5G – a game changer for the telecommunications business

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November 14, 2019

Pilots are being developed over a wider range of sectors which include energy, transport, health care, agriculture, industry, environment, tourism, among others.…

The fifth generation of cellular wireless technology (5G) is the next stage of development from previous and existing mobile standards. As the next generation of mobile wireless technology, 5G will provide a better user experience through higher speeds, lower latency, and a more reliable connectivity.

In comparison to the latest 4G version available (LTE-Advanced), 5G is expected to deliver end user speeds up to 20 times higher, latency 10 times lower, and density of devices connected per square kilometer 10 times higher (Exhibit 1).

Exhibit 1: Evolution of mobile networks [Source: ITU]
Evolution of mobile networks [Source: ITU]

 While 5G will be an advance on previous mobile technologies, it will also be a game changer for the telecommunications sector. 5G brings new capabilities that will allow development of innovative and better services, which in turn will expand the service scope for mobile networks.

These new services (or use cases) are expected to create benefits across a range of sectors each with different network requirements. Three categories of use cases (Exhibit 2) have been already identified by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU):

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
  • Ultra-reliable and Low-latency Communications (uRLLC)
  • Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC).

Exhibit 2: Usage scenarios [Source: ITU]

Future IMT

With 5G mobile, networks will have the capacity to provide higher rates and volumes of data transmission per device. Operators will be able to start offering services which have high requirements for bandwidth (eMBB) such as high definition videos, virtual reality, and augmented reality. eMBB is also being considered as a last-mile alternative for areas where copper or fibre are not economically viable.

The second category of use cases (uRLLC) covers applications for which monitoring and control occur in real time, therefore low latency and ultra reliable connectivity are key requirements. Examples of these applications are industrial process control and self driving cars.

mMTC includes services which require high connection density and wide area coverage. Examples that fall into this category include the monitoring and automation of buildings, smart agriculture, tracking and fleet management.

With the introduction of new applications and services, mobile operators’ customer portfolios will be extended, reaching new industries and sectors. Pilots are being developed over a wide range of sectors, including energy, transport, health care, agriculture, industry, environment and tourism. The following examples of use cases developed around the world illustrate the diversity of possibilities that 5G technology could offer.

Autonomous cars

Low latency and ‘ultra-reliable’ 5G networks will support the development of intelligent transport systems. Smart vehicles will be able to communicate with each other creating opportunities for developing autonomous cars.

The Hanyang University of Korea, in collaboration with LG Uplus, has successfully completed the testing of a 5G self-driving car. The car (named A1) utilises artificial intelligence, 5G cameras, radars and sensors for gathering traffic information and detecting surrounding cars and other objects in its way.

Exhibit 3: 5G self-driving car testing in Seoul [Source: Hanyang University]

5G self-driving car testing in Seoul [Source: Hanyang University]

During the test the car drove itself through a congested highway in Seoul for about 8 kilometres, changed lanes and maintained appropriate distances from vehicles ahead without human intervention.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) established the “Levels of Driving Automation” standard that defines the six levels of driving automation, from no automation (level 0) to full automation (level 5) in which human driving is completely eliminated. The test demonstrated that A1 was close to level 4, only requiring human intervention in particular situations (when certain driving conditions are not met).

Autonomous vehicles will deliver several social and economic benefits. For example, traffic congestion in Australia is estimated to cost the country AUD53 billion by 2031. This cost could be reduced by using autonomous transport systems as it is expected that self-driving vehicles will be more efficient at navigating and clearing congestion.

Improved road safety is also expected to be another key benefit of autonomous vehicles, as the majority of car accidents are caused by human error. In the year ended in July 2017, there were around 1,200 deaths in Australia with road trauma costing around AUD27 billion annually. Self-driving vehicles can contribute significantly not only in terms of cost savings, but also in saving human lives.

Cruïlla 5G: immersive music experience

A music festival held in Barcelona (Cruïlla) was used as a testing ground for 5G technology applied to the entertainment industry. The project was promoted by Cruïlla and Mobile World Capital Barcelona, on behalf of 5G Barcelona, with ACCIONA, Cellnex, Qwilt and MASMOVIL as the technology partners.

Due to 5G’s lower latency and increased data rates, attendees at the festival were able to experience live concerts from the stage through a 360° immersive experience.

A 360° camera was installed on the stage to record images of the concert. Images captured by the camera were then processed by next generation computers which generated a three-dimensional visual effect to emulate the experience of being on stage with the artists. Images were received and broadcasted via small cells (using the 3.5GHz band) to 3D virtual reality headsets located in the Cruïlla 5G area in the festival village.

Content was broadcast with minimum latency so spectators’ entire virtual experience practically took place in real time. This was achieved through 5G’s capacity for providing enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliable and low latency connectivity, and the use of edge computing technology (Multi-access Edge Computing). This technology entails broadcasting the images closer to the end user which reduces total latency.

5G RuralFirst: improving productivity in agriculture through technology

Cisco, along with the University of Strathclyde and a consortium of partners, is leading 5G RuralFirst; a project which aims to create test-beds for 5G wireless and mobile connectivity in selected rural areas within the UK.

The project encompass implementing new approaches to 5G connectivity for the development of more efficient business models of critical industries that operate in rural areas, such as agriculture, tourism, renewable energy and manufacturing. There are seven strands to the project, one of which is Agri-tech. This project encompasses the use of 5G technology to improve how farmers grow crops and look after livestock.

5G enabled drones are used to analyse grass across 42 hectares of grazing fields. Drones equipped with multispectral imaging make use of the 5G high speed and low-latency data connectivity to provide information (high definition image) about quality and quantity of grass available in the grazing area. Grass is an important resource for livestock production, therefore well managed grassland provides farmers with increased economic benefits.

Farmed salmon is the UK’s largest food export hence a major contributor to the national economy. Measuring parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature is essential to ensure that fish stock is not at risk. While monitoring technologies have been available for a while, limited connectivity is a constraint for the deployment of this type of solution in rural areas. With 5G such monitoring is now feasible.

Orkney is an archipelago located off the north-eastern coast of Scotland where salmon farming is a key activity. Making use of the improved connectivity provided by 5G, farms around the archipelago are now able to monitor livestock remotely.

Cattle farmers are making use of IoT capabilities provided by 5G as well. Similar to the case of salmon farming, they keep track of cow’s eating pattern, fertility, and day-to-day health. For example, farmers receive alerts when an individual cow ovulates which allows optimisation of the timing of insemination, maximising the potential for pregnancy, and consequently milk yield.

5G: a game changer

5G has been more than fifteen years in the making and we are now starting to see commercial networks going live. While previous generations of mobile technologies were focused on personal communications, use cases show 5G’s potential for deploying new services. 5G will not only improve data speed and capacity for mobile and fixed wireless broadband networks, it is also expected to play a key role in creating productivity benefits in sectors such as transportation, health, manufacturing and agriculture.