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Mobile World Congress 2017: 5G Data is the Hottest Topic

The hot topic at Mobile World Congress this year is not a new phone, nor new technologies like virtual reality on the last year, but something that does not yet exsist - 5G Mobile Data Network.

The hype about the potential of the next generation of mobile networks has reached new heights, with every major company exhibiting here eager to explain how it will be at the cutting edge of the coming 5G revolution.

 

Operators have yet to agree the specifications, but told Rory Cellan-Jones that it should still be ready to deploy in 2020.

Governments too have decided it is now technologically correct to rave about the importance to the economy of being 5G-ready.

On the UK stand, the Trade Minister, Greg Hand said that funds would continue to pour into 5G research post-Brexit.

Over at the Intel stand, they had gone as far as to build a prototype 5G network to give us a feel of what this new connected paradise would be like.

There was an autonomous car, a connected home, and a smart lamppost all talking to the network at breakneck speed.

Visitors were invited to don a Microsoft HoloLens headset for an augmented reality display of seas of data flowing round the stand and up into the sky.

It was easy to forget there was still no agreement on exactly what constitutes 5G, and most countries still had to work out what spectrum would be needed and how they would allocate it.

More important, perhaps, there is no sense that consumers know anything about it or have any sense that they want it - in fact my sense is that most would prefer to see a bit more of the 4G vision realised before the next revolution comes along. But Intel's Aicha Evans did a good job explaining why we should be excited about the promise of 5G:

"Think about what was life like without smartphones - start there, as that revolution had connected people, so this next one would allow everything else to get connected, enabling all sorts of advances in the way we live".

Intel says 5G will deliver faster data speeds. Now, Intel is a hardware company that stands to benefit as the telecoms industry has to retool for 5G, but I came away from the exhibit almost convinced.

But, on the other side there are some quite sceptical opinions. A senior executive at one of the world's biggest mobile operators commented:

"Who's going to pay for it? Operators were already seeing their margins squeezed, as they battled with nimble newcomers such as WhatsApp, and had little appetite to pour money into 5G without seeing much of a return".

While a chief technologist at a major networking equipment company described the hype around the 5G technology as "irrational exuberance" - the same term used by an economist warning in the late 1990s about the dot-com bubble. He believed that current advances in 4G - what's known as Gigabit LTE, which enables much faster data rates over existing networks - offered a more practical and affordable solution.

Nevertheless, he said, there was such a head of steam behind 5G that it was likely to happen, just as the dot-com bubble had led to vast and unaffordable investments in fibre networks. But the result was likely to be another radical reshaping of the telecoms industry.

So the 5G revolution is coming, but who will benefit and who will end up going bust as a result of it is far from clear.

Source: BBC, 2017

Tuesday Feb 28, 2017