The next wireless technology standard has been a long time coming, but it could appear sooner than planned. Twenty-two companies collaborating on the super-fast cellular tech, called 5G, announced today that they can have it in phones and other devices by 2019 instead of 2020, as expected. The companies—including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Huawei, Intel, LG, NTT DOCOMO, Qualcomm Technologies, Sprint, and Vodafone—will formally vote next month to push up the schedule.
5G is a very big deal. The 4G LTE technology now in place is just starting to hit 1 gigabit-per-second speeds—by borrowing some technologies that will be part of 5G. The new standard will go above 10Gbps. 5G can also achieve virtually no delay, with a latency of just 5ms, when needed for things like communication between autonomous cars or streaming video games and VR.
As I reported a few months ago, 5G has to overcome some gnarly technical challenges, including expansion into a big chunk of unused wireless spectrum called millimeter wave. The short wavelengths don’t travel far, so cells and devices like phones have to steer and bounce signals around obstacles. These and other technologies, collectively called New Radio, have come together faster than expected. Both Intel and Qualcomm, for instance, have already introduced New Radio chips.