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5G - Mobile communication and network technology of the future
5G - Mobile communication and network technology of the future

Source: Fotolia / aeyaey

Changing generations

Did you know that mobile communications technology has already existed in Germany for several decades? As early as in 1958, there were the first analogue phones that allowed mobile communications. However, at that point of time, the mobile phone still filled a car boot and calls were generally transferred by switchboard girls. The current fourth generation (4G) has been specially designed for mobile data applications. The fifth mobile communications generation (5G) is planned for around 2020. Thanks to more bandwidth and new frequency ranges, transfer rates will again increase many times over. But what is so different about this new network?

Higher, faster, shorter

This time, faster is not sufficient: the 5G mobile communications standard will be an essential component of future gigabit networks. Because of the many different fields of application, the mobile communications technology will no longer only be important for communication between individuals. In the future, not only people but also objects, machines and sensors will be interconnected and communicate with each other. The current response times (the so-called latencies) of 80 to 120 milliseconds are to be shortened to less than ten milliseconds and, in the long-term, even to one millisecond. This will enable real-time reactions for the first time. Then, mobile user devices will not only serve as transmitters and receivers but also as communicating connected nodes. Thus, in the future, the devices will be able to directly exchange data among themselves without the involvement of central network units (Device to Device Communications). Such fast response times can be used to enable automated and connected transport. With 5G, your vehicle can communicate with other vehicles and will be able to warn you of any dangers in real time.

5G - starting signal for the digital real-time era

On 27 September 2016, Federal Minister Dobrindt launched the 5 Steps toward 5G mobile communications initiative during the 5G conference in Berlin. A 5G dialogue forum was initialised as well, supported by the 5G focus group of the Digital Networks and Intelligent Mobility Digital Summit platform. It brings together telecommunications companies and user industries from the health, industry and logistics sectors to jointly integrate themselves into the standardization and research process for 5G. Only in this way can Germany become a lead market for 5G and the first country to provide universal 5G coverage.

Innovations like automated and connected driving, Industry 4.0 or eHealth result in a massive growth in the amount of data. But the digital economy can only develop where this growing amount of data can be retrieved. The new 5G mobile communications standard permits the reliable transfer of large amounts of data - with up to 20 gigabit per second and latencies of less than one millisecond. Thus, 5G is becoming a digital key technology in this era of interconnection. We want Germany to become a lead market for 5G and the first country to provide universal 5G coverage.

With 5G towards the gigabit society

Future requirements to be met by mobile communications in a totally interlinked society will be much more comprehensive than in the past. The mobile communications network must become more efficient to be able to meet the ambitious quality requirements of the future regarding availability and latency as well as the rising need for more bandwidth.

The LTE networks available today in Germany are far from sufficient to meet the exponentially growing demand in the long run. Due to automated and connected driving, the Internet of Things, modern government (eGovernment), new forms of working and media consumption as well as Industry 4.0, the demand for (real-time) data and higher data rates will continue to rise. Therefore, efforts are underway to evolve existing mobile communications standards and to introduce the next mobile communications generation (5G). The new 5G mobile communications standard will pave the way for the mobile gigabit society.

The stage for the further development of the next mobile communications generation was already set at the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva in November 2015 with the participation of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. At the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019, sufficient frequency spectrum is to be identified and allocated for 5G in order to make sure that 5G can reach commercial maturity by 2020.

Some practical functionalities are already being set up and trialled today on a digital test bed on the A9 motorway - a "laboratory with real-life conditions". Especially near 5G technologies with a significantly shorter response time (around 20 ms) than normal LTE networks are used here. Further test beds are currently being planned.

A 5G map at (in German) shows first 5G projects of enterprises and higher education institutions in Germany.