What Comes After 4G? METIS Plans To Find Out

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We’ve barely even got the ball rolling with 4G mobile networks, and already people are beginning to wonder what might come afterwards.

To hazard a guess at what “5G” might look like, the European Commission has just doled out a $21 million grant to bring together a consortium of telecommunications companies that will study the feasibility of next-generation concepts like virtualized radio networks in the cloud and super-dense networks of tiny cells located in every room.

GigaOM reports that the newly formed Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty Information Society, or METIS to keep things simple, has been tasked with studying a wide range of 5G technologies, including new cellular architectures like wide-area mobile mesh and heterogeneous networks, new radio-air interfaces and network virtualization.

Many of these new ideas are still at the theoretical stage, and so no-one can be sure whether they will ever become feasible from a technical or commercial viewpoint. Experts have theorized what the network capabilities need to be, but as for how they will be met, that remains anyone’s guess.

In order to figure all of this out, METIS will be pursuing multiple lines of investigation, borrowing from current research being done at institutions like Poznan University of Technology in Poland, and Aalborg University in Denmark.

Given the daunting nature of the task, it’s not only the major carriers that are involved. While the likes of Nokia, Telefonica, Alcatel and Lucent are all taking part, METIS is looking beyond the telecommunications industry, inviting businesses such as BMW to get involved as well. The German automobile firm will be helping to investigate a far-out concept known as vehicle-to-vehicle networking, which envisages cars becoming nodes within a much larger network.

As well as these new concepts, METIS also plans to study the possibilities of moving baseband processing to the cloud, in order to boost network efficiency. Another idea it will look at is the creation of a giant mesh made up of devices interacting with each other, rather than with a central tower.

METIS is expected to report its final recommendations for 5G within the next three years.