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How Much will 5G Data Cost?

Elena Neira
August05/ 2016


Enabling 5G data-hungry streaming apps like virtual reality, 360 video, and augmented worlds means delivery big volumes of data to our smartphones. Even Today a single video stream needs from 0.3 GB per hour for low resolution, and up to 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD. If multiple streams, multiple devices, 24/7 service and billions of user are to be served, then the feasibility of 5G rests largely on the infrastructure to deliver cost-effectively these large volumes of data .

Increasing network infrastructure capacity to meet increasing data demand is no easy task. But the mobile industry has been doing just that one generation after another. The chart below shows the dramatic reduction in the cost to deliver 1 megabyte of data from 2G to 4G.

Despite the rapid rise in mobile traffic, technology, operational and business process improvements were able to reduce the cost per megabyte of data delivered. On the technology side, continuous innovation, over a number of years in radio access, transmission and core technologies are responsible for these improvements. In 5G, the expectation is to further reduce this cost


Cost of Delivering a Megabyte of Data in 2G, 3G and 4G (Source: Telstra)
Cost of Delivering a Megabyte of Data from 2G to 4G (Source: Telstra)


The technologies that are being looked at to achieve these efficiencies are on the wireless side bits/Hz spectral efficiency improvements, MIMO transmit diversity improvements, further channel coding improvements for interference and noise management, and multi-radio capabilities. Efficiencies are also in the wire side with improved IP/Transport protocols, slicing the network architecture, densification of deployments, and support for virtualization.


@elenaneira BETA [article under development to complete for a coming 5G Magazine issue]


Elena Neira