A historic agreement between the EU and South Korea has been hailed as a “milestone” in the global race to develop 5G technologies. The agreement will see work on a common definition of 5G as well as joint 5G research projects.

Signed in June 2014, the Joint Declaration on Strategic Cooperation in Information Communications Technology (ICT) and 5G lays the ground for the deepening of discussions on networks and communications, 5G and cloud computing. The EU and South Korea will also prepare a call for research project proposals, to be launched in 2016.

The agreement answers a call earlier in 2014 by Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes for consensus on the scope of 5G, and in particular its main technological constituents and the timetable for putting it in place.

It is important to define the scope because it is widely understood that 5G will be more than just the next step after 4G. Yes, it will be faster than 4G. But 5G will also make it possible to connect people and things – from houses to cars and fridges to energy infrastructure – all at once, wherever the people and the ‘things’ are.

The EU and South Korea also agreed on the need for harmonised radio spectrum to ensure global interoperability, and for global 5G standards.

Today’s wireless devices use different frequencies to transmit and receive data, ensuring that the device does not interfere with itself, but limiting spectrum capacity at the same time. Recent research has shown that it is possible to isolate the ‘receive’ and ‘transmit’ part of a device so that it can transmit and receive on the same frequency. This would increase spectrum capacity twofold.

Several EU-funded research projects are preparing the ground for 5G, including METIS (5G network architecture), CROWD (dense wireless access networks) and 5GNOW (waveforms).