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Samsung's homegrown '5G' comes with a catch

Daniel Cooper, @danielwcooper
February 24, 2015
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Samsung and HTC's new smartphones may command the bulk of the attention at this year's Mobile World Congress but the show isn't just about new handsets. Samsung and Korean mobile carrier SK Telecom will use the show to demonstrate a new mobile data system that'll reach of speeds up to 7.5Gbps. Although the official 5G standard isn't yet defined, the pair are trying to elbow in on the act by calling the process "5G." Unfortunately, while that level of speed is thrilling, the technology behind it does come with a few "uhm," "ah," and "but" noises attached.

Unlike 3G and 4G, you see, this new standard uses millimeter wave signals to bounce information between the network and user. Unfortunately, this technology only works when the two devices are in a line of sight, which isn't ideal when you're always walking around with your phone in your pocket. To get around this issue, however, the pair are using "3D beamforming," a way of triangulating the position of the phone to a nearby antenna to send the transmissions in a straight line. That's only going to be possible, however, if a location is absolutely heaving with "5G" access points.

Assuming that a dense city center could be seeded with enough hardware, PC World believes that the technique would have the upside of reducing interference. Because of the line-of-sight transmissions, two people on opposite sides of a tall building could use the same frequencies to talk without interfering with each other. It all may sound pretty exciting, but let's hope that someone remembers that this eye-watering speed will mean bupkis if no-one's working on a way to cure the cold, dread hand of the signal blackspot.

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