5G Is