South Africa risks being left behind the curve if it doesn’t move quickly to provide consumers with 5G connectivity, the next version of mobile internet.
You might not have heard an awful lot about 5G in the past, but the technology is very quickly becoming a much-talked about evolution of mobile and fixed internet. It is mobile internet at a much faster speed, with the performance and capability of fixed-line internet.
According to Professor Thomas Magedanz from Fraunhofer Fokus, the key to making the most of 5G technology is beginning early.
“5G technology starts today, and we don’t have to wait until 2020,” Magedanz said during Telkom’s annual SATNAC conference.
“It’s important to enable young students, as they need access to the latest technology. Early access is key, as 5G is a software revolution, and the real big things behind the technology happens in the core network,” he said.
Naturally one can’t have a discussion about 5G technology without mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT). If you are tired of hearing about IoT, unfortunately it is only going to get worse in the future as 5G and IoT go hand-in-hand.
And Magedanz agrees: “It (5G) has been designed to support IoT applications. We need to start now in order to prepare for this big change.”
It might sound like a bit of a pipe dream for now, but South Africa is going to move towards 5G at a much faster pace than what it took to evolve from 3G to LTE.
That is where 2020 plays a big role, as South Africa will be hosting the Commonwealth Games in Durban in 2022. Most of the players in the 5G space are very keen to have 5G connectivity up and running by that time. The country can’t risk to taking the world’s centre stage while only offering LTE or 4G.
But moving from one technology to another isn’t going to be a simple task, which is why conferences like SATNAC are hugely important to drive home the importance of this message to the right players.
“5G is a consequence of evolution – but it is complex,” said Magedanz. “It is integrating all existing network capabilities, as it is a fixed mobile convergence technology.”
“We see massive IoT applications here, like software defined networks and mobile edge computing. This is key when people talk about low latency computing.”
Low latency computing could potentially have a major impact on an event like the Commonwealth Games.
With sensor networks and tactile internet all connecting to central hubs to process information, the data from athletes and other sources need to be processed as quickly as possible (as a simple example).
If the network can’t cope with it, the entire operation can fall apart.
But because South Africa is only a couple of years away, there’s no clear picture of what the landscape will look like the closer the country comes to rolling it out commercially.
“There is no 5G architecture but we have an indication as to what it will look like,”Magedanz concluded. “There will be network slices to divide everything, and as an example Slice 1 will be smartphones, Slice 2 can be autonomous driving, and Slice 3 can be massive IoT. But there will be hundreds of slices to make the networks easier.”[Image – CC by 2.0]