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Summary:

Ericsson has jumped on the 5G marketing bandwagon, touting a network lab test of a 5 Gbps wireless connection. It’s an impressive feat, but we’re still not any closer to figuring out what 5G actually is.

Ericsson recently used a whole lot of frequencies in the 15 GHz band to pack capacity into a wireless transmission in its lab in Krista, Sweden. The result: a whopping 5 Gbps connection and what Ericsson is calling a successful “5G” trial.

5 Gbps is definitely impressive, though Ericsson left out some key details that would indicate how useful such technology in the real world. The company didn’t say how much spectrum it used, what kind of device received the transmission or whether the connection was made under truly mobile conditions or to a fixed antenna.

A lot of the technologies being proposed for 5G use massive antenna arrays to transmit over ultra-high-band spectrum that would normally be useless for mobile communications. The results are extremely high speeds, but not necessarily networks that could connect directly to smartphones, tablets or laptops in motion.

We’ve been seeing a lot of these types of announcements lately as network equipment vendors and even continental governments try to show that they’re ahead of the mobile technology curve. The problem, though, is that we don’t even know what we want 5G to be yet.

Ericsson admits its technology is pre-standard, but “pre-definition” is probably a better way to describe it. Researchers around the world are racking their brains trying to figure out not only what technologies will become the 5G standard, but also what exactly we hope to accomplish with a 5G network. Ericsson is answering a question that hasn’t even been asked yet.

There’s nothing wrong with anticipating mobile consumer needs and pushing the technology envelope. But as I’ve written before, attaching terms like 5G to these new, individual innovations isn’t doing anyone any favors. Ericsson is reducing 5G to a mere function of speed, ignoring the myriad other ways cellular networks need to improve to make mobile broadband cheaper, more accessible and more consistent.