NTT docomo, Japan’s largest mobile phone network provider,
in cooperation with the Tokyo Institute of Technology, is currently undertaking
research for a new 5G network with the intent of reaching 10 Gbps transmission
speeds.

Interestingly, their experiment achieved these speeds using a Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna, a feature common to newer
standards, such as HSPA+ and 802.11n. They conducted this test with a 400 MHz block of
bandwidth in the 11 GHz spectrum, which is an uncommon frequency to use in
mobile phone operations. Super high-frequency bands (5 GHz and higher) are not
commonly used for mobile phone communications, due to the difficulty of
transmitting those waves around buildings. NTT docomo provided no explanation in their press release about how this limitation will be overcome.

NTT docomo’s research department first proposed the current
standard of mobile communications technology, LTE, in 2004. In June, they
announced the deployment of a compact LTE base station in locations where traditional base
stations cannot be deployed due to prohibitive size or cost, such as mountainous
locations.

Currently, NTT docomo service in Japan, branded as Xi LTE,
is capable of delivering download speeds up to 100 Mbps. According to a study by PC Magazine, the
fastest LTE service in the United States is AT&T, with an average speed of 16.02 Mbps
and a maximum speed of 58.25 Mbps. According to a study by Joseph Hanlon at CNET, Australian LTE services on Telstra average 39.97 Mbps. In
the United Kingdom, comparable speeds can be found on the fastest LTE service provided
by Everything Everywhere (EE), a joint venture between T-Mobile and Orange.

While research in advancing mobile communications technology
is a laudable endeavor, this particular experiment isn’t ready for deployment
anytime soon. The device being tested wasn’t a handset — it was a “mobile
station” (communications truck) moving at 9 km/h (5.5 mph). Accordingly, the power consumption of the
components in the truck is likely quite massive, at least in comparison to the
painstakingly optimized hardware of the phone in your pocket. For these reasons,
it’s quite likely that it will be several years — if not a decade — before this
technology is used in commercially available consumer mobile phones.

Additionally, the design of a network using super
high-frequency bands would need a great deal of engineering to overcome the
limitations of that technology. Deployment in Japan would be easier if some
workaround is devised for broadcasting around buildings, which in particularly
urban places such as Tokyo would be a significant encumbrance to such an endeavor.

Deployment in the United States has a completely different
set of problems, however. In addition to having the problem of engineering
around a sprawling metropolis, the United States has a great deal of suburban
semi-rural areas with particularly low population densities. Engineering a
mobile network using super high-frequency bands would be a gargantuan
undertaking. NTT docomo’s engineers are likely up to the task, though the
question is worth asking: Should a one-size-fits-all solution be used in mobility,
or should U.S. carriers stick to technologies that can be deployed with greater
ease and at a lower cost for the geographic layout of the United States?

What is your hope for the future of mobile connectivity, and
how are your connection speeds where you live? Let us know in the discussion thread below.