requirements for 4G standards, setting peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 Mbit/s for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).

"On December 6, 2010, ITU recognized that current versions of LTE, WiMax and other evolved 3G technologies that do not fulfill "IMT-Advanced" requirements could nevertheless be considered "4G", provided they represent forerunners to IMT-Advanced and "a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed." (Wikipedia)

So how can we talk about 5G when it sounds like the 4G we are using is really 3G Plus?