Close this search box.

5G technology is getting closer and promises to develop smart cities

The advance of 5G is a fact, and major changes related to the internet of things are foreseen that will strengthen smart cities.
Home " Blog " Telcos " 5G technology is getting closer and promises to develop smart cities

Some parts of the world have already incorporated 5G technology into their daily lives. Latin American countries, including Uruguay, are in the testing phases, although some have not even installed antennas yet. The advancement of this new connectivity is a fact, and big changes are foreseen in terms of the Internet of Things that will lead to the generation of smart cities.

5G smart cities

Technological supremacy involves a fifth generation of mobile technologies as the new basis for global communications, which focuses not only on connecting people but also things. Uruguay continues to take firm steps towards the incorporation of 5G technology, maturing new business models, paving the way and awaiting certain international guidelines that will guide the installation and regulations of this type of network. The country is also conducting pilot tests in different parts of the territory.

It is well known that significant investment will be needed to reach the stage where users can have the opportunity to connect through this network. Uruguay is currently in the first stage in this regard, as there are few mobile phones adapted to incorporate it. This task will be tackled by the telephone companies, especially Antel, which has made progress in this direction, with the support of the firm Isbel.

Given this scenario, in a dialogue with Empresas & Negocios, Mauricio González, Product Line Specialist of Telco & Smart Cities at Isbel, reviewed what stage our country is at to receive this new technology and what are the contributions of the company he represents in this regard. González is a Grade 2 teacher at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of the Republic of the Antennas and Programming and Multimedia over IP courses.

Antel has been conducting some pilot tests of the technology in Maldonado, Nueva Palmira and Montevideo, but no major deployments have yet been announced; at least nothing has been publicly announced. On the other side of the counter, private operators Movistar and Claro have not yet made public announcements of deployment, but they are studying the technology.

5G technology is quite disruptive compared to previous connections, as it evolves not only in terms of providing greater bandwidth and connection speed, but also seeks to reach new use cases. According to González, this connectivity will be able to create new marketing scenarios, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and the communication of many devices at the same time.

"It's really different from what previous technologies are proposing. While the ones before it were also used for that, 5G technology was designed to support that in an efficient way," he described.

He said that one differentiator is that it has much more bandwidth and gives the possibility to connect more devices at the same time. A third pillar, which is also a novelty, is that it offers the possibility of having very low latency communications, which means less response time. "When you want to access information, the speed at which the application responds is important. If we think about connected cars, there is very little data that is transmitted but it has to be very fast for the cars to communicate with each other," he said.

Isbel's role

Isbel is a company that seeks to accompany technological progress in telecommunications in general, while assisting and collating the digital transformation. The firm works as a provider of products and services to telephony operators. "Our role, in part, is to understand these technologies; in some cases we get in touch with the manufacturers and can supply them locally, installing, configuring and understanding them," said González.

As for the development companies, the interviewee said that in 5G there are big players that are already known around the world that often have local offices - such as Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson - that supply the equipment and go directly to work with operators. " Our role is more linked to advising and providing services, in other words, serving more as a link," he added.

Isbel is carrying out research into the technology, and in this context already has some lines of work involving some projects of this type, which will not yet be made public.

Towards a smart city

In the IoT area, a highly relevant element for the firm is that it is being the technology integrator of the main project in Uruguay today. This is the smart meters that UTE is integrating. Currently, the electricity meters work with 2G and 3G technology, and the next technologies are being tested. In that sense, Isbel was the one who understood the innovation, on the one hand the energy metering and, on the other hand, the communications module.

"This is part of the pre-5G technologies that incorporated the concept of IoT, which is to have devices that communicate data that can be useful to someone who is centralised and can take advantage of it, analyse it and draw conclusions to make decisions. This is what 5G technology was designed to do," he said.

Previous technologies were designed to communicate data but more specifically between people, not things, and when connecting many devices in a network, design changes can occur that can affect what you want to do.

5G, however, opens a lot of doors to new use cases, businesses, which although today we are starting to see, González believes that in the future they will be much more noticeable. Today in Uruguay we have ATMs that work with older technologies, but it is foreseen that they will evolve. The same will happen with street lights, which are already smart, but it will be possible to add functionality that allows them to know if they are on, off, can be remote-controlled and even regulate the light.

"With 5G, you can think of car parks that have a sensor in the asphalt that communicates whether the space is occupied or not, have an app that collects this information and the user can see it in real time. There are infinite examples. The technology, what it allows, is to have many devices connected to the same antenna and then it will be up to the creativity of people to create applications that take all that data to develop things that can be useful," Gonzalez said.

Latin American overview

In the last months of 2019 and early 2020, several Latin American countries announced that they would begin adapting the 5G telephone network. Today, as we reach the end of August, pilot tests are still underway, and the network is projected to be operational by 2021 and even 2022. This is not only because of the general slowdown caused by Covid-19 worldwide, but also because of the need to adapt the available devices and make agreements with technology providers.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicated a few months ago that technological progress in the region is linked to demand, a situation that increases the backwardness. Since 2016, several countries have been testing the technology, and ECLAC recommends that the region should first strengthen policies for the use of advanced technologies and, from there, improve the social conditions for the widespread introduction of 5G.

Chile, for example, is taking accelerated steps, as a few days ago it launched the spectrum tender for the entry of the new network. The country's president, Sebastián Piñera, indicated that it took two years of work, and is now looking to evaluate the technical capacity of the interested parties to determine the best offer.

In Brazil, meanwhile, mobile operator trials have been underway for about two months. Telephone companies began operating on an experimental basis with the fifth generation signal, and the auction to start the new frequency is expected to be held in early 2021.

Last month, Argentina initiated talks with Huawei to begin studying the entry of the technology. The country plans to adopt the network in 2022 or 2023.

Peru is lagging behind in this respect, as a shortage of antennas would delay the arrival of the technology by a few more years. The country would need more than 200,000 antennas for 5G to work, and today it has about 20,700.

Another country at the back of the queue is Paraguay, as it is assured that in the short term there is no chance that the technology will be put out to tender. It is estimated that this will not happen before 2024. Venezuela, meanwhile, is trailing behind Paraguay.

At the speed of light

While Uruguay, the region and other countries around the world are debating the arrival of 5G and further expansion, South Korea has recently announced plans for 6G technology, including pilot plans for 2026.

While 5G is still in the early adoption stages in most of the countries that will implement it, technological and connectivity innovation is not standing still. In this regard, 6G is expected to be commercialised between 2028 and 2030. For the development of this technology, South Korea will invest some US$ 143 million over five years starting in 2021. Its pilot project in 2026 will focus on healthcare technology, immersive content, autonomous driving, smart cities and smart manufacturing.

These new data networks would involve speeds 50 times faster than 5G, transmitting up to 1TB per second, reducing latency to 0.1 milliseconds, i.e. 10 times less than 5G.

Original article published in Crónicas.



Related Entries