One the biggest disruptions we will ever see is underway. It will change our world like never before creating opportunities and possibilities that will touch all our lives and affect the economies of countries all around the globe. This disruption is the anytime, anywhere, anything connectivity brought about by the 5G revolution and the digital economies it enables

5G will not only provide the capability for high speed mobile broadband but, also the massive device connectivity required for the Internet of Things (IoT) and the low latency, high reliability and availability for critical communication. In delivering these capabilities 5G will enable the creation of products and services that have not before been possible. In media and entertainment 5G will enable new event experiences with virtual and augmented reality. It will enable smart grid and environmental management in energy and the automation and process control required for Industry 4.0. It will bring about a revolution in the way healthcare is provided, powering advancements in telemedicine, personalised care and precision medicine. By 2021 these new applications will account for a year on year growth of 47% in data and 34% in device connectivity. In order to cope with these demands 5G will need to deliver a massively scalable network

So, what will this future mobile infrastructure look like? It will be like electricity, it’s just there, providing connectivity anytime, anywhere, to anyone or anything. Like electricity too, it will provide the perception of infinite capacity. When an appliance is plugged in the wall no one stops to consider if there is sufficient power, in effect it’s assumed to be infinite even though it is not. This is the way to think about future mobile connectivity too. Whether the connection is 3G, 4G, 5G or even WiFi is irrelevant; that it delivers the required experience is all that matters

There are then a number of transformational elements in 5G that enable this experience to be delivered. First it leverages advances in network architecture from the IT industry, future mobile infrastructure will look more like a modern data centre, using software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) techniques. There will also be more licensed spectrum. 5G will operate in three bands: sub 1Ghz, sub 6GHz and 20GHz and above, the so called millimetre band. These different bands will allow greater flexibility with performance and coverage and allow ultra-dense small cell deployments capable of 10Gbs data rates. Spectrum and network aggregation is also a key technology allowing aggregation of unlicensed, cellular and other bands and also existing networks, such as WiFi, to deliver the required user experience. Finally, 5G is the first cellular network designed from the ground up to support things as well as people. It has been developed with the capability to support massive device connectivity at very low power and cost and will be a game charger for future smart technologies

UK companies now have an unrivalled opportunity to get a head start with this exciting technology and the possibilities it can unlock. In Basing View the University of Surrey, 5G Innovation Centre has installed the only open access 5G test bed in the world. It is available to any company that wants to trial new products and services for the 5G era ahead of commercial availability of the network in the early 2020s. It will allow UK companies to take a lead role in exploiting the biggest disruption since the Internet.