People have raised concerns about the dangers of technology for as long as there has been technology. Theories that question the safety of cell phones, as well as radio frequency radiation (RFR) in general, have been circulating for decades. This did not begin with 5G.
However, with the recent introduction of 5G masts to big cities around the world, along with the momentum of 5G cell phones and networks, the theories and concerns have multiplied, even to the point of protests. There are a variety of particular claims about how 5G is a health hazard, which range from unsubstantiated to misguided to ridiculous.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has given reasons why fifth generation (5G) mobile technology is key to Nigeria’s technological development because of the extremely fast transfer rate of large quantities of data, noting that it will revolutionise and transform socio-economic life, education, agriculture, security, entertainment, governance and manufacturing sectors.
Nigeria had between November 2019 and February 2020 conducted the first 5G trail test in the West Africa sub-region carried out by MTN Nigeria under the watchful eyes of the nation’s telecommunications regulator, the NCC. The trial took place in Abuja, the federal capital, Lagos and Calabar respectively in collaboration with global telecom equipment vendors, Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson.
The three telecom gear manufacturers, conducted immersive demo and experience to showcase the capabilities of 5G and its potential to enable economic growth, and social inclusion, simultaneously demonstrating a range of 5G use cases and applications at a test lab designed to show proof-of-concept in conjunction with MTN Nigeria, NCC and the Ministry of Communications Technology and Digital Economy.
What is 5G?
It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices. 5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users.
5G has the potential to provide 20X faster data speeds and carries a massive amount of data for a large number of simultaneous users. So users in high-density areas – like airports, stadiums or urban areas – can still experience the fast speeds and low latency of 5G service.
As the world replaces more and more household items with ‘smart devices’ that connect to the internet, also known as the Internet of Things, this network capacity will be critical. 5G will potentially be able to handle more than 2.5 million connected devices per square mile. 5G is a transformational change from 4G.
According to new insights gleaned by www.SiliconNigeria.com.ng, 5G will enhance technological development because of the extremely fast transfer rate of large quantities of data. Overall, it enables interconnected devices for instant communication. This is a new connected world of ‘Smart cities’ made possible by 5G networks.
It is extremely fast, supporting data transfer rates of up to 20Gbit/s, if supported by robust fibre infrastructure. On top of that, wireless data delays drop to one millisecond. This opens up the potential for multiple driverless cars, where large quantities of potentially lifesaving data have to be transferred almost instantaneously.
5G network is designed to carry data up to 10 times faster than 4G networks. This means HD movies can be downloaded in seconds. 5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps). 5G is 10 to x100 faster than 4G.The use of shorter frequencies (millimeter waves between 30GHz and 300GHz) for 5G networks is the reason why 5G is so fast.
5G By The Numbers
According to the GSM Association’s Mobile Economy 2020 Report, 5G is gaining pace. Mobile 5G is now commercially available from 46 operators in 24 markets worldwide; 79 operators across a further 39 markets have announced plans to launch mobile service.
“By 2025, 5G will account for 20 per cent of global connections, with take-up particularly strong across developed Asia, North America and Europe. To support this generational shift and further drive consumer engagement, operators are expected to invest around $1.1 trillion worldwide between 2020 and 2025 in mobile capex, roughly 80 per cent of which will be in 5G networks.”
According to GSMA Intelligence, there will be 1.8 billion 5G connections by 2025 led by Asia, North America, Europe, Gulf Arab countries, CIS, Latin America, rest of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Sub-Sharan Africa. Sub-Saharan is expected to have at least 31 million 5G connection by 2025.
As with the previous technologies, the International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has classified radiation from 5G as non-ionizing and therefore safe for human beings. 5G represents the future. While we have made tremendous progress since the advent of the global system of mobile communication (GSM) in Nigeria, 5G will be the bedrock of future communications.
According to GSMA’s Policy Position on 5G spectrum, ‘5G is expected to support significantly faster mobile broadband speeds and lower latencies than previous generations while also enabling the full potential of the Internet of Things.’
Operators require access to sufficient radio spectrum in suitable frequencies, particularly in the sub-1 GHz coverage bands and prime 5G mid- and mmWave bands. With key spectrum (26 GHz and 40 GHz) secured for mobile at the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), a global ecosystem can now begin to develop equipment, devices and services that take advantage of these frequencies.
