5G: What is it good for?

5

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend|Tech -

G, or 5th Gen­er­a­tion Mo­bile, is the next big leap in wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions. You’ve prob­a­bly heard about it in com­mer­cials or seen it in head­lines. But much of the dis­cus­sion so far about the new tech­nol­ogy has been fo­cused on its en­gi­neer­ing features, in­fra­struc­ture re­quire­ments and public pol­icy con­sid­er­a­tions. With tech­ni­cal buzz­words like “net­work slic­ing,” “beam­form­ing,” and “multi-ac­cess edge com­put­ing,” it may be hard to re­ally un­der­stand what 5G is all about and why we should care.

Here, then, is a brief ex­pla­na­tion of how 5G will be used and what it will mean for your on­line ex­pe­ri­ence - and your ev­ery­day life. Ex­ist­ing ap­pli­ca­tions: 5G, which will sup­ple­ment rather than re­place to­day’s 4G net­works, will rad­i­cally im­prove the band­width, ca­pac­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity of mo­bile broad­band, much more than in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tional shifts. How? In part by pack­ing thou­sands of small an­ten­nae onto cell tow­ers, util­ity poles and build­ings, 5G will push mo­bile speeds from 100 Mbps to up­ward of 10 Gbps, a thou­sand-fold in­crease that will make next-gen­er­a­tion wire­less com­pet­i­tive with even the fastest fiber-op­tic wired net­works.

With all that new ca­pac­ity, ex­pect to be watch­ing even more high-def­i­ni­tion video on your smart­phone or tablet, in­clud­ing ul­tra­high def­i­ni­tion movies and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies such as aug­mented and vir­tual re­al­ity ap­pli­ca­tions (think of Poké­mon Go as a pro­to­type). The ben­e­fits to come: But the real ex­cite­ment over 5G comes with new uses that sim­ply aren’t pos­si­ble with to­day’s net­works. Many of these in­volve the revo­lu­tion in sen­sors, low-cost trans­mit­ters and cloud-based soft­ware known as the In­ter­net of Things (IOT), or “con­nected” or “smart” de­vices.

Right now, IOT prod­ucts in­clude stand­alone de­vices, such as fit­ness mon­i­tors, smart ther­mostats, pro­gram­mable door locks and light­bulbs, con­nected ap­pli­ances and other gad­gets. But as bil­lions more things go on­line over the next sev­eral years, they will be us­ing 5G net­works to send and re­ceive mas­sive amounts of new data.

Uses for that in­for­ma­tion will scale up from the deeply per­sonal to the global - con­nect­ing you, your home and your com­mu­nity.

At the hu­man level, for ex­am­ple, 5G will be used for con­nect­ing smart cloth­ing, pros­thetic de­vices, and even in­gestible health mon­i­tors. Con­sider start-up Veristride, which has been work­ing since 2012 on smart shoe tech­nol­ogy. That might sound silly, but not to the millions of Amer­i­cans with tem­po­rary or per­ma­nent mo­bil­ity is­sues, for whom con­stant feed­back from on­board sen­sors could help teach them to walk again af­ter a stroke or surgery.

At home, 5G net­works will move be­yond the cliche of re­frig­er­a­tors that au­to­mat­i­cally re­order milk to fully in­te­grated liv­ing spa­ces that ad­just to the needs of ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily, pro­vid­ing home se­cu­rity, op­ti­mis­ing power and water us­age, and per­son­al­is­ing en­ter­tain­ment. Smart homes will be much more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient. But more im­por­tant for an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, 5G net­works will help se­niors to age in place, mon­i­tor­ing their med­i­ca­tions, con­nect­ing them to tele­health ser­vices and track­ing ev­ery­thing from sleep to in­sulin lev­els.

Ru­ral users will ben­e­fit as well, as 5G en­ables smart agri­cul­ture, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with sen­sors in the ground, in crops and on live­stock and farm ma­chin­ery. Along with weather satel­lites and drones, these tech­nolo­gies will help farm­ers know when and how much to water, fer­tilise and ap­ply pes­ti­cides in more ef­fec­tive and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly ways. Smart farm­ing may also drive the case for de­ploy­ing 5G net­works to ru­ral ar­eas more rapidly, clos­ing what re­mains of the digital di­vide as a happy side ef­fect.

