Fifth generation or 5G mobile technology is planned for deployment in 2020, by which time more than 20 billion connected devices will be in use across the world. The 5G network will deliver much higher data capacity, faster mobile internet connection and more reliable coverage, as well as requiring 90% less energy.
Emerging applications such as smart cities, Industry 4.0, autonomous cars, precision agriculture and virtual reality will all rely upon the technological advances brought by the 5G network. Digital technology is predicted to boost the UK economy by £55 billion by 2020 and, with a significant proportion of components in smart devices designed in the UK, we need to maintain our competitive edge and ensure our technology is easily exportable to other markets.
In order to realise the full potential of 5G, we must learn the lessons from the rollout of the 3G and 4G networks. It is important the relevant measurement infrastructure and standards are in place, and there are no discrepancies in measurement, which can lead to increased cost for consumers and problems when exporting technology.
Tackling the technical challenges
For industry and society to be able to benefit from this step change in connectivity we need to provide measurement support to underpin all aspects of 5G – the signals, devices, systems and test environments. NPL’s work will help to provide a competitive edge for industry in the UK, improve the speed to market for 5G products and, ultimately, improve engagement between consumers and the latest cutting-edge technology. NPL is at the forefront of activities:
Developing new antennas that can operate at millimetre-wave frequencies and provide a reliable signal when integrated into a smart device
Developing and testing new hardware to measure performance of the network
Working on developing standards for 5G to ensure it is interoperable globally
Leading a European project, MET5G, on the measurements underpinning 5G, with input from researchers and key industrial stakeholders covering test technology, signals and the real-world environmental factors affecting 5G performance
As part of our strategic partnership with the University of Surrey, we are also a member of the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC), now the largest UK academic research centre dedicated to the development of the next generation of mobile and wireless communications, and we jointly run the Nonlinear Microwave Measurement and Modelling Laboratories (n3m-labs), helping to develop the next generation of super-efficient electronic devices.
Find out more about NPL's research on 5G
Find out more about NPL's Radiofrequency and microwaves service