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Samsung’s 5G Breakthrough to Benefit Medical Device Applications

And you thought 4G was fast. Samsung has announced it is working on a 5G wireless standard that is potentially hundreds of times faster than current 4G networks. Slated to debut in 2020, the wireless standard could be used in medical devices that enable physicians to see high-resolution images remotely, Samsung explained in a statement. The 5G format also will enable real-time streaming of ultra high-definition content "practically without limitation." The speed is so fast that the network could be used to download a two hour movie in one second.

Samsung has been gradually increasing its presence in the medical technology and health-tracking niches. In 2010, it acquired Medison, a Korean maker of ultrasonic equipment. The company also has a presence in healthcare IT; a portion of its website is devoted to the health tracking applications of its smartphone technology.

Samsung researchers working on 5G wireless technology. The image was drawn from the company's announcement.

Supporting the 5G breakthrough is an advance in adaptive array transceiver technology. In tests, the millimeter-wave band proved capable of transmitting at a speed as high 1.056 Gbps as far as two kilometers. The millimeter range has historically been difficult to work with because of the difficulty of transmitting the signals over distances and into buildings. In a statement, Samsung explained that adaptive array transceiver technology using 64 antenna elements "can be a viable solution for overcoming the radio propagation loss at millimeter-wave bands, much higher than the conventional frequency bands ranging from several hundred MHz to several GHz."

While acknowledging the potential theoretical benefits of 5G wireless technology, a recent piece in Time points out that the such technology could also make cell networks to choke. As the author, Matt Peckham explains: "as long as towers are congested by increasing numbers of data users accessing ever larger files and data streams, and as long as we're trying to do all that on devices with paltry local storage, it won't matter how fast the motor goes."

In related news, in the next five years, nearly five million disposable wireless Medical Body Area Network (MBAN) sensors are projected to be shipped according to market research firm ABI Research. Large healthcare players such as GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare are proponents of MBAN adoption. In May 2012, the FCC voted to dedicate the spectrum of 2360-2400 MHz for the networks.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.

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