5G — a dream mobile technology on the horizon

Syed Amdadul Huq | Published: November 06, 2018 21:31:17 | Updated: November 07, 2018 20:58:43

Huawei products are displayed on the sidelines of the Bangladesh 5G Summit 2018 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on July 25, 2018. — Photo: Xinhua

No sooner had the euphoria about 4G technology died down, a vastly improved 5G started to knock at our door. Mobile telecom operators say, 5G will revolutionise the way in which we use the internet and is slated to play a vital role in automatic driving, artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), and smart cities. 5G is the next step in the evolution of mobile wireless communications technology, promising improved connectivity, greater network speeds and bandwidth, and very low latency.  

Indeed, technology is not only the most important catalyst for progress and prosperity but also is an important shield for survival in today's highly competitive environment. Among the technologies, mobile technology has seen unprecedented consumer's growth around the globe. The global transformation of digital technology is mainly internet-driven where mobile technology plays a stellar role. Mobile android phone, otherwise known as smart phone, is extremely popular to all sections of the people, irrespective of age and gender, due to ease of operation and multiple utilities. It has indeed become a new culture in which people across the world are deeply immersed.

The mysterious "Gs" represent the various mobile technologies into different "generations." GSMA (Global System Mobile Association) Intelligence has defined mobile technologies in terms of services and performance ranging from 1G for analogue phone calls to 4G for all IP (Internet Protocol) services with faster broadband internet, lower latency.

The global official target for introduction of 5G mobile technology is 2020. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has framed draft technical specifications for 5G where following major items have been incorporated:

  • high data rates (1 Gbps for hotspots, 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload for wide-area coverage)
  • massive connectivity (1 million connections per square kilometre)
  • ultra-low latency (1 millisecond)
  • high reliability (99.999 per cent for mission critical 'ultra-reliable' communications), and
  • mobility at high speeds (up to 500 km/h).

The draft specifications indicate that the expected performances and services of 5G will be significantly better than 4G - peak data rate (20Gbits/s) 20 times higher, spectrum efficiency 3 times more, network energy efficiency enhancement by 100 times etc. 

5G has immense potential for the development of telecom industry.  3G and especially 4G technologies were designed primarily for the superfast mobile internet. 5G will continue on this direction, but also will also target what are known as vertical markets, which encompass several segments, including:

  • Connect vehicles - to guarantee safety via communications both between vehicles and between vehicles and infrastructure;
  • Factories of the future - smart cities with requirements in the areas of public transportation (similar to the needs of connected vehicles), the environment, managing buildings and energy consumption;
  • Medicine, healthcare and robot-assisted tele-surgery;
  • Smart grid flow monitoring and management (electricity, gas, water, etc.).

Enormous potential for digital economy, notwithstanding, there are challenges to overcome to embrace 5G. Key challenges are:

  • New business models focused on vertical markets: Demand for increased investment for modernising businesses and their means of production.
  • Spectrum harmonisation: 5G is emerging as a technology that will use both low frequencies as well as high frequencies. Involvement of Satellite industry will be crucial to defining these new generation network.
  • Increasingly small cells: 5G, which will probably bring about a sizeable increase in data traffic, and which will use millimeter wave frequencies whose propagation capabilities are weak, will no doubt require the widespread deployment of low-power base stations (small cells).
  • Net neutrality issues: it excludes any form of discrimination with respect to the source, the destination or the content of data flows.

Every innovation generates a global race for leadership. 5G, better, faster and cheaper, will create new consumer opportunities, technologies that can't even be imagined today, and new business models that reshape the way we think about communications. Many countries around the world  are ready to welcome 5G as an economic development platform. Countries that want to stay competitive in the global economy are adapting 5G technology. USA, South Korea, Sweden, Estonia, Turkey, Japan, Russia, Finland and China have been leading in adapting to 5G technologies. India also aims to roll out 5G services in the country by 2020.

Spurred by Vision 2021 to transform the country into 'Digital Bangladesh', mobile subscribers' growth has been phenomenal. Government initiatives for integration of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) with national development plans and programmes, supported by nationwide internet infrastructures and connectivity, have resulted in impressive improvement of the sector. The volume of internet subscribers in Bangladesh, particularly mobile-based internet subscriber, is impressive in the backdrop of a sustainable and significant economic growth.  As on October 01, 2018, the number of mobile subscribers has reached a staggering figure of 155.810 million, of internet subscribers, 91.914 million, and of mobile internet subscriber, 85.38 million, according to Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC). Bangladesh has been recognised globally as one of the three-most contributing countries for increased internet access at household level in Asia and Pacific Region as reflected in "Measuring the Information Society Report 2017, Vol-2" of International Telecommunication Union (ITU). GSMA has also identified Bangladesh as one of the fastest growing markets in South Asia for mobile penetration where mobile connection has grown more than 15 times within 2006 to 2017 from 13 per cent to 94 per cent.

Bangladesh always embraces the latest technology. The government has drawn up a strategy to roll out the 5G dream technology in the near future. A demonstration of 5G has been carried out in Bangladesh in recent time. Telecommunications policies and strategies are being revised. Telecommunications infrastructures have already been extended up to union level. Enhanced International Internet network connectivity through submarine cable has been established. Recent launching of Bangabandhu Sattelite-1 will improve telecommunications connectivity. A skilled, innovative and digitally motivated huge youth pool has been involved in digital sectors.  The launching of 5G technology will help materialise the Digital Bangladesh initiative.

Syed Amdadul Huq is a Joint Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh, Posts and Telecommunications Division.


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