The European Union and China have signed an agreement pledging to work together to develop the concept, technology and schedule for the rolling out of 5G internet.
The deal’s timeline suggests the foundations for 5G technology could be in place by the end of this year, with the high speed internet available on commercial phone contracts by 2020.
5G internet, standing for Fifth Generation, will mark a huge jump in the speed and availability of data, but as it has not yet been officially defined it is hard to say how much faster it will be than existing 4G networks.
Early tests have shown a speed of around 1GB per second – the amount of data in an average full-length film – but some estimate the 5G network could be up to 1,000 times faster than the existing 4G streams.
China is likely to be a major player in the global race to develop 5G technology, particularly as a proportion of the research being done there into the development of networks is publicly funded.
Closer to home, the European Commission has pledged to invest €700m (£514m) in the development of 5G by 2020 to ensure Europe does not fall behind other global competitors.
Under the EU/China declaration EU companies will have access to the research currently under way in China and will be better able to participate and contribute to this research.
The declaration will also enable a global understanding on the “basic functionalities” – that is, the definition – of what will constitute 5G, and promote the adoption of this definition worldwide.
China and the EU will also explore the possibilities for joint research into both the setting up of 5G and its applications in the area of the “Internet of Things”, which is the industry term for physical objects which have been enhanced with internet software, such as smart watches, self-driving cars, security systems or even your central heating system.
The agreement was signed by Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, and Miao Wei, Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology, and is similar to agreements the EU signed with South Korea and Japan earlier in the year.
Discussing the deal, Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: “5G will be the backbone of our digital economies and societies worldwide.
“This is why we strongly support and seek a global consensus and cooperation on 5G.
“With today’s signature with China, the EU has now teamed up with the most important Asian partners in a global race to make 5G a reality by 2020.
“It’s a crucial step in making 5G a success.”