The EU is forming a joint research partnership with South Korea to focus on ultrafast “5G” mobile broadband technology.
South Korea is one of the most advanced countries in mobile technology usage and infrastructure, with one of the fastest mobile broadband networks currently available, and home to Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer.
“5G will become the new lifeblood of the digital economy and digital society once it is established,” European Commission Vice President responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe Neelie Kroes said in a statement on Monday last week.
The EU estimates that a 5G Internet connection would allow users to download a high-definition movie in six seconds, versus up to six minutes with current 4G technology — which has only just begun to achieve substantial adoption in Europe.
Current 4G technology can already achieve download speeds of 150 megabits per second, with future versions able to achieve 1 gigabit per second; 5G would offer substantially more, though no standard has been set.
“This is the first time ever that public authorities have joined together in this way, with the support of private industry, to push forward the process of standardisation,” Kroes said.
Ultrafast 5G mobile broadband is still in the early stages of development, but the partnership is expected to allow the European commission and South Korea to work towards a common standard and rollout timetable by the end of 2015.
The two parties would also unify the radio frequencies used for 5G, which will make it easier and cheaper for manufacturers to make 5G smartphones and other devices, as well as making it more straightforward for users to move between countries and areas. Kroes pledged to ensure that the necessary radio bands to support the new networks would be made available.
Europe led the mobile competition in the 1990s, but has fallen behind the US and Asia as faster 4G networks rolled out. Kroes hopes that the partnership will propel the EU back into the lead.
The 5G standard promises faster and stronger connections to cope with the expanding numbers of mobile internet users, but also the connected devices part of the “Internet of Things” — where every appliance and piece of infrastructure around the home and streets is smart and connected to the Internet.
The EU said in December last year it would spend 700 million euros (US$ 951 million) on 5G research over the next seven years, while telecom companies are expected to contribute more than 3 billion euros.
Europe’s 5G Infrastructure Association, which includes telecoms companies Alcatel-Lucent, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Orange, are expected to work directly with South Korea’s 5G forum.