U.S. may be well positioned to make transition to 5G cellular networks, report finds

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Several countries are actively engaged in helping telecommunications providers research and develop Fifth Generation, or 5G, mobile communications technology, but the United States may have the competitive edge over the next decade, a new report finds.

That two-page Congressional Research Service report (pdf) dated July 23 outlines the advantages of 5G networks, especially greater network speed and capacity to support "potentially billions of wireless devices, from tiny sensors to unmanned aerial vehicles" many of which will be connected through the Internet.

According to the report, consensus within the wireless industry is that 5G will combine long-term evolution, or LTE, cellular network and IEEE -  which stands for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - WiFi standards, supplemented with new technologies.

The report notes that since the U.S. is a leader in 4G LTE deployment, it will swiftly move to 5G by 2025.

The report says that the top four U.S. wireless providers with a national LTE footprint will most likely be able to repurpose at least some of their licensed spectrum holdings. And while future Federal Communications Commission policy decisions will help determine if the 5G market will be open to new entrants, the report says current policies favor providers with existing 4G cellular networks.

Plus, some industry experts believe that IEEE WiFi standards for the 5 gigahertz band is key to 5G network deployment. The report points to a recent FCC ruling that is expected to release 100 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum for high-speed WiFi in the 5 GHz band.

Globally, several collaborative research efforts are underway, the report states. Key international programs are being run by the European Union, China and South Korea. 

The European Union launched the 5G Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership, or 5G-PPP, in 2014. It's partnering with Ericsson, Alcatel Lucent, and Nokia. Other industry members include European telecommunications firms and European research subsidiaries of Asian firms such as NTT DOCOMO and Huawei, the report says.

Additionally, many of the firms involved in 5G-PPP are participating in another European Union 5G project called the  Mobile and Wireless Communications Enablers for the Twenty-Twenty Information Society, which seeks to lay the foundations for a European 5G architecture and allocate radio frequency spectrum by 2020.

Three Chinese government ministries are sponsoring 5G research and development program through the joint IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group. The organization's goals include developing 5G technologies for China and facilitating cooperation with foreign companies.

South Korea's 5G Forum, led by SK Telecom, seeks to cement its global leadership in 5G technologies as it also competes with collaborative efforts in Japan, Europe and China.

For more:
- read a summary of the report by the Federation of American Scientists (the CAS report, number R43595, is not directly accessible to the public) (.pdf)

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