Fifth-generation cellular networks, known as 5G, look set to transform the way we live and work by connecting not just people but things in the so-called Internet of Things. It’ll mean smarter motorways and smarter factories, and being able to control your car, home and pretty much everything else from a single device.
e-tech spoke to Mike Wood, who’s been heavily involved, in the roll-out of 5G, in Australia, and also chairs the IEC Technical Committee (TC 106) that deals with safety testing standards for mobile devices, base stations and wireless communications systems.
e-tech: In what way is 5G different to 4G technology?
Mike Wood: I think for the everyday person 5G is going to mean that they can upload and download data much quicker. And in the years to come, when we get more spectrum, they’re going to be able to do it super-fast.
It’s also going to be the ability to connect millions of devices. With the previous technologies it has been people being connected and their devices, but now it’s going to be the Internet of Things and the extra capacity that the spectrum’s going to bring means that we can cater for all the millions of devices coming.
But I think the really exciting thing is the low latency and that’s the response time of this new 5G technology being much quicker. For example, it’s going to help automated self-driving vehicles, it’s really going to help have safer motorways and safer systems.
But I think the medical side of it, where you can do remote surgery and remote medical applications, it’s so exciting what this technology is going to deliver.
e-tech: To what extent is it going to be a major game changer?
I think, with the low latency aspect, that it’s going to be a significant game changer because if you think of the applications that can follow from that, in industrial robotics and stuff that we haven’t been able to do before. We don’t know where it’s going to lead, but we do know it’s going to be a revolution in terms of what it can do.
They’re calling it the fourth industrial revolution. The low-latency, the extra capacity and the fact that you’ve got much greater speeds, is going to revolutionize telecommunications
e-tech: How has the IEC been preparing for this?
Well, that’s a very good question because they brought forward the specifications for 5G. They wanted to roll it out earlier.
So what we did is we made sure that we had the best experts from industry, academia the test houses and government regulators. We started testing the test networks early.
We had to look at how the devices were going to work, how the base stations were going to work, and then write the testing standards for all devices in the new spectrum and in the existing spectrum, and then test the networks. So we had to look at small cells and radio base stations.
First we wrote some test procedures with technical reports so that we could harness all of that global knowledge into these first round of reports. And now we’re finalizing the full standards. And that was to make sure we could meet the accelerated time frame, so that when 5G was here, at the IEC we were ready and we were ready with our standards, which we are.
Read the full interview in the next edition of e-tech
Listen to Mike Wood
Mike Wood discusses the work of TC 106, including the publication of a ground-breaking IEC Technical Report.