Understanding the potential impact of 5G technology

The fifth generation of wireless technologies (5G) is the latest trend in networking technology and a hot topic across industries for its potential impacts on various fields. To understand more about 5G, UTARLee Kong Chian Faculty of Engineering and Science (LKC FES) Lecturer Dr Tham Mau Luen was invited by local Chinese radio station 《东方上爱FM》to talk about this advanced technology and how it could transform the daily lives of many.

Dr Tham

Dr Tham said that with every new generation of wireless technology, the biggest appeal is the increased speed. He explained the evolution of 5G and pointed out the improvements made in each generation, where 1G offered poor voice call; 2G allowed people to use voice calls and SMS and the network speed was 15kbps; 3G offered mobile phone with Internet access and the network speed of 5mbps; while 4G was the fourth generation mobile communication system with a speed of 100mbps.

He said, “The mobile data speed for 5G will be faster and will eventually be 100 times quicker than 4G. It allows people to download high-definition movies in seconds.” According to him, the use of millimeter wave spectrum in 5G has great potential in terms of speed, but it is weak to penetrate materials. “That is why 5G requires a lot of complicated signal processing. Hence, it was only launched in 2019,” he explained. He also added that, under the premise of 5G, antennas would be greatly used to allow information to penetrate 5G mobile phones and base stations would be installed to increase the signal strength.

He pointed out that China was currently the leader of 5G technology. China giant Huawei dominated the ownership of 5G patents and the company has 30 percent of 5G patents worldwide.

He mentioned that, according to the current Malaysian Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo, the government is actively promoting 5G technology and it is possible for Malaysians to start using 5G by 2021. He also said that the 5G showcase, which took place from April 18 to 21 at Putrajaya Corporation Complex, was organised to notify various parties such as industry players, agencies and the public about 5G’s potential and benefits. He was optimistic about the future development of 5G technology in Malaysia as many domestic telecommunication companies had begun cooperating with foreign companies such as Huawei.

Moreover, Dr Tham outlined the three main characteristics of 5G, which were high speed, low latency and high reliability. He said that 5G technology has a complementary relationship with emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain and Big Data, which could affect the way the entire society operates. “5G technology can change our lives and drive the development of various fields,” he said, adding that the autopilot system is one of the biggest concerns of 5G technology.

According to him, the low-latency and high-reliability 5G technology makes telemedicine possible. In addition, he said that the advent of 5G could also bring one to experience concerts with virtual reality (VR), providing them an immersive and realistic atmosphere. He also revealed that 5G technology can provide services for agriculture, education, public safety and smart cities by installing wireless sensors.

He also mentioned that 5G has been researched for the past few years and it has only recently become capable enough to roll out. He also mentioned about some news which has reported that researchers have already begun working to tap the potential of 6G. As for how 6G might be different from 5G, he speculated it would be based on the premise of processing ever-increasing mass of information.

Dr Tham with Oriental Daily reporter Tiew Xi Yuan (left) and AI FM emcee JC Cheah (right)

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