British researchers claim to have achieved a 1 terabit per second data transfer over mobile broadband. But although they used 5G technology, it’s far in excess of what anyone expects to be possible in “real world” use.
The speed was reached by the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey. They achieved it in lab conditions using transmitters and receivers they had built themselves and over a distance of just 100 meters.
The researchers aren’t detailing how they managed to achieve the speed, other than to say it’s the result of one of 10 “breakthrough technologies” they’re working on. V3 reports that they plan to carry out non-lab testing on the university campus over the next two years, then give public demonstrations in 2018.
The terabit connection is far in excess of the 7.5 gigabits per second claimed by Samsung last fall as the fastest achieved using 5G technology. However, the Surrey researchers have not made any claims about what speeds people would actually be able to get in everyday use. In fact they say the real challenge will be working on reliability and latency rather than raw speeds.
In any case, increased speed has diminishing returns: web browsing only has to reach a certain speed before it feels instantaneous; there’s no point downloading files so big they won’t fit on your device; and there’s only so much bandwidth you need for streaming before you can’t notice any quality difference. While the Surrey speed is more than 100 times of that claimed by Samsung, it’s unlikely most people would experience any practical benefits.
Even if 5G brings a small fraction of the promised speed increase, it’s also going to require a serious rethink of the way networks package mobile broadband. Verizon’s plan with a 50GB monthly allowance is seen as generous within the industry, but if you really could download over a terabit mobile connection, you’d literally use up the allowance in the blink of an eye.
[Image credit: University of Surrey]