How 5G will Connect the World like Never Before

Koen Willems

Head of Vertical Markets, Defence and Government, ST Engineering iDirect

Our modern world is underpinned by our ability to communicate. New ways are constantly being sought to deliver efficient and effective high-speed connectivity services, everywhere. In terms of future technology, the key enabler will be 5G.

With the number of mobile users only set to rise, current 3G and 4G networks will soon be unable to cope with an increasing demand for bandwidth services and data. A study by American think tank Pew Research Centre, estimated that more than 5 billion people own mobile devices. Data consumption today has grown exponentially, whether it is streaming music, surfing the web or communicating online. This is where 5G will step in as we continue our digital push.

A Rapid Evolution

In just three decades, we have seen the rapid development of cellular networks. In 1979, the advent of 1G technology had a download speed of only 2 kilobits per second. At 1 gigabit per second, 5G will be two million times that speed. Its super high bandwidth will also reduce mobile congestion as it can host thousands of people within a small space. The days of griping about slow mobile reception at, say, a crowded convention will be over.

Latency issues, which have dogged the 3G and 4G eras, will be another thing of the past. In critical communications, the slightest delay can cause serious problems. For instance, feeding data into smart devices for a medical procedure requires real-time precision and unerring accuracy. This will be a given with 5G.

Lastly, 5G will reduce network complexity. To efficiently support and monitor the millions of devices and machinery that will use the new technology, we will have to simplify the network architecture, while providing the highest quality of service. 5G can provide that balancing act.

This new era of connectivity will bring great opportunities. More than just faster download speeds, it will allow for a convergence of the latest technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M). It will give rise to smart nations where more services and businesses will go digital. It will allow us to prevent disasters and save lives. Life will be safer, more efficient and more convenient.

Enabled By Satellite

To bring us to this point in the 5G wireless revolution, however, there must be convergence of technologies and standardisation. ST Engineering iDirect has been spearheading the role of satellite in 5G, participating in consortia to set standards for 5G because satellite has an integral role to play. Satellite can be used in more densely populated areas for broadcast and back-up applications. However, move out from the towns and cities, and satellite will be essential to connect remote and rural locations, vessels, planes and other types of transport.

Previously, satellite networks linked to 3G/4G networks were mainly dedicated to cellular backhaul, trunking and disaster recovery networks. However, in 5G we see many more use cases appearing for satellite communications. They include government and military applications, Smart Defence and Smart Nation applications, healthcare, education, mobility, border security – these are all becoming part of a nation-wide network based on a combination of terrestrial and satellite communication technologies. Satellite is also going to be pivotal for connectivity in remote areas and for first responder services in times of crisis.

Today’s new High Throughput Satellite Constellations and intelligent ground networks now offer the ability to support hundreds of Mbps of capacity along with attractive price points.

As we enter the 5G era, satellite connectivity is particularly crucial for the next stage of the evolution for Mobile Network Operators. In fact, NSR estimates that 5G-differentiated applications — such as 5G backhaul and hybrid networks — will generate close to one-third of net satellite capacity revenue growth in backhaul over the next 10 years. Satellite and terrestrial will work in a complementary way to unlock many use cases. This is due, in part, to the fact that 5G backhaul capacity demand will consume four to five times the bandwidth of a 4G site, according to NSR. Satellite technology has already proved itself as being highly adaptable for mobile backhaul purposes.

This combination will also pave the way for newer technologies to go mainstream. Aided by satellite technology, 5G’s lower latency and higher bandwidth will allow for new features like enhanced mobile broadband and ultra-reliable low latency communication. With Massive Machine Type communications, the likes of IoT and edge computing processes can run even more smoothly.

Empowering the World

The real-world applications of these enhanced features are enormous. We will see the further growth of smart factories, where automated machines will run smoothly without the fear of breakdowns. Borders can be secured, and disasters prevented. For instance, infrared sensors and cameras can automatically detect illegal trespassers, which will instantly send live feeds to border patrol units for response. Sensors deployed in forests can pick up wildfire threats based on temperature readings and wind conditions, allowing preventive measures to be deployed first before disaster strikes. Troops operating in theatre will be connected through sensor technology with smart vests, bodycams and smart devices to run diagnostics on their health or physical status in training or during operations, providing real-time situational awareness and information to be shared with headquarters or other assets in theatre.

As the global market leader in providing the ground segments for satellite communication networks, we are well poised to help governments and companies transit smoothly to these new technologies.

Ultimately, this convergence of 5G and satellite technology will give rise to smart nations where a mix of technologies can be deployed. Digital services will become the norm, with seamless user experience and efficient performance guaranteed, thanks to 5G.

The world will be connected like never before.

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