About every 10 years, mobile technology takes a big jump forward—and the next leap is already in the works, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said today at Mobile World Congress.
The question is “when does it break from 4G? When do we call it 5G?” Mollenkopf asked the audience of industry leaders attending Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Technologies such as LTE Broadcast, Carrier Aggregation, and LTE-U are already increasing the capabilities of today’s networks. But when it comes to 5G, according to Mollenkopf, “The key thing to remember is that we need to set a high bar—so we make big jumps and not just small jumps. We need to take a big enough step forward so that making that big design change is worth it.”
How high? Consider the gains of the past, Mollenkopf said. Data transmission times increased 12,000 times from 2G to 4G. And user connectivity costs dropped 99% in 2013 from 2005. “It’s tremendous,” he said.
But “there are a lot of things left to do in terms of innovating,” Mollenkopf said. That includes moving beyond “speeds and feeds” to include more security and robustness in network design.
As the Internet changes, users will interact with it in a different way. Today, “you think of the Internet as something that’s away from where you are,” Mollenkopf said. But, as more and more connectivity and computing power is pushed out to end devices on the edge, “the Internet will actually follow you around,” he said.
That will cause data demand to increase, as it has been doing since mobile networks were first invented. (Capacity may have to increase as much as 1000 times.) Keeping up will take a variety of technologies in different spectrums, working seamlessly together, Mollenkopf said. Operators need to be able to shift loads between licensed, shared licensed, and unlicensed spectrum based on time of day, geography, and need.
Getting this technology in place—and getting it right—will take some time, but less than you might think. A lot of people believe 5G will arrive around 2020, Mollenkopf said. “It’s going to be a very exciting time,” he said.