This is the fastest wireless network in the world—but you can’t use it yet

Imagine mobile browsing at the speed of fiber.
Imagine mobile browsing at the speed of fiber.
Image: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
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Researchers have achieved the fastest mobile wireless speed to date, managing to reach 1 terabit per second over a 5G connection—about 65,000 times faster than the average 4G download speed.

“This is the same capacity as fibre optics but we are doing it wirelessly,” Rahim Tafazolli, director of the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Center, told V3. Samsung set the previous 5G speed record, 7.5 gigabits per second, in October.

Theoretically, this major speed boost—announced at V3’s mobile conference—means the mobile web will be able to support richer multimedia experiences. Higher speeds will undoubtedly accelerate the mobile video market, and the increased bandwidth will be able to facilitate the streaming of larger files, such as video shot in 4K resolution. Without tangible limitations to speed, developers can also build more powerful cloud-based apps. (Earlier this month, Apple raised the cap on the size of apps from 2GB to 4GB.)

It’s important to note that the fastest 5G speeds to date have been achieved in a vacuum. Latency, a slowdown introduced by infrastructure, will remain a problem, possibly for decades, Tafazolli told V3. Furthermore, mobile operators have yet to agree on a single vision of 5G. Some want it to be a blend of existing technologies (2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi) while others are pushing for a clear demarcation, with specific data rate and latency targets.

The recent benchmark signals potential for a more connected world, with faster flow of information, but the real-world availability of 5G is still years away. When it does arrive, it likely won’t be anything close to the 1Tbps achieved. Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, said in January that 5G could come to market by 2020 in Britain, with projections for speeds as high as 50Gbps. The US is poised to migrate to 5G in 2025, according to a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service.