The race is on to develop newer and faster cellular networks. The new generation of wireless technology is expected to improve the way people live and work, as well as generate a new wave of economic growth. With the transition to 5G, the wireless network will see faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower latency opening the door to life-changing-innovations.
Canadian LTE (4G) networks already support fast downloads and easy streaming of content. But standard speeds and bandwidth capacity need to be higher, while latency (the time it takes to send a signal from one point to the next) must be virtually nonexistent in order to deliver data instantaneously. A virtually nonexistent latency period would allow consumers to experience increased efficiency with faster data transmission speeds. With the development of more innovative technology allowing increased accessibility, mitigation of information delay is highly crucial.
To help make this possible, 5G technology will use new frequencies of spectrum, which are the radio waves that are used to carry cellular signals.
Current networks use low and medium-band spectrum with wavelengths up to half a metre. Low-band radio waves can travel long distances and penetrate buildings which makes for reliable coverage for carriers. Unfortunately, low-band spectrum can’t carry as much data as higher-frequency waves that is why 5G networks will also use so-called millimetre-wave spectrum with wavelengths so small they are measured in millimetres.
These millimetre radio waves can carry high amounts of data but don’t travel far, which means network builders will need to place many small cells close together to use this spectrum.
To make the best use of different types of spectrums networks will include a mix of traditional cell-phone towers, antennas on rooftops (carrying signals over long distances) and a web of small cells at lower heights (supporting high bandwidth use over shorter distances).
Since 5G will still use the existing frequencies as current networks, existing cell phone towers can be upgraded to support 5G with new frequencies being added later allowing for even smaller hardware. Companies like Ericsson can build up to eight 5G antennas onto a chip smaller than a dime. This tiny technology requires less power and can be used on low-power devices making 5G ideal for the Internet of Things devices.1
The combination of wireless infrastructure along with the advances in radio technology will help carriers reduce latency and support billions of devices using more data than ever before.2
5G opens up speeds 10 times faster than that of older technology, delivering up to 20 Gigabits-per-second peak data rates and 100+ Megabits-per-second average data rates. To put this into perspective, the faster speeds will let you download the newest episode of Game of Thrones in less than 5 seconds.
Latency is how long it takes a signal to transfer over a network. Many mobile networks can maintain 50 milliseconds, but 5G promises latency of 1 millisecond or less. 5G has significantly lower latency to deliver more instantaneous, real-time access and opens the doors for radical new technology like real-time virtual reality, online multiplayer gaming, remote control surgeries, and even more.
5G will natively support all spectrum types (licensed, shared, unlicensed), bands (low, mid, high), a wide range of deployment models (from traditional macro-cells to hotspots), as well as new ways to interconnect (such as device-to-device and multi-hop mesh). 4G frequencies will still be usable by 5G technologies, and 5G will also be able to use even higher frequencies.
How 5G Will Change Our Lives
The fifth generation of wireless networks will allow innovations to flourish and dramatically change our day-to-day life. This new wireless technology will open the door to life-change innovations, such as driverless cars, smart-city traffic controls and more sophisticated industrial automation.
More Efficient Health Application
5G networks will support health-tracking devices that depend on constant monitoring. Lower latency and super-high bandwidth will also help enable instant sharing of x-rays and other medical data. Remote control surgeries will also become feasible with the aid of the new technology.
A Better Experience in a Game Night
On any given night, thousands of smartphone users stream into Rogers Centre or Scotiabank Saddledome, placing heaving demand on the wireless network. Plus, the venue’s concrete walls pose a barrier to signal penetration. Placing small cells throughout the stadium will help provide more capacity for overburdened cellular networks. This should make it easier for audiences to upload a selfie or stream a video replay.3
A recent study conducted by Accenture has further explored the potential economic benefits resulting from a select set of 5G use cases in Canada. See the charts below for more illustrations.4
When Will 5G Become a Reality
In Canada, major cell phone networks are already testing 5G in major cities, but it probably won't be available to the general public in Canada until late 2019 or early 2020. It will arrive first on Bell, Rogers and Telus (possibly at premium rates) with rollouts to low cost and regional carriers over the next two years. Cell phones that support 5G in the Canadian market could be released as early as the summer of 2019. Based on most recent forecasts, a timeline of rolling out 5G for major carriers:5
Fuel for Canadian Economy and Labour Market
According to a new report from Accenture, new 5G wireless network could contribute as much as $40 billion annually to Canada’s economy by 2026. The benefits will be felt not only in national GDP, but also in terms of Canadian jobs. The estimated $26 billion investment in 5G network infrastructure and adoption will result in short-term construction and engineering jobs. Specifically, more than 150,000 short-term jobs will be created between 2020 and 2026. It is further estimated by this same time close to 250k permanent jobs will be added to the Canadian economy.6
5G Providers Around the Globe
According to research firms IDC and HIS Markit, China’s Huawei, Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia Corp. are the top three radio gear vendors in Canada and around the world for 5G. China’s ZTE Corp. and South Korea’s Samsung round out the top five globally for a market that is expected to expand to US$26 billion by 2022 from US$528 million in 2018.
