Global standard coming for next-generation mobile service

A worldwide standard for mobile communications is in the works as Japan, the U.S., Europe, China and South Korea work to set common specifications for ultrahigh-speed 5G data services by 2020 — a move expected to propel the spread of “internet of things” and related services.

The 5G service would offer communication speeds 10 to 100 times faster than existing services. High-resolution videos and other large data would be transmitted seamlessly. The speed would not drop even when multiple devices are connected.

In Japan, the three top mobile carriers — NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank Group — are preparing to bring this service to the market.

Authorities in the five markets will adopt common spectrum and measures for preventing interference with other services. Japan is planning to use three spectrum bands that are now utilized by satellite communication for 5G service, and hopes to negotiate with others to adopt these bands so that standard specifications match down to the wire.

Private-sector companies will meet and hammer out the standards in 2019, and the International Telecommunication Union will put in place the system around 2020.

A common standard around the world would facilitate 5G-related businesses. A service that checks the content of a refrigerator and notifies the owner which foods need to be refilled, for instance, could be offered in multiple markets at the same time. A service that analyzes large data to optimize ads would also benefit from lower costs of data acquisition because of the common standard.

Internet of things technology has 5G communication at its core. So a common standard levels the competitive landscape for various equipment and service providers.

Japan, the U.S. Europe, China and South Korea are all key markets for the internet of things, and major companies in these markets are cultivating emerging markets as well. Up through 4G, Europe and the U.S. led standard-setting, while China stuck to its own specs.

This time around, China will be involved in the global standard-setting, and therefore it will join the competition to cultivate the global market for 5G-related hardware and services.

The common standard reduces costs for handset makers and service providers as well, because specific components in phones and base stations need not be different for each region. The lower costs would be passed onto to handset prices and benefit consumers, too.

In Japan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications will present the 5G equipment spec to manufacturers based on what has been discussed internationally. In the action plans to be compiled this month, spectrum would be set in the summer of 2018 and mobile carriers to offer 5G services will be determined by the end of that fiscal year. Then the carriers would draw up their own plans to set up base stations.

Although similar efforts did take place for existing data services, the significance of common 5G spec is greater given the advanced technology involved. Japan seeks to introduce the 5G service in big cities in 2020, when Tokyo will host the Summer Olympics.

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