Samsung announces it has developed technology that could sit “at the core of 5G” – the successor to the 4G mobile-communications standard.
The Korean company says its equipment is capable of transmitting data at more than 1 Gbps across a distance of up to 2 km (1.2 miles).
It suggests the tech would eventually allow users to stream ultra-high-definition video while on the move.
However, one expert says the news needs to be put in context.
Prof. Rahim Tafazolli – who heads up the University of Surrey’s 5G research efforts – suggests that even if the latest development was used, it would only be “a small part of the larger jigsaw” of technologies needed to deliver 5G.
His words carry weight since his own £35 million ($55 million) project to develop a 5G standard is part-funded by Samsung.
Samsung says it has developed the world’s first “adaptive array transceiver” technology, an innovation that allows part of the super-high-frequency Ka band of the radio spectrum – at 28GHz – to be used for cellular data transmission.
Samsung announces it has developed technology that could sit at the core of 5G
The firm indicates its equipment, which features 64 antenna elements, overcomes a problem involved with using this frequency, which can cause the signal to weaken in rainy conditions.
“Samsung’s recent success in developing the adaptive array transceiver technology has brought us one step closer to the commercialization of 5G mobile communications in the millimetre-wave bands,” said Chang-Yeong Kim, head of the firm’s Digital Media & Communication Centre in Seoul.
A press release added that Samsung hoped devices based on the technology could be brought to market by 2020, offering mobile data transfers “up to several hundred times faster” than today’s 4G tech.
“As a result, subscribers will be able to enjoy a wide range of services such as 3D movies and games, real-time streaming of ultra-high-definition (UHD) content, and remote medical services,” it said.
Prof. Rahim Tafazolli stressed it would still be some years before the 5G standard was finalized.
His own team’s efforts were focused on transmitting data over an even higher frequency band in the radio spectrum, he added.
He also said it was not inevitable that whatever technology was agreed on would offer much faster data speeds, suggesting that finding a way for the next-generation system to cope with the expected growth in demand for mobile data use might take priority.
“Some of the companies are still putting too much emphasis on speed when discussing going from one generation to another generation,” he said.
“In my opinion 4G achieves a decent speed and what we need to do is crack the capacity crunch we are facing.”
Prof. Rahim Tafazolli’s work is funded by Samsung, Huawei, Fujitsu Laboratories and the UK government, among others. Alternative work is being carried out in Japan, China and elsewhere.
Developing the technologies involved in 5G could prove lucrative.
As an industry standard, its inventors would have to license the innovations involved to rivals, but they would be able to charge a small fee for each device that used them.
Discussions about which part of the radio spectrum to use will take place at the UN’s World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015.
According to research firm Strategy Analytics, Samsung Electronics has overtaken Nokia to become the world’s largest maker of mobile phones.
Nokia took the top spot in 1998 from Motorola, but in the first quarter of 2012 Samsung shipped 93 million phones compared to almost 83 million by Nokia.
Samsung also reported its highest quarterly profit since 2008.
Net profit was 5.05 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in the quarter ending 31 March, up 81% from 2.78 trillion won last year.
Samsung is also the world’s biggest TV and flat screen maker.
“We cautiously expect our earnings momentum to continue going forward, as competitiveness in our major businesses is enhanced,” said Robert Yi, head of investor relations at Samsung.
Samsung said its IT and mobile communications division, which manufactures the smartphones, made an operating profit of 4.27 trillion won during the period, as revenues in the division surged 86% from a year earlier.
Samsung Electronics has overtaken Nokia to become the world's largest maker of mobile phones
Samsung will unveil the latest version of its Galaxy range of phones on 3 May.
The Galaxy range has been very popular and helped Samsung overtake Apple to become the world’s biggest seller of smartphones.
“The smartphone market has almost only two players, Samsung and Apple,” said Lee Sei-Cheol of Meritz Securities.
“Since its Galaxy3 phone is being unveiled in May, Samsung will keep enjoying sales growth in its mobile phone division.”
Global demand for smartphones is expected to increase further in coming years, with research firm IDC forecasting that global smart phone shipments will rise by a third to 659.8 million units in 2012.
Analysts said that given its robust growth and dominance in the sector, Samsung was well placed to benefit from this growth and boost its market share.
However, given the robust growth in the sector, other smartphone makers are also keen to introduce new products and tap into the fast-growing market.
Samsung is facing stiff competition from rivals such as US-based Apple, Finland’s Nokia, and Taiwan’s HTC.
Apple, which said earlier this week that it sold 35 million of its iPhones in the first quarter, is expected to launch a new version of its handset later this year.
Analysts said that as more models are launched, manufacturers may have to the cut price of their handsets in a bid to attract consumers, a move that may see profit margins shrink.
“Samsung’s handset earnings may weaken in the latter half of this year, with the possible launch of Apple’s iPhone 5,” said Brian Park of Tong Yang Securities.
Another area of concern for Samsung is likely to be its chip manufacturing unit, which has been hurt by slowing global demand for personal computers.
The firm is one of the world’s biggest makers of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips, which are widely used in personal computers.
However, demand for these chips has been declining as consumers turn to tablet PCs, which mostly use flash memory chips.
At the same time, falling prices have also hurt profitability in the sector.
Samsung’s memory-chip division saw its profits slide by 54% during the first quarter when compared with the same period a year earlier.
The company said it expected the demand for DRAM chips to rebound in the coming months, but warned that growing competition in the sector “will lead to a price decline”.