5G offers world’s biggest mobile market a gateway to the industrial internet

October 15, 2018

Networks based on 5G, the next-generation mobile technology, are expected to start commercial service from 2020. These would support a broader adoption of consumer and industrial applications that take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies. The countries that launch 5G first are likely to see increased economic benefits from connecting billions of devices and building new services on the advanced mobile infrastructure.

The fifth generation of mobile technology means more than just faster data speeds and greater network capacity. It also provides a foundation for connecting an unlimited number of machines to one another for day-to-day communication. A 5G network will support: a million connected devices per square kilometre; transmit a package of data with a delay of just 1 millisecond and provide peak data download speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second.

The delay on a 4G network is about 50ms, which is unsuitable for the quick response times needed by driverless cars. That could be the difference between life and death. Consumers will be able to share, stream and download ultra high-resolution 4K videos on their 5G smartphones within a few seconds. Typical 4G users will not be able to do that because 4K video streaming would need an estimated minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second. It is estimated that 5G will provide mininum download speeds of 100Mbps, compared with less than 10Mbps in 4G.

How 5G works differently from 4G

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Real-time safety systems are crucial for advances being made in the transport sector. Driverless cars, for example, require 5G to exchange data between vehicles and fixed infrastructure around them to avoid collisions or hit pedestrians. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and intelligent transport systems demand data delays far lower than what 4G provides.

Commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 involves the adoption of advanced information and communications technologies to improve industrial efficiency. Faced with rising labour costs, Chinese manufacturers have been deploying industrial robots and installing sensors, as part of an industrial internet of things, on the factory floor to enhance their competitiveness. 5G mobile technology is expected to enhance how factories remotely control and operate these machines, monitor their supply chain, and communicate with external systems, while keeping their costs down.

With faster and more reliable networks, 5G is poised to help in the transformation of the health care sector. It would support wearable devices to monitor patients, secure online consultations through high-definition video, remote procedures like robotic surgery and use of smart pills.

VR immerses a user in an imagined world, like in a video game, with the aid of an opaque headset, while AR provides an overlay of high-resolution digital imagery. Both technologies are expected to deliver a better experience with 5G’s faster data transmission. Outside of gaming, 5G could also drive the use of VR and AR in other practical applications, such as telemedicine, education and manufacturing.

A smart city uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare. The ability of a 5G network to support up to a million connected devices per kilometre will prove invaluable in smart traffic management, as more sensors are deployed to monitor and control traffic flow, conserve energy and raise efficiency using data analysis.

The 5G race

The countries that adopt 5G are expected to experience disproportionate economic gains compared to those that lag behind, which is similar to the economic advantages experienced by early adopters of previous generations of wireless technology. The potential economic benefits of 5G will soon become a key differentiator for cities looking to attract and retain businesses and residents.

As an indicator of which countries are leading the 5G race, Analysys Mason conducted a comparative assessment of 10 nations’ 5G readiness. The index evaluation used factors such as infrastructure policies, industry investment and government support. The survey found the US, Japan, and South Korea have all made significant strides toward 5G readiness, but none on the same scale as China. It said infrastructure spending and telecoms tower density have distinguished China’s 5G development efforts so far.

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Since 2015, China has outspent the US by US$24 billion in wireless communications infrastructure, according to a Deloitte study. It found China’s three network operators have built 350,000 new cell phone tower sites, while the US has set up fewer than 30,000 in the same time frame. China, which has the world’s largest smartphone market and internet population, has projected 5G mobile network investments to reach about US$405 billion from 2020 to 2030.

Trial cities in China
The country’s three telecoms operators are piloting 5G in more than a dozen cities


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