Both Bell and Telus, Canada’s second and third-largest wireless service providers have been using Huawei equipment in 5G network trials however, other suppliers include Ericsson and Nokia. Rogers is working with Ericsson while Shaw has been working with Nokia.
Huawei in the Spotlight
Huawei, a global telecom equipment supplier based in Shenzhen, China, has been accused of posing a potential risk to national security because of a Chinese law that requires companies to co-operate with intelligence gathering if asked.
Three of Canada’s partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group - the United States, Australia and New Zealand - have forbidden the use of Huawei products in 5G network development, though the U.S. ban is currently limited to government agencies. The UK has ordered that Huawei be banned from supplying core parts of the future 5G mobile phone network however, Huawei will be allowed to supply some “non-core” technology to UK phone companies.
The Canadian government is carrying out a comprehensive review of Huawei’s potential involvement in 5G that is believed to include a broader look at how Canada should make its way in an increasingly global economy. Given the breadth of the review, several agencies including the Communications Security Establishment, Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Privy Council Office are taking part in the review.
The government has said little publicly about the review, but the results are expected before federal election this fall.7
A detailed timeline of critical decisions on Huawei of Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group as follows:
Huawei’s Impact on Canada’s 5G Future
In addition to responses from analysts, the CEO of BCE Inc., said during a conference in late February 2019 that a government ban on Huawei network equipment wouldn't delay the company's plans for rolling out fifth-generation wireless services. He added that the outcome of the decision won't "in any way impact our timing in the market for 5G."
However, the views on risks from the potential Huawei ban are divided among the major telecommunication suppliers. Telus acknowledged mid February 2019 that the deployment of its fifth-generation wireless network could be delayed and be more expensive than anticipated if the Canadian government chooses to ban equipment from Huawei.
Due to Huawei being the cheapest of the three major 5G suppliers, Telus could incur higher infrastructure costs if the other two are the only options, which would result in lower margins on the company’s internet and mobile services. Another issue is that Telus is already in the 5G pre-trial stage with Huawei and would likely incur costs when being forced to sever ties with the Chinese company.8
If Telus and BCE Inc. use Huawei on its 5G network, then both companies may have to charge customers more which could possibly turn customers off high-end plans that include 5G. If customers avoid these plans, it could not only represent loss of revenue, but also a lower ROI on money spent building the 5G network.
To conclude, with 5G we will enable a truly connected world which offers various opportunities for business and will comprehensively reshape how we interact with our devices. The benefits of 5G extend well beyond consumer application, including streamlining operations for increased productivity, creating new revenue streams and enhancing customer experience in various industries. A report by Financial Post indicates many benefits for industries within Canada. The agriculture work in Saskatchewan and Manitoba will become vastly more precise with data collected from remote sensors. In Alberta’s oil and gas fields, the technology is expected to improve worker safety through wearables that can detect critical issues such as fatigue or stress. Similar efficiencies are expected to positively impact Ontario’s auto manufacturing plants, fisheries in the Maritimes and British Columbia’s forestry sector.9 As for Canada, the potential delays of 5G deployment if the ban on Huawei is approved remains uncertain, but any ban would only apply to 5G networks, and not the existing 4G or previous systems.10
For more information on 5G, refer to the following reports and articles.
1. Everything You Need to Know About 5G, Qualcomm; The WhistleOut 5G Wireless Guide for Canada (2019), WhistleOut
2. How 5G will change your life, The Global and Mail
3. How 5G will change your life, The Global and Mail
4. Fuel for Innovation - Canada’s path in the race to 5G, Accenture
5. Is 5G Available in Canada, WhistleOut
6. Fuel for Innovation - Canada’s path in the race to 5G, Accenture
7. Five things about possible involvement of Huawei in Canada's 5G networks, National Post
8. BCE says 5G network plans wouldn't be delayed by a government ban on Huawei, CBC News; Possible ban on Huawei over national security could delay 5G rollout, Telus says, CBC News
9. What 5G Means for the Future of Businesses in B.C., BCBUSINESS; How 5G Connectivity Will Keep Canada Competitive, Financial Post
10. How the Huawei 5g Controversy Could Affect Telus Corp Stock, The Motley Fool