These are the final specs for 5G – so how fast is it really going to be?


The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) has revealed key details of what’s likely to be the final specification for 5G, including how fast it’s going to be.

In the obliquely named ‘Draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT-2020.TECH PERF REQ] – Minimum requirements related to technical performance for IMT-2020 radio interface(s)’, the ITU outlines 13 specs that will need to be met for networks to call themselves 5G.

There’s a fair bit of mumbo-jumbo in the document (H/T El Reg), but some key points prised from the report include:

  • Downlink peak data rate is 20 Gbit/s.
  • Uplink peak data rate is 10 Gbit/s.
  • Downlink peak spectral efficiency is 30 bit/s/Hz.
  • Uplink peak spectral efficiency is 15 bit/s/Hz.
  • Downlink user experienced data rate is 100 Mbit/s.
  • Uplink user experienced data rate is 50 Mbit/s.

That’s a fairly ambitious peak data target, as at present, key players like Samsung and Nokia have only reached claimed downlink speeds of 7.5Gbps (or 7.5 Gbit/s, to use the ITU’s style) and 10Gbps (10 Gbit/s), respectively.

Having said that, researchers at the University of Surrey have managed speeds of up to 1Tbps, albiet under lab conditions, so perhaps the 20Gbps target isn’t that unrealistic – especially as 5G has another three or four years of development before it’s sent out into the wild, with 2020 the current deployment target.

The chart below shows the ITU’s roadmap for 5G development.

Related: What is 5G? 5G vs 4G explained

5g roadmap

However, it’s important to note that for the average user, it’s the “user experienced data rate” that is of most interest, as these speeds most closely reflect real world scenarios.

By way of comparison, EE’s top-tier 4G tarrifs come with claimed speeds of up to 90Mbps, so in this context, a 100Mbps target looks entirely achievable – Telstra has already achieved speeds of up to 1Gbps to an individual user in a mobile data test in Australia.

The ITU’s draft report is likely to be finalised soon and we wouldn’t expect to see any significant changes to the figures outlined above.

In fact, it’s possible we’ll be given the final specification at MWC 2017, as 5G is one of the trade show’s key themes.

Watch: MWC 2017

Are you excited for 5G? Let us know in the comments below.