Most of us still don't even have access to a 4G wireless network, but that's not stopping engineers from going ahead and developing a 5G sequel.
As the 2013 Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona, Spain, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes announced that the European Union will spend $65.4 million to support the development of a 5G network. The goal is to have it ready to go by 2020.
At this point, 5G exists only in the abstract. The term doesn't refer to any specifications, nor has it been described in detail by any official paper on the subject of wireless technology. What makes up a 4G connection hasn't even garnered universal agreement, so this could take awhile.
Kroes lamented the fact that Europe has begun to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to wireless technology.
"Europe used to lead the world in wireless: we invented the GSM standard, we once dominated devices," she said. "Yet now we are falling behind. Overtaken to the East and the West. We urgently need to catch up. To reclaim a strong wireless industry. To cement a strong economy. And to give people the technological tools to access and create opportunity."
Since 2007, the European Union has spent more than $915 million on the development of new wireless technologies, and Kroes wants the continent to be on the front lines of 5G creation.
"I want 5G to be pioneered by European industry, based on European research and creating jobs in Europe — and we will put our money where our mouth is," said Kroes.
Telecommunication CEOs used the MWC to say that Europe needs to play a bigger part in wireless development and distribution — and also blame the continent's regulatory policies for slowing the process down.
"Regulation in the past 15 years has led towards a single purpose, which is to provide a short-term benefit for the consumer. That's it," said France Telecom-Orange CEO Stephane Richard. "Today, this continent realizes that the industry is weak, that the main operators are in weak positions, the markets don't like them, and they are still indebted."