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July 6, 2016

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The brave new world of 5G technology . . .

EDITOR’S note:

Internet Plus, a concept highlighted in the govern­ment work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the annual session of the Na­tional People’s Congress in Beijing in March, is pushing the boundaries of China’s traditional industries. Nowa­days, enterprises across the country are embracing changes by incorporating advancements in the Inter­net and related technologies into their business models. In a series by Shanghai Daily, we explore how this concept is reshaping our world.

DRONES, robots, autonomous driving and high-speed Internet connection on Metro lines were among the next-generation applications of 5G technologies tantalizing visitors at the World Mobile Congress in Shanghai last week.

These industry fairs give the public a chance to gauge the gap between innovative ideas and hard reality. It’s narrowing.

Unlike the past, when China’s development of mobile communications lagged that of more developed countries, this nation now stands at the forefront of 5G application. That position reflects the size of China’s vast mobile user base and the eagerness of players to tap into it.

Asia, which accounts for more than half of the world’s mobile subscribers, continues to lead in innovation on 4G and 5G technologies. At the head of the pack is China on 5G, said the GSM Association.

China Mobile, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Networks were among the exhibitors at the Shanghai fair, the world's biggest telecommunications show, held in Barcelona and Shanghai annually.

The 5G service, compared with 4G networks, offers 20 to 100 times faster Internet access speed for mobile consumers. Companies want to ensure they are part of the digital transformation when 5G is expected to be rolled out across China by 2020.

The powerful duo they anticipate — 5G’s high speed, bandwidth and energy efficiency, combined with the interconnectivity of Internet of Things – will propel the new technologies beyond just mobile communications. Applications are already being developed for the automotive, energy and banking industries, among others, according to Ulf Ewaldsson, chief technology officer at Ericsson.

China has the largest population in the world, the largest base of mobile users, and, at some point, it will have the largest data flow, said Xie Feibo, a senior official of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technologies.

5G in China

During the recent exhibition, Ericsson displayed a drone with 5G features, which allowed the device to be controlled from up to 2,500 kilometers away, compared with current drones that have a range of only several hundred meters. The 5G technology is turning drones into industrial assistants and productivity tools rather than just gadgets for aerial photo fans.

Nokia Networks demonstrated robot arms with 5G networks. They featured rapid response and high operation frequency to one millisecond.

By comparison, current arms can work at a frequency of "several dozen milliseconds," making them unsuitable for situations requiring refined machinery, Nokia's officials said at the company booth.

Drones and robots still seem far removed from daily life, but that is changing as 5G opens up new possibilities in closer-to-home services such as transportation and security.

China, with more than 500 million 4G users, recently hosted the Global 5G Event in Beijing. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technologies announced it has created a 5G research and development team to promote the commercialization of the new technology, according to Minister Miao Wei.

Unlike the evolution of 3G and 4G technologies, Chinese firms have positioned themselves to have a greater voice in how 5G is applied, said Wu Xiaobo, an independent business observer.

Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and others are working hand-in-hand with telecom firms of China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom to test 5G networks in China.

At an on-site demonstration of a prototype 5G base station, which will be used in Shanghai Mobile's network, a peak speed of about 9.83 gigabits per second was recorded, 30 times faster than current 4G network speed.

Faster speeds mean more business opportunities and wider applications of mobile networks, said Mike Wang, president of the joint management team of Nokia Networks China and ASB.

In cooperation with China Mobile, Ericsson is testing 5G application in drones in the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu Province.

The Beijing transportation bureau said it is preparing for future 5G connection in the capital’s Metro lines.

Even in moving vehicles like trains and cars, the connection speed can reach about 7 gigabits per second, enabling users to see online videos and other data-rich services, according to Ericsson.

China Unicom and China Telecom also displayed applications with trial 5G technologies in smart parking and autonomous driving applications.


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