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What to expect from move to 5G

Opinion Piece

An expert Q&A section on the imminent 5G mobile network on the Science Media Centre (SMC) website is introduced with the question: 5G has been lauded as a game-changing technology, but will it actually change our lives?

While health fears were being expressed over this upgraded use of radio spectrum — which has been used for decades to transmit our TV, radio and mobile phone signals, and considered safe — SMC says that “On the other end of the spectrum, the 5G hype machine has been going into overdrive, promising the new technology will allow fleets of driverless cars to navigate our streets and surgeons to perform operations remotely.”

Massey University senior lecturer in communications engineering and networks Dr Faraz Hasan says the 5G (ie 5th generation) mobile phone technology that will become available next year is “better than 4G for the same reason that 4G is better than 3G — it’s about how quickly you can send and receive information, and how many devices you can connect to the network simultaneously”.

Asked what commercial applications we are most likely to see in New Zealand, Dr Hasan says:

“5G will be great for data-hungry applications, for example virtual reality . . . . 5G’s ability to handle large volumes of data can enable several ‘virtually real’ use cases like remotely driven cars, live streaming the scene attended by first responders, allowing online medical consultations, etc.”

Also, amalgamating artificial intelligence and 5G can help predict traffic congestion; large datasets acquired from hundreds of sensors spread across agricultural land can help in monitoring and predicting soil conditions, dampness, salinity, etc; and 5G “can help extend the reach of the government’s fibre optic infrastructure using wireless links, while maintaining fibre-like speeds and capacity”.

Asked about cybersecurity concerns, Dr Hasan said security issues would always remain around connectivity in general, but the severity of such issues increased if connectivity was wireless and interconnecting with “not just our laptops and mobile phones, but vehicles, medical professionals, livestock and even our power grid”.