The historic nation-state of San Marino will be the first place in Europe to get a lightning-fast 5G mobile network.
It’s a bold move by the San Marino government to invest in megafast mobile tech.
They reckon the first 5G will be available across all 24 square miles of the tiny landlocked country by mid-2018.
San Marino’s population in 2017 was just over 31,000.
That makes the tiny nation about the same size as Billericay in Essex, or Colwyn Bay in north Wales.
Local infrastructure provider TIM are taking on the challenge of upgrading the UNESCO World Heritage site.
They’ll be bouncing the 5G signal around San Marino’s historic piazzas with ‘small cells’ – low power mobile masts that won’t impede quite so much on the historic towers and frescos.
Alongside that, TIM will upgrade 4.5G mobile sites with new masts and carrier aggregation (which means more devices can access the new network and upload/download at higher bitrates).
The technology plan includes doubling the number of existing mobile sites and installing several dozen “small cells”, linked by optic fibre and distributed throughout the whole of the territory of San Marino.
Thanks to this work, it will be possible to start the first testing of 5G technology on a national scale within the next year.
Much broader bandwidths [can] be used and combining with even more innovative masts (Massive MIMO and Beamforming) will allow the system to reach performance levels that current mobile technologies could never have reached.- Giovanni Ferigo: Head of Technology, TIM
The UK, by contrast, is lagging behind in 5G.
Of course, we’ve got around 62 million people to serve in this country, compared to San Marino’s 31,000.
The fastest thing we’ve got right now is a 4G+ EE network launched in Cardiff and London in July, claiming download speeds of 429Mbps.
The government did announce this month that they’ve given three universities £16m to start working on a joint 5G test network.
Researchers from Kings College London, Bristol, and Surrey University will deliver a full end-to-end trial by early 2018.
American boffins managed to get 6.4Gbps in a race car moving at 60mph, which bodes well for the possibilities of using 5G on public transport.
What is 5G and how soon can you get it?
5G is the fifth-generation of mobile networking technology.
Simply put, it’s the next version of faster tech that mobile phones and broadband will tap in to.
5G-enabled phones will be capable of processing huge amounts of data.
Sending and streaming VR or 3DTV clips on your mobile should be simple.
Mass online gaming on your phone should be easily possible, and a 5G speeds you would be able to upload a 10 minute 1080p video in less than a second. So it’s pretty fast.
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg told audiences at the 2017 Mobile World Congress he expects that five years from now 150 million people will be able to access next-gen 5G networks.
How fast will 5G be?
At current count, the tech nerds doing these tests reckon that 5G will be 10 times faster than 4G.
Predicted speeds for 5G in the UK range from a 50Mbps country-wide service to a collossal 10Gbps speed in built-up city areas.
If these speeds can actually be achieved, mobile broadband could be a much faster option than fixed-line fibre broadband for both homes and businesses.
How much will 5G be worth?
O2 were one of the first to declare exactly how much 5G could be worth to the UK.
Their May 2017 report came up with a figure of £10bn, but even that now seems a low estimate.
Mark Evans, the CEO of O2, says in the report: “5G promises a much quicker return on investment than fibre broadband, and a range of unprecedented benefits: from telecare health applications to smart cities to more seamless public services.”
The UK government now thinks 5G will add £173bn to the economy once it gets settled. That projection covers the period from 2020 to 2030.
5G is slated be be widely available in the UK in late 2019 or early 2020.
MAIN IMAGE: Bartek Wa/Flickr