Score! 5G to be reality by 2018 soccer World Cup

Ultra-fast 5G internet could kick off at the soccer World Cup in 2018, backed by two of China and Russia's biggest telecoms companies, beating the European Union to the post.

Huawei and MegaFon signed an agreement on Wednesday to build trial 5G networks to be rolled out during the FIFA World Cup in Russia, beating the European Union's expectations that they would have next generation mobile internet in 2020.

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The next step in mobile internet could allow users to download a one-hour high-definition film in six seconds, and is seen as the lifeblood for the global digital economy with devices connected via the "Internet of Things," such as smart meters and cars, set to be wired up to the service.

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"With support of MegaFon, we are confident of turning a science-fiction-like service into 5G reality for citizens in Russia and soccer fans around the world," Ryan Ding, president of Huawei products and solution, said in a press release.


Telecoms analysts expect to see progress on 5G by 2018 but don't think wide-scale adoption will only be a reality by 2020, after standards bodies have approved the way networks are set up.

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Bringing 5G to life is not without its challenges, with companies experimenting with higher radio spectrums to achieve faster internet speeds.

"The higher you go in terms of spectrum, the poorer the propagation of the signal. So you can't blast a signal over the kinds of distance you have with current networks," Julian Bright, senior analyst at Ovum's intelligent networks division, told CNBC by phone.

To make it work, network equipment manufacturers will have to create a so-called "ultra-small cell network". These are essentially little receivers that can take the high speed signal and pass it from one small cell to another so it can travel along further distances.

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Manufacturers have also not made devices capable of using 5G.

Huawei are not the only company investing in the next generation of mobile internet. Swedish telecoms company Ericsson and South Korea's Samsung have both carried out tests. The EU has invested 700 million euros ($899 million) over the next seven years and signed a partnership with Seoul last year to develop infrastructure as well.