Long-term evolution 4G data, recently all the rage, could soon be outdated, as high-tech companies are beginning to explore and test the next generation of Internet connection for mobile devices.
Earlier this month Samsung Electronics announced the world's first adaptive array transceiver technology, which it is calling 5G.
Samsung's "5G will be capable of providing a ubiquitous [gigabits per second] experience to subscribers anywhere and offers data transmission speeds of up to several tens of Gbps per base station," the South Korean tech leader announced on its Samsung Tomorrow blog. It could be several years before it is implemented, however.
More Capacity for LTE
At the same time, Verizon Wireless is looking beyond its current 4G LTE network to a standard it calls Advanced Wireless Service (AWS), which could provide more reliable and stable uploading and downloading as capacity grows.
Seven 4G LTE devices sold by Verizon Wireless today contain components that will access the new technology when it is activated later this year. They include two Samsung 10-inch tablets, two Jetpack mobile hotspots, a USB dongle, Samsung's Galaxy S 4 and Nokia's Lumia 928.
But Thomas Pica, a spokesman for Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon Wireless told us that, contrary to some published reports Wednesday the new wireless standard is not about speed improvements but better capacity.
"We are building out our network to enable use of AWS now," Pica told us in an e-mail. "We expect to activate the AWS spectrum and devices later this year. The AWS spectrum will provide the added capacity we anticipate our customers will be looking for as our 4G LTE subscriber base grows. At last count at the end of the first quarter of 2013, we had more than 28 million 4G LTE devices on our network, and 4G LTE was carrying more than 50 percent of all of our data traffic."
Pica said the new AWS spectrum will add to the current 4G network, not replace it, as part of an "advanced carrier aggregation" enabling the nation's top carrier to provide 4G LTE service over bands other than the current 700 MHZ band. He declined to comment on a more specific time frame for the AWS rollout.
Pica said that in addition to the already available devices, BlackBerry's coming Q10 handset will also be AWS-capable. It is expected to premiere next week. All the devices will require over-the-air software upgrades to enable their AWS capability, he added.
"Most of our 4G LTE devices going forward will be AWS-capable," Pica said.
Pumping Up the Volume
Samsung likens its new technology to installing a wider pipe to create better water flow.
"While it was a recognized option, it has been long believed that the millimeter-wave bands had limitations in transmitting data over long distances due to its unfavorable propagation characteristics," the company said.
"However, Samsung's new adaptive array transceiver technology has proved itself as a successful solution. It transmits data in the millimeter-wave band at a frequency of 28 GHz at a speed of up to 1.056 Gbps to a distance of up to 2 kilometers."
Using 64 antenna elements, the adaptive array transceiver technology can compensate for radio propagation loss at millimeter-wave bands, "much higher than the conventional frequency bands ranging from several hundred MHz to several GHz," Samsung said.
However, Bill Menezes, a principal research analyst at Gartner, warns there really is no such thing as a "5G" data protocol, despite the hype.
"Standards bodies haven't defined the next generation beyond 4G's LTE and LTE-Advanced," Menezes told us. "The LTE-A standard posits a peak theoretical 1 Gbps speed, and the laws of physics may make further increases only incremental.
"Further, some of the functionalities that go beyond 4G are being appended into the 4G standard, not as a new 5G standard. Still way too early for any of the carriers to plan for it."