For many of you the title of this article will come as something of an unwelcome surprise. With the rollout of 4G still ringing in your ears, and the dilemma of whether to upgrade your handset still swirling around in your head, the mere suggestion of yet another more advanced generation of wireless connectivity is enough to make you wince... not again surely?
“But 5G will allow you to download an entire film in seconds!” they say, as you try to imagine a situation when you would possibly need such lightening fast cinematic access… surely there must be another reason for it?
The Other Reason For it
Amongst the groans of frustration at yet another upgrade to the internet connectivity network, a worrying and undeniable truth can be heard - London is perpetually locked in a technological arms race. Gone are the times when the golden triangle of New York, London and Tokyo were the world’s undisputed centres of technology and commerce. There are now ambitious rivals everywhere, from Berlin, Dublin and Tel Aviv, all bidding to become the planet's leading innovation hub. Last week, Boris Johnson said
“London is earning a reputation for being the tech capital of Europe and that is why we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access the very best digital connectivity”
He followed up this statement with a daring promise to the people of the capital ‘You will have 5G internet by the year 2020’ and whilst we are sure the anticipation is almost too much for your to bear, we wondered to ourselves what this allegedly game-changing statement really means?
The ambitious plan (which he is drawing up in conjunction with the university of Surrey) would see London become the first city in the world to have an extensive 5G network, assuming that other rapidly developing cities don't get there first. This would mean potentially up to 250 times faster download speeds for the average Joe browsing on their phone.
Is that very important?
The short answer is yes - you might think that with the great internet speeds we now enjoy, any increase (even one of 250x) is fairly arbitrary but nothing could be further from the truth.
In 2008 the number of devices with internet connectivity on the planet surpassed the number of human beings for the first time, and tech experts predict that by 2020 there will be 50 billion in total.
Clearly then we are on the cusp of a major expansion in the world tech industry and that London has positioned itself as a world leader in this field. It's a position which Boris and the government plan to defend gallantly by making London the world's most super connected city and therefore giving it a significant edge in the race to exploit the world's fastest growing industries. (Either that or we're all really impatient waiting for Netflix to load.)
So it's a matter of PR and of attracting the best tech talent and startups to our metropolis. But as pressing as the race to 5G apparently is - it does raise the question of ‘what then’? Once this almost unimaginably fast internet is delivered, how long before we start hearing about the race to 6G?
By Eoin O'Hara - follow him on Twitter here @StartacusEoin.
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