Marketecture wars The world is getting excited at the advent of “5G” wireless systems with a demonstration of a gigabit air interface using the 28 GHz band by Samsung.
It's not too bad as a piece of early-stage academic technology demonstration, as it happens: the engineers used 64 antenna elements in what you might think of as a “massively MIMO” system, getting a gigabit per second download over a distance of two kilometres.
That huge number of antenna elements is required because of what Samsung says are the “unfavourable propagation characteristics” experienced at such a high carrier frequency. The Samsung announcement doesn't mention the channel width required to get gigabit speeds.
5G it ain't: it's merely Samsung's demonstration of its proposed air interface for whatever eventually gets proposed for the full suite of 5G standards, at some point in the future. Right now, whatever over-excitable journalists in the mainstream think, “5G” is nothing more than a “marketecture”, that odd progeny of marketing and technology in which something that doesn't exist is conjured up by the application of the right jargon.
So let's get this straight: there is no such thing as 5G, except in the fevered minds of marketing departments.
There is, for example, no working group in any standards body, no allocation of 28 GHz spectrum anywhere in the world (in Australia the band is allocated to satellite applications). There is not even agreement about whether development beyond 4G should focus on channel capacity or other characteristics. Consider, for example, the battery life that can be anticipated in a handset that's processing 64 separate radio sets.
The main point of the Samsung announcement – apart from publicising a genuine piece of research and engineering – is probably bragging rights. NTT Docomo demonstrated a 10 Gbps link using 11 GHz spectrum in March.
In other words, vendors are jockeying for position, trying to cement their respective approaches to 5G so that it reflects their technology more than someone else's.
And with even the optimists in Samsung's marketing department saying 5G won't be a reality before 2020, we can expect plenty of “we set the record” demonstrations over the next few years. ®