For wireless subscribers in many areas of the United States, it’s difficult to remember what life was like before 4G LTE service blanketed the country. We’ll remind you: slow. 4G LTE download speeds can reach up to 20Mbps or even higher on some networks, but that’s nothing compared to what’s in store once 5G wireless networks begin rolling out in the years to come.

Just how fast can we expect these next-generation wireless networks to be? The International Telecommunication Union has stated that peak 5G data speeds should reach up to a blistering 20Gbps. To put that into perspective, the fastest widely available home broadband services in the country right now clock in at about 1Gbps, and they use land-based fiber optic networks.

It’s still early days but believe it or not, early tests are quite promising. In fact, the first large-scale field trial that utilized a sub-6GHz band for data yielded some impressive results when it was conducted in Japan earlier this week.

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5G wireless speed tests conducted over the past year or so have seen blistering peak speeds in excess of 10Gbps, but there are several problems with these tests. Beyond the fact that they were conducted in controlled environments, the Nokia 5G test that reached 10Gbps utilized spectrum in the 73GHz band, which isn’t feasible for a wide-scale public network because it would require a completely new infrastructure. Another recent test conducted by Samsung saw peak data speeds reach 7.5Gbps, but that used the 28GHz band.

Fast forward to earlier this week, and a major milestone was reached in Japan. Networking giant Huawei teamed up with Japanese wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo to conduct a large-scale public field trial with some new next-generation 5G equipment, and the results were very promising.

Using a sub-6GHz band, Huawei and NTT Docomo’s 5G trials achieved peak data speeds of 3.6Gbps. Spectrum under 6GHz is indeed feasible for a wide-scale wireless network; as a matter of fact, Huawei and NTTDocomo’s tests were conducted in the wild, rather than in a controlled environment in a lab.

“As the first in the world to succeed with such a large multi-user environment test, this is an important milestone,” NTT Docomo’s VP of 5G Takehiro Nakamura said. “This is very encouraging as the industry works to commercialize 5G by 2020. Both Huawei and DOCOMO teams have made tremendous efforts. I look forward to even more impressive results when we move to the next phase of field trial in Japan.”

Huawei Wireless CTO Dr. Wen Tong added, “This joint field trial represents a significant advance toward fulfilling Huawei’s commitment to developing 5G technology standards before 2018. Results like these show we are making rapid progress and are on the right path. I am confident that what we have learned here will be reflected in even more innovative technological advances as we continue working on 5G research.”

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