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The next generation of mobile broadband must have a top speed of 20Gbps, compared to the 1Gbps that 4G currently offers, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has decreed.

Currently earmarked for a 2020 rollout, 5G is expected to have the capability to significantly outpace the 4G services that many UK consumers currently benefit from, but not everyone will have 20Gbps speeds.

At the moment, 4G's headline speed is still classed as 1Gbps, but this is very rarely reached - instead, providers are only required to support peak data speeds of up to 100Mbps in a high mobility multi-user environment.

This is also set to be the case for 5G, so although the target for providers has been set at 20Gbps, they will be able to market a service as long as it provides average performance of 100Mbps to over a million Internet of Things devices within 1 sq km.

This, in effect, means that the 20Gbps target may never be reached - similar to the current situation with 4G.

The next stage of the process will be to establish detailed technical performance requirements for the frequencies required to support 5G, which will represent another significant challenge, but the movement marks progress, according to Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General.

He commented: "The buzz in the industry on future steps in mobile technology - namely 5G - has seen a sharp increase, with attention now focused on enabling a seamlessly connected society in the 2020 timeframe and beyond that bringing together people along with things, data, applications, transport systems and cities in a smart networked communications environment."

He added that the ITU will continue its partnership with mobile broadband providers and governmental bodies to ensure the 2020 target for 5G becomes a reality.

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