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The Big 5G Event

The next generation of wireless technology, 5G is about even higher wireless speeds and lower latency.  With more consumer handsets that offer 5G appearing on the market, more people will enjoy these benefits. The less visible applications and potential of this technology are equally transformational. In a recently concluded industry gathering, The Big 5G Event, many of these use cases came to light.

As the name suggests, The Big 5G Event is a seminal industry gathering that brings together global subject matter experts who provide their insights on developments in the field of 5G. This year’s event took place, partly in-person in Denver, Colorado with some participants who joined virtually.

Heather Campbell, VP, National Access Network Engineering shared how continuing a series of firsts, Rogers was the first to deploy 5G in Canada. Rogers has since expanded to become Canada’s largest and most reliable 5G network, now offering 5G to more than 850 communities in Canada. She spoke about how Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) through 5G will improve connectivity to rural areas. FWA in simple terms is offering wireless broadband using the mobile network but on higher frequencies. Imagine it to be almost like a stronger, dedicated, reliable Wi-Fi connection but over longer distances. In North America, rural areas have an even lower density of population which make it difficult for operators to deploy fixed wired connections. While governments of all stripes are funding connectivity improvements for rural and remote locations, FWA access through 5G will be especially complementary in offering very high speeds, better uplink/upload abilities and low latency service. It will likely also get deployed sooner, as more mid and higher band wireless spectrum comes online for 5G. On the ground, it will be life changing for people living there – from the way they access the Internet for online learning and education to the improvement in data analytics and connectivity for use in agriculture.

Bryce Mitchell, VP Core Engineering, in a separate session, spoke about other applications. In partnership with University of British Columbia (UBC), Rogers is undertaking testing 5G in the mining industry that will make operation of mines safer and separately to enable “smart cities” i.e., cities that incorporate technology and connectivity to manage city services more efficiently, everything from garbage collection to traffic management. In the same vein, with University of Waterloo, Rogers continues to test the operation of a bus that runs autonomously through 5G. Bryce also spoke about the work that Rogers has done to test 5G for national disaster management and response. Using 5G sensors to measure seismic activity, the time saved to respond to everything from earthquakes to tsunamis especially on Canada’s Pacific Coast will be invaluable.

The road to a fully functional 5G-powered economy is not one built by the service providers alone. Besides the work of academia, it is a network of partnerships with equipment providers as well as “hyperscalers” like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Hyperscalers are large online companies that provide their cloud and networking services to service providers. Service providers, like Rogers, benefit from the cost savings and flexibility of having some of these services being provided by third parties. Heather spoke about how Rogers partners with Hyperscalers and in parallel seeks to offer its business customers, private cloud functionality for 5G too.

Some have proposed that 5G will power Industry 4.0 in much the same way that the printing press, the stream engine and electrification ushered in significant economic growth. It is early days, but the above examples suggest that 5G is on it way to becoming a truly transformational technology.

Charit Katoch, Director, Public Policy