In cities and across na­tional bor­ders, fi­nally, 5G’s ul­tralow trans­mis­sion de­lay (or “la­tency”) will be cru­cial for au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, smart en­ergy grids and con­nected in­fra­struc­ture. These will not only im­prove the qual­ity of govern­ment and util­ity ser­vices but also en­hance public safety, health and sus­tain­abil­ity. Al­ready, smart city tech­nol­ogy in such places as Barcelona, Sin­ga­pore and Colum­bus, Ohio, is be­ing used for in­stant crime re­port­ing, smart street­lights and sen­sors that mon­i­tor ev­ery­thing from air qual­ity to park­ing spa­ces and garbage col­lec­tion.

Colum­bus, work­ing with a $40 mil­lion com­pet­i­tive grant from the US De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion, is con­nect­ing ve­hi­cles, roads and other trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture. A va­ri­ety of ap­pli­ca­tions will test the po­ten­tial for reducing traf­fic con­ges­tion, au­to­mat­i­cally re­port­ing needed road re­pairs [LD1] and, for self-driv­ing cars and trucks, ve­hi­cleto-ve­hi­cle com­mu­ni­ca­tions that will al­low traf­fic to flow in co­or­di­nated groups in what is known as “pla­toon­ing.”

As with other 5G ap­pli­ca­tions, the ben­e­fits to tax­pay­ers of smart cities are wide­spread, in­clud­ing lower cap­i­tal, in­sur­ance and op­er­at­ing costs, cou­pled with im­prove­ments in health, safety and the en­vi­ron­ment. In the United States alone, for ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to DOT, nearly 40,000 peo­ple are killed an­nu­ally in ve­hi­cle-re­lated ac­ci­dents, many the re­sult of hu­man er­ror. It the­ory, the sooner we de­ploy re­li­able self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy and con­nect it with next-gen­er­a­tion mo­bile broad­band, the sooner more lives can be saved.

Of course, with all that new data be­ing col­lected and an­a­lysed, gov­ern­ments and en­trepreneurs will need to work to­gether to ad­dress height­ened pri­vacy and safety con­cerns.

De­ploy­ing 5G net­works will re­quire co­or­di­na­tion of nearly ev­ery fed­eral, state and lo­cal agency. The Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, for ex­am­ple, is work­ing to make avail­able the vast new ra­dio fre­quen­cies that 5G re­lies on and to en­sure that lo­cal gov­ern­ments don’t un­duly de­lay in­stal­la­tion of new in­fra­struc­ture. Congress re­cently passed leg­is­la­tion to en­cour­age de­ploy­ments on fed­eral lands.

With the po­ten­tial to re­make and revitalise lo­cal in­dus­tries in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health care, man­u­fac­tur­ing, en­ergy, en­ter­tain­ment and agri­cul­ture, it’s no sur­prise that net­work op­er­a­tors, equip­ment providers and for­ward­think­ing pol­i­cy­mak­ers are fully en­gaged in the com­ing 5G revo­lu­tion.

Wall Street, on the other hand, is skep­ti­cal. It’s es­ti­mated that de­ploy­ing 5G tech­nol­ogy will cost up­ward of $200 bil­lion a year for the next five to 10 years in the United States alone - nearly all of it com­ing from pri­vate in­vestors. Un­til it’s more widely un­der­stood how much and to whom the ben­e­fits of 5G ap­pli­ca­tions will flow, build­out may not pro­ceed fast enough to com­pete with other early adopt­ing coun­tries, no­tably China.

That’s an­other rea­son to en­gage con­sumers on the ben­e­fits of 5G be­yond just better and speed­ier smart­phones. The tech­nol­ogy’s very vo­cal boost­ers need to boost the band­width of public ed­u­ca­tion well be­yond the buzz­words. And tak­ing a cue from the tech­nol­ogy it­self, they need to do it a lot faster.

– The Wash­ing­ton Post

Photo: The Wash­ing­ton Post

Dis­plays pro­mote 5G tech­nol­ogy at the World IT Show 2018 in Seoul last month.

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