The Mobile Economy 2020 Reports however, warns that governments and regulators should avoid inflating 5G spectrum prices (e.g. setting high auction reserve prices) or setting aside spectrum (e.g. for vertical industries) that has been identified for mobile.
5G will allow us to stream, download, and upload huge quantities of data at a much faster rate than we are currently able to. This means higher definition video either from TV or using video conferencing. Additionally, 5G is designed to facilitate a wealth of new applications for wireless technologies.
5G in Education, Healthcare
According to an NCC working paper, “5G will transform our educational system. The availability of a fast wireless network will enable virtual learning. For our educators, 5G will empower them to reimagine what is possible inside and outside their classrooms. The ability to download high quality and feature-length documentary in seconds, hosting a guest speaker via hologram or tutoring students virtually in real-time will speak to a 5G powered Nigeria.
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise healthcare. 5G will make it easier to determine potential diagnosis and decide on the best treatment plan. By moving to 5G networks, healthcare organisations can use the AI tools they need to provide the best care possible – from wherever they are in the hospital or clinic. AI can help predict which patients are more likely to have postoperative complications, allowing healthcare systems to provide early interventions when necessary.
5G and IoT
It is expected that 5G will support Nigerian businesses’ innovative ambitions and create new markets, transforming supply chain management and creating smarter, more efficient manufacturing. It is also a fundamental platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) — the rapidly expanding number of devices that collect transmit and share data via the internet.
The Mobile Economy 2020 Report says “IoT will be an integral part of the 5G era. Between 2019 and 2025, the number of global IoT connections will more than double to almost 25 billion, while global IoT revenue will more than triple to $1.1 trillion.”
Studies have shown that by the end of 2020 more than half of all new businesses will rely on the “IoT” to cut costs, build efficiencies, and grow their bottom lines. However, many of the innovations 5G technology will fuel literally may not be available yet especially in Nigeria. For the “IoT” to realise its limitless potential, 5G is critical.
Driverless cars and drones will be able to safely and near-instantaneously send and receive information about their surroundings that will allow them to operate safely. Immersive virtual and augmented realities will become increasingly feasible experiences as the large quantities of data associated with HD graphics and processing external data can be transferred between devices accurately and quickly.
5G on Business, User Experience
Researches show that Mobile augmented reality (AR) shopping experiences will revolutionise retail, with customers able to visualize products in a local environment. In-store, AR will enable shoppers to view additional information on a product simply by pointing their phones at it.
The NCC says a key benefit of 5G could be helping businesses work more quickly and more efficiently – in turn, saving costs and increasing revenue. Many countries are looking to 5G to better connect rural communities, allowing more people to start businesses from home and opening up opportunities.
According to the Commission, the shift from hardware to a software-based network environment will bring about lower overheads for mobile operators. Those savings will, in turn, be able to be passed on to business customers. With network slicing, it will be possible for a business to own their own private 5G network, precisely set up according to its specific business needs.
5G will certainly have much greater capacity across a much wider range of spectrums, but it will also use that space more intelligently, assigning only the resources necessary for each application.
Generally, Quality of Experience (QoE) by users of telecoms will improve significantly with 5G just as there has been improvement in speed and user experience from the evolutionary shift from 1G, 2G, 3G and current 4G in the country.
5G and Smart Cities
With 5G, we would have connected cities. In the area of transport and infrastructure, we would have Smart cars, car to car communications, smart parking, traffic decongestion and smart grids amongst others. We can have large scale events with thousands of users connected. Improved residential connections, smart energy and smart homes, e-health for health care and hospitals. Smart farms, Smart utilities, Remote management and Multi hop.
A recap of the features of 5G include: Faster response time, Very high capacity, More software options to upgrade, Ubiquitous connectivity, Wide range of applications, Speed up to 10Gbit/s, Virtually ‘0’ latency, and 100 times more devices. Among the benefits of 5G to Internet of Things are: Deep coverage – to reach challenging locations; Ultra low energy- 10+ years of battery life, Ultra-low complexity- 10s bits per second, and Ultra-low high density -1 million nodes per km2.