UN steps in to end marketing war over what 5G means


With mobile operators’ marketing departments already throwing around claims about their 5G services, the United Nations is weighing in with its definition of what qualifies a network as next-generation.

Verizon Wireless will begin delivering “5G” service to select users in mid-2017, even though some places don’t yet have access to 4G. And at the Mobile World Congress 2017 trade show in Barcelona, companies including and will be promoting their moves towards 5G.

But what marks the difference between one generation of mobile technology and the next? 

There are 13 technical requirements for next-generation networks on the  by the International Telecommunication Union, the UN agency that sets rules for radio spectrum usage and telecommunications interoperability.


The ITU has a history of choosing such cryptic names: IMT-2020 is the follow-on to its “IMT-Advanced” specification, known to the rest of the world as 4G, which was itself preceded by IMT-2000, more widely known as 3G.

The 2020 in the title refers to the year the ITU expects the IMT-2020, or 5G, specification to be ready.

Standardization work isn’t just going on at the ITU: The Third Generation Partnership Project or that it intends to submit to the ITU by October 2020, and earlier this month unveiled one of the first deliverables, a new logo.


The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)’s “5G” logo.

If you see it on a phone before the end of 2018 though, when 3GPP plans to publish the first release of its specification, then it’s probably a fake.