REFILE-Mobile industry tiptoes towards 5G

Sun Mar 1, 2015 6:03pm EST
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(Corrects typographical error in paragraph 12)

By Eric Auchard

BARCELONA, March 1 (Reuters) - Running short of dramatically new phone designs, leaders of the world's wireless industry agree their next big idea is 5G, shorthand for the fifth generation of networks they expect to have up and running by 2020.

But first they'll have to decide what 5G needs to do that the current, fourth generation of wireless networks will never offer.

"It is unclear what the opportunity or weakness that 5G should address is," researchers at GSMA, the global trade group of mobile network operators, said in a report issued in December that punctured some of the more visionary claims for 5G.

There is simply no need for the industry to spend heavily on new network gear or force consumers to upgrade phones unless the new generation of wireless radio standards actually delivers radical improvement in speed or functions, mobile operators say.

With discussions on setting 5G technical standards yet to begin, a final standard is expected in 2019, experts say.

That will not stop network equipment makers such as China's Huawei and France's Alcatel-Lucent and dozens of newer players from touting projects as ready for 5G. Most industry experts expect the first commercial deployments of 5G in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

"What happens before that is a lot of marketing," Lauri Oksanen, vice president of research and technology at Nokia's Networks business.   Continued...