Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaking at MWC in Barcelona

Facebook uniting telecom sector for 5G development

Facebook has announced the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) which is bringing technology companies like Intel, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom together to develop and deploy 5G communications networks.

The initiative is said to be "engineering focused" and brings operators, infrastructure providers, system integrators and other technology companies together to collaborate on the development of new technologies to aid the future rollout of 5G communication networks.

In a post on its site, Facebook said that with people sharing increasingly data-intensive media, such as high-definition video and even virtual reality experiences in the future, the traditional telecom infrastructure "is not moving as fast as people need it to".

Facebook, Intel, and Nokia have pledged to contribute an initial suite of reference designs to the project for improved 5G communication networks that operators can deploy when they need them.

Jay Parikh, Facebook’s head of engineering, said the project would “result in significant gains in cost and operational efficiency for both rural and urban deployments”.

The social network has already launched a pilot study based on the principles behind TIP to connect a small village in the Philippines to the internet that previously did not have cellular coverage.

The UK telecoms network EE is also lending its expertise to the project and is currently trialling a technical solution in the Scottish Highlands to bring fast connections to remote areas.

“We’re excited to be working with the companies that have already joined TIP and are looking forward to more joining in the future - everyone in the industry is welcome,” Parikh said.

Meanwhile, Verizon, which owns the largest telecoms network in the US, has announced it has begun field testing various 5G technologies.

Working with a number of companies, including those that are also involved in TIP such as Ericsson, Intel, Nokia and Samsung, the network is looking to work on "aggressive technical alignment" so that the entire industry is on board with the same technologies.

This could help to prevent a war of competing standards that could delay 5G rollout, the like of which was previously seen in the run up to the deployment of 4G before the networks finally agreed on one technology.

The company has been testing various standards in a number of different scenarios, both in outdoor and indoor environments and in residential and commercial buildings.

The field tests have been shown to be successful so far, with latency measured in the millisecond range across varied distances and superb video quality being achieved.

"We plan to expand this testing significantly over the next several months. With innovation occurring so rapidly, we want to quickly make some key technical decisions and move rapidly to pre-commercial form factors and testing later this year," said Verizon’s Adam Koeppe, who is leading the technical trial efforts.

"We are also collaborating closely with our peer operators in the Asian markets as we are very much aligned towards implementing 5G technology in 2017."

The additional speed and low latency granted by 5G networks could open the door to new ways of using the internet.

Verizon demonstrated telemedicine over the connection (seen in the video below) that could allow doctors on the other side of the world to precisely control a robotic arm for remote surgery.

"Verizon continues to accelerate innovation around 5G technology by working closely with our partners," said Ed Chan, a senior vice president with Verizon.

"We were the first to launch 4G nationwide. With 5G, we will again drive innovation across the technology landscape to bring new solutions to market for our customers. Our field technical trials are proving that 5G is here and ready to be commercialized, and we've constructed several test beds that represent real-world environments."

In October, the government’s Innovate UK launched a £1m funding programme to support businesses in investing in projects that can take advantage of the UK’s future 5G infrastructure.

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