The future never seems to get here fast enough. But now, Europe and China are hopefully going to shorten the wait time.
The European Commission and China today announced they have signed an agreement to cooperate on the development of 5G mobile networks. Following similar agreements with South Korea and Japan, EC officials said they would work jointly with China to create technology standards and roadmaps to reaching the blazing-fast mobile world of tomorrow.
“5G will be the backbone of our digital economies and societies worldwide,” said Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, in a statement. “With today’s signature with China, the EU has now teamed up with the most important Asian partners in a global race to make 5G a reality by 2020.”
5G promises speeds of 20Gbps (gigabits per second), compared to the 1Gbps standard for 4G. With 5G, you’ll be able to control your robot army remotely.
But the reality is most of the world is still waiting on 4G. Only 7 percent of the world was using 4G at the end of 2014, according to GSMA Intelligence.
This issue of pokey mobile infrastructure has become particularly painful in Europe, which, once upon a time, considered itself a global leader in mobile computing and communication. Over the past decade, though, it’s seen its mobile giants, like Nokia, crumble as the center of mobile innovation shifted to Silicon Valley, thanks to Apple and Google.
Making things worse, Europe, which once ranked among the world’s fastest mobile networks, has fallen far back in the pack. In South Korea, 4G adoption was two-thirds last year. In the U.S. it was 45 percent, followed by Japan at 42 percent.
Europe was at 10 percent. Yowch.
So, to reclaim its digital future, the EC had previously decided to pump about $800 million into research and development funding for 5G. And now it’s scrambling to sign these types of agreements to make sure it’s at the forefront of the 5G conversation.
Still, getting any kind of meaningful 5G service in place by 2020 is a long shot. Many of the standards involved have still not been decided. And then there is the question of getting telecom providers to invest in a rollout, when they are still trying to increase 4G coverage.
Hopefully, today’s announcement will be another step in pushing all the players down the 5G road a bit faster.