'5G' Wireless Doesn't Even Technically Exist Yet, But Everyone's Pretty Sure It's Going To Fix Everything

from the this-network-runs-on-nonsense dept

When it comes to wireless networks, no amount of hype is too little when it comes to trying to promote looming standards or the next-generation of wireless technology. You probably remember WiMax, which Intel hyped as the "the most important invention since the Internet itself." The press gladly grabbed Intel's claim willingly and ran with it, insisting repeatedly that the technology was going to change absolutely everything. As it turned out, WiMax wound up being a niche solution that barely made a dent before being made irrelevant by other standards, like HSPA+ and LTE.

You might also be familiar with the constant marketing distortions that herald the arrival of the latest "next-generation" (third generation=3G, fourth generation=4G) wireless standard, whether it's the way Verizon initially pretended that their old network was 3G, or the way that all carriers currently pretend to offer the largest 4G network. Ultimately carriers "fixed" complaints about them being misleading by convincing the ITU that they should be allowed to call pretty much everything 4G, regardless of whether we're talking about LTE or carrier pigeon.

Enter the fifth generation of wireless (5G), which hasn't even been defined yet, but which people are already fairly sure is going to wash your dishes, cure cancer, and help John Travolta with his pronunciation problems. The generations generally come in ten year increments, and while 5G is just a vague outline currently, South Korea appears prepared to lead the charge, spending $1.5 billion to research next-generation 5G networks (whatever they wind up being) that they claim will provide speeds 1,000 times faster than what's available today.

Despite the fact that 5G is barely an embryonic concept, and any real networks likely won't even appear until at least 2020, it's never too early to dive head-first into the shallows of the hype pool. Samsung, for example, has been insisting that pretty much anything they cook up in their their labs is 5G. Broadcom insists their new Wi-Fi gear is 5G, even if it has nothing to do with cellular networks. News outlets are happy to help with the confusion too, calling 4G technologies 5G -- just because. The European Union, like everybody else, has absolutely no idea what 5G wireless is -- but they're pretty damn sure it's going to help them fix youth unemployment and your case of the sniffles:
"Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, sees 5G as a potential cure for youth unemployment, which has reached 70 percent in some areas of the European Union. It's also going to be key for e-health services and the automotive industry, she said at a news conference in Barcelona."
Is there anything the next, entirely ambiguous incarnation of wireless technologies can't do? The best part moving forward is, even if you're not actually offering "5G" any time in the next decade, you can always just pretend you do. Put "5G researcher" on your next resume update even if you're a janitorial custodian. Sell "5G" burgers! Insist your company's network is the only network that's 5G, and everybody else's network actually runs on pudding! Go ahead! Nobody will fact check. Enjoy!

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 7:53am

    Enter the fifth generation of wireless (5G), which hasn't even been defined yet, but which people are already fairly sure is going to wash your dishes, cure cancer, and help John Travolta with his pronunciation problems.

    I didn't know people were giving wireless technologies names. But really, calling 5G "Jesus" isn't somewhat blasphemous? Does it walk over water?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:03am

    WiFi is crap. Ethernet ftw.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:04am

    xG is completely meaningless

    When the 4G nonsense happened it proved without a doubt that it was just a marketing term, with no more or less meaning than saying "new & improved". Now I simply ignore the nomenclature entirely. It means nothing.

     

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  4.  
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    Michael, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:17am

    I am afraid that you are going to have to pay me for using my trademarked term "5G".

    I have also obtained a trademark on 6G, 7G, 8G, 9G, and G-Whiz (the technology used to predict future G's for me to trademark).

     

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  5.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:18am

    Perhaps the politician is trying to focus everyone on the vaporware that will be the panacea for everything to distract them from demanding they actually make the hard decisions today to fix todays problems.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:22am

    Re: xG is completely meaningless

    It's entirely untrue that it means nothing. In my experience "4G" means "crappier connectivity than 3G".

     

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  7.  
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    Michael, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:24am

    Re:

    While that used to be a problem, it has been solved by 5G technology.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:27am

    the telcos will expect it to fix those who dont have anything yet and those that do have some sort of data connection will be expected to upgrade at ridiculous prices for capped plans. the even more ridiculous thing is, loads of customers are still using 2G because 3G isn't available and when those who can get that are almost forced to move on to 4G contracts, even though they cant get it!!

     

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  9.  
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    MonkeyFracasJr (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:32am

    The only thing wrong with 4g ...

    The main problem with the current technology is corporate greed and "5g ain't gonna' fix that."

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:32am

    Re: Re:

    But it was already solved by time-traveling 3G tech!

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 9:51am

    Yeah but can it make the volume on my cellphone go up to 11?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:05am

    Re: xG is completely meaningless

    Well, at least in my experience it maps very well to the technology generation. On a radio interface level, each increment is incompatible with the previous one.

    1G was the old analog pre-GSM technologies. 2G is traditional GSM (TDMA-based). 3G is UMTS (CDMA-based). 4G is LTE and LTE-Advanced (OFDM-based). There is no 5G, until a new and faster technology incompatible with LTE appears.

    I think we won't have a 5G for a long time. As can be seen with WiFi, all new technologies seem to be OFDM-based, piling things like MIMO on top of it. Unlike the previous transitions (analog -> TDMA -> CDMA -> OFDM), changes within OFDM can be done without compatibility breaks, so it'll still be 4G.

     

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  13.  
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    Ryan Heath, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:07am

    EU leads 5G investment - do your research

    I think this is a pretty crappiky researched article.
    First of all the EU has announced a 3.5bn 5G partnership that dwarfs what the South Koreans are doing, and we were also the first in the race more than a year ago
    Second: if the writer has bothered to read Kroes' many speeches and press releases on the subject, it's clear she wants new industry not magic cures in Europe. All reasonable, all do-able

     

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  14.  
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    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:12am

    Hush

    Hush, you guys! You're not supposed to notice the emperor's (lack of) new clothes.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Here's a good dirty secret. Let Us say the ITU defines '5G' as a system with 120 features, and publishes a standards document.

    Each telco will follow that document only so far. In Europe, it's usually done well after a time. They'll do most or even all of the features eventually.

    In the US, carriers will implement 20 of the features, and call it 5G. They have no intention of implementing the rest of the features. It'll be different enough that they can accurately claim it is faster then 4G in advertising.

    The US telcos will then only build out enough capacity to keep the complaints below the level of class action suits and Congressional investigation.

     

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  16.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: xG is completely meaningless

    "it maps very well to the technology generation"

    Let me clarify: it means nothing in terms of technical capabilities. Remember the 4G situation: 4G had technical specifications well-defined, and so it had meaning. However, no US "4G" providers actually adhered to those specifications and insisted on calling their service 4G anyway. When people complained, they pressured the ITU to adjust the defined specifications so that the US providers were suddenly compliant with "4G".

    That means that these "xG" specs are meaningless except as a marketing term.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:24am

    Yes, 5G : The fastest way to burn through your caps......

     

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  18.  
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    Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:24am

    Re: EU leads 5G investment - do your research

    Thank you for making Mr. Bode's point.

    "Although updated standards that define capabilities beyond those defined in the current 4G standards are under consideration, those new capabilities are still being grouped under the current ITU-T 4G standards." (emphasis added)

    They/you can call it "5G", but the ITU hasn't defined 5G yet. If you've actually gone and spent 3.5bn on your own proprietary version of what you hope will be 5G in a few years, odds are you're really just going to build a multi-billion Euro network that can't talk to anything else. (That's generously assuming your "5G" is really a new system and not just "new capabilities are still being grouped under the current ITU-T 4G standards," in which case you'll still need to shell more billions.)

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:29am

    Hey wait a minute...

    Since when are US telcos beholden to the ITU?

     

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  20.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: xG is completely meaningless

    I saw people using terms like 3.5G a while back. Maybe that .5 increment means something that adds to the technology but doesn't "break" it so we could be at 4.5G?

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 11:03am

    Re: Re: Re: xG is completely meaningless

    3.5G is HSPA. It's compatible with UMTS, just faster.

    I agree, 4.5G would be a natural term for LTE-Advanced, but I haven't seen it used that way (though I haven't seen LTE-Advanced being used at all).

     

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  22.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 1:01pm

    What I want to know...

    Is how well does it make pancakes and/or waffles? Because a cure-all that doesn't do that task right is seriously lacking.

     

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  23.  
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    Stan, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 1:58pm

    5G

    "... pretty much anything they cook up in their their labs is 5G."

    Any day now somebody on FOX News will declare that if we only had 5G then we would know what happened to Flight 370.

     

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  24.  
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    Sacredjunk, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 10:37pm

    Re:

    Well, I've never heard of wireless signals sinking in water, so yes, it does walk on water!

     

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  25.  
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    BeeAitch (profile), Mar 18th, 2014 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: xG is completely meaningless

    This. Exactly.

    Meaningless as applied to technology.

    "Megaultrasupergreat" as applied to marketing.

     

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  26.  
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    Billy Wenge-Murphy, Jun 9th, 2014 @ 12:11pm

    If anything you'd think 5G will worsen youth unemployment. They'll just sit on their phones all day browsing at speeds one hundred trillion times faster than 4G.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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