5G networks could allow people to download a 4K movie in 10 seconds

A group that governs the specific tenets of new telecommunication standards has determined the minimum speed a network must reach to be considered 5G.

The next-generation network technology, which is still being developed, is expected to launch between 2018 and 2020, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has decided that 5G networks be need to transfer data at 20Gbps, or gigabits per second, with an average speed of between 100 and 1000Mbps.

In comparison to today’s 4G networks, of which LTE is the main use case, speeds of 1Gbps are still rare. The average LTE user in Canada, for instance, experiences speeds of between 12 and 75Mbps, or megabits per second, so users can expect boosts of between eight and 80 times today’s networks. A real world scenario includes the download or a 4K movie in 10 seconds, or the ability to stream two 4K connections at the same time.

More importantly, 5G networks will bridge the gap between cellular and WiFi, allowing users to transition seamlessly between networks with the strongest signals. The idea of ubiquitous connectivity, where signal gaps are a thing of the past, takes shape around the 5G standard. At the same time, many advisors to the ITU have emphasized that current low- and mid-band spectrum is insufficient to carry the backhaul necessary for 5G, and are encouraging standards bodies to include high-band microwave, also known as Extremely High Frequency signals in the 30Ghz to 300Ghz range.

Spectrum allocation for 5G networks is expected to begin in 2019, with a commercial rollout expected a year later. Some countries, like Korea, will likely showcase early versions of the standard in 2018 as signposts for the rest of the world.