The International Telecommunications Union in Geneva has officially passed its IMT-2020 draft released in February, laying the groundwork for 5G technical specifications for its 192 member nations going forward.
The final ITU document was left virtually untouched from its draft state, something that is not unusual for a report of such highly technical content, according to Sergio Buonomo, counselor for ITU-R Study Group 5, the sector tasked with setting guidelines for radiocommunications, including 5G.
While the report is indeed a deep dive into the minimum specs of 5G, here is what it means to the layman: A 5G cellular device will allow a downlink of at least 20Gbps and an uplink of 10Gbps via a single mobile base station. Those are theoretical speeds for a single user if they have a fixed wireless broadband, and in reality, all users on a cell will get a portion of that 20Gbps. 5G will also be able to support at least one million users per square kilometer.
How does that translate compared to today's technology? If you wanted to download an 8GB HD movie, a 5G connection would take you six seconds. A current 4G LTE download would take seven to eight minutes. The old 3G connection would take more than an hour.
While the ITU approval is the first step to standardization, Buonomo said the ITU still has more work to do in terms of creating more reports and recommendations to finally set the 5G requirements in stone. "In the case of 5G, the full standardization process will probably conclude at the end of 2019 with an ITU Recommendation containing the full technical specifications of IMT-2020 (which is known as 5G)," he told Neowin in an email.
He added that the lengthy process is no unusual. A similar process for IMT-2000 (aka 3G) happened in 2000, while AMT-Advanced (4G) encompassing recommendations ITU-R M.1457 and M.2012 took place in 2012. Buonomo said all the documents are very large, and must be agreed to by all 192 nations in the ITU.
While the whole process can be complex, he did offer us a simplification:
"When 192 countries agree on common technical document it means that almost the entire world agree to use the same technology. Some countries have telecom industries, some others have telecom operators, some others can decide to invest on infrastructures, some others just wants to offer their population with telecom services. Thus, the benefit of having something usable everywhere."
So while many companies are going through their own 5G research and implementation, they are just following the initial guidelines laid down by the ITU. Nothing is expected to be fully standardized worldwide until the ITU membership gives its approval.