The history of 5G is being made…now. It is being born into a competitive world where mobile network operators, system vendors and regulators will shape what eventually emerges.  If all goes well new 5G systems could begin to be rolled out from around 2020 (nearly 30 years after the first GSM systems were rolled out).  5G is a global initiative that will play out in different  ways in different countries. Here is how it is playing out in the United Kingsom:

History so far in a nutshell

In 2012 the International Telecommunications Union launched an activity addressing an International Mobile System beyond 2020.

In 2012 the UK Government announced the setting up of a 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey – the world’s first research centre set up specifically for 5G mobile research.The centerpiece is a $60m TestBed to allow 5G ideas to be tested, standards to be verified and vendor inter-operability testing.

In 2013 the European Commission set aside up to $960 million in public funding to develop the next generation of ubiquitous 5G communication systems during its seven-year Horizon 2020 programme.

In 2014 there were announcements coming out of China, Korea and Japan in 2014 for investments into 5G in the $3-4 billion ballpark over the next 5 years.

In 2014 (Dec) the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance finalize an Executive Version of the NGMN 5G White Paper, the first articulation of what a significant number of leading mobile network operators want from 5G technology. This was a significant step as the mobile network operators are the customers for 5G networks.

March 2015 the NGNM White Paper on 5G was published with the vision: “5G is an end-to-end ecosystem to enable a fully mobile and connected society. It foresees 4G and its evolution as a component part of the 5G revolution.

September 2015 – The global (3G PP) standards RAN Workshop took the first step in narrowing down a long list of use cases to three that would provide the focus for standardisation including the all important enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

November 2015 –  The outcome of the world radio conference (WRC-15) in Geneva proved a disappointment for the mobile industry looking for a globally harmonised band at 28 GHz. The global consensus by 2015 has almost reached the stage where 5G had become synonymous with 10 Gb/s data speeds to a spot point using 28 GHz. This led to a perception that European Administrations had knocked their own continent out of the 5G race by precluding use of 28 GHz.

September 2016 – EU Commission publish their: 5G for Europe – An Action Plan

November 2016 – The Radio Spectrum Advisory Group publish an important Opinion  on spectrum related aspects for next-generation wireless systems (5G)

This identifies three specific “5G pioneer bands”. The choice of the three 5G Pioneer Bands has  radically changed the direction of travel of 5G in Europe from the sole focus on 28 GHz that had been the global consensus up until 2015. “Mobile coverage” has been re-hitched to the 5G initiative with the choice of 3.6 GHz and 700 MHz. Other parts of the world that had focused only on 28 GHz have been left with their 5G options limited to hot spots and wireless local loop. This was a particular success for the international team at the UK Regulator Ofcom who provided the leadership in the RSPG and University of Surrey 5G IC who contributed, via Euro5G, the analytical input to 5G PPP industry group and EU Commission. The term “5G pioneer band” was invented by Prof Stephen Temple from the University of Surrey. An account of the “5G Pioneer Band” initiative can be read in “A Short History of the 5G Pioneer Bands”. (It provides a definition of a 5G Pioneer Band and the theory of this successful process).

March 2017 – The UK Government published “Next Generation Mobile Technologies: A 5G Strategy for the UK”

July 2017 – The UK Government award a £16m contract to the University of Surrey, Bristol University and Kings College to develop a 5G Test Network.

“Inside the 5G Revolution” is an important story where only the first few lines of the first Chapter can be written about today.