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Ericsson hits crazy-fast 5Gbps wireless speed in 5G trial

Too bad it's only in a lab. Mass deployment of such technology isn't expected until at least 2020.

Ericsson's vision of a "networked society," in model form. Roger Cheng/CNET

Forget 4G. Ericsson already has its sights set on the dizzying speeds that can be achieved with 5G.

The telecommunications gear maker said Tuesday it had conducted a test that achieved a connection speed of 5 gigabits per second over the air, part of its plans for 5G wireless technology. The bad news: commercial deployment won't actually occur until at least 2020.

Still, the 5Gbps benchmark, which is 250 times faster than today's standard LTE connection, marks a record for the wireless industry and is an indication of speeds to come. Such speeds are beneficial for smartphones, of course, but also for cars, medical equipment, and other devices.

"If LTE was about getting everyone connected, 5G is about getting everything connected," said Johan Wibergh, head of the networks business unit for Ericsson.

Ericsson's test provides a glimpse into the theoretical future of wireless. With a 5Gbps connection, a 50GB movie would take about 80 seconds to download. It's also five times faster than Google Fiber's 1Gbps wired connection.

But the test marks a theoretical peak speed amid ideal conditions -- something consumers rarely experience. There also remains a lot of work to do in standardizing 5G technology, so a 2020 launch of 5G networks could end up being overly optimistic.

Wibergh, however, maintains that consumers eventually will be able to access such connection speeds.

"We don't put out tests we can't achieve in real life," he told CNET. "We know what it takes to bring it to a real high-performing network."

For Ericsson, the benchmark is critical as the telecom equipment maker faces increased competition from the likes of Huawei and ZTE, Chinese vendors that have been successful in winning business through aggressive pricing.

"It's important to show we're the leader in taking the next step from 4G to 5G," Wibergh said.

Japan's NTT Docomo and South Korea's SK Telecom have already committed to conducting 5G trials with Ericsson. The high penetration of LTE in North America suggests 5G will likely come there early, Ericsson said, but no carriers have committed yet.

Corrected at 11:08 am PT: The previous version of the story misspelled the Ericsson executive's name.