CES: Ericsson CEO says 5G wireless is on the way

LAS VEGAS — Even though you still can’t get 4G LTE service everywhere, the mobile industry already has a new version of wireless networking in the works.

Telecommunications equipment makers and carriers have been developing a 5G — or fifth generation — standard that will eventually supplant LTE for several years now. But they’ve started to go from development to actual tests.

Carriers are testing early versions of 5G in more than 10 spots around the world, including in Japan and South Korea, Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, one of the leading telecommunications equipment companies, told me in an interview at CES on Wednesday. The first commercial 5G networks should be up and running around 2018, he said.

Previous wireless standards focused largely on increasing the speed at which data can be transmitted across the network. The new 5G standard will do that too. Right now, the test equipment is supporting transfer rates of up to 5 gigabits per second, and Vestberg said Ericsson expects to boost that to 10 gigabits per second soon. (Note, that’s the total amount of bandwidth the tower would be able to transmit; it would be divvied up among all the devices that connect to that tower.)

Indeed, Ericsson had a 5G test system on display at CES that was showing speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second.

But 5G will do more than increase speeds. It’s the first wireless standard that’s being designed with the Internet of Things specifically in mind. Each cell tower will be able to connect to tens of thousands of devices, compared to about 2,000 that can connect to an LTE tower, allowing whole homes worth of connected devices or whole roads worth of connected cars to go online.

The standard is also being designed to have very low latency, which is the time between when a signal is sent and when it is received at its destination. Ericsson expects to have latency below 10 milliseconds; by comparison, LTE latency is in the neighborhood of 100 milliseconds. Having delays that short could allow remote operation of cars and equipment in nearly real-time.

Even though 5K 5G networks will start rolling out in just two years, it will likely take years before the technology becomes the standard throughout the world. While 4K 4G has taken off in the United States, it’s still in the process of being adopted in other areas around the world. According to Vestberg, just 12 percent of Europe is on 4K 4G.

Photo: Ericsson’s 5G test system on display Wednesday at the company’s booth at the CES convention in Las Vegas. (Troy Wolverton/Mercury News).


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  • vonbraun

    5K ? 4K ?