5G will likely be available in some form — likely pre-standard — by late 2018 and early 2019. However, the technology is not likely to be prevalent until the 2020 time frame. 5G networks will enable more Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities as well as connected cars and certain smart city applications.
On the global stage, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and its partners have tried to set a benchmark for all future mobile-broadband communications adopters — in essence, providing an international specification for 5G. The result was the International Mobile Communications (IMT)-2020 standard.
What Is IMT-2020?
IMT-2020 is a term developed by the ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector in 2012 to develop the vision of “IMT for 2020 and beyond.” The ITU has set a timeline that calls for the standard to be finished in 2020.
Additionally, the name IMT-2020 follows the same naming structure as IMT-2000 (3G) and IMT-Advanced (4G).
“The IMT-2020 standard is set to be the global communication network for the coming decades and is on track to be in place by 2020,” said François Rancy, director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau, in a press release from February 2017. “The next step is to agree on what will be the detailed specifications for IMT-2020, a standard that will underpin the next generations of mobile broadband and IoT connectivity.”
In early 2017, ITU representatives partnered with academia and research institutions to complete a series of studies focused on the key 5G tech and performance requirements for IMT-2020. The latest draft report outlines key minimum specifications, such as the following:
- Requirement for bandwidth at least 100 MHz
- Bandwidths up to 1 GHz are required for higher frequencies (above 6 GHz)
- Minimum requirement for connection density is 1 million devices per km2
- Downlink peak data rate of 20 Gb/s
- Uplink peak data rate of 10 Gb/s
- Target downlink “user experienced data rate” of 100 Mb/s
- Target uplink “user experienced data rate” of 50 Mb/s
Early IMT-2020 technical trials, market trials, and deployments are scheduled to continue, evolving the standard toward its 2020 commercial debut. However, a couple more years of work remain before the IMT-2020 standard is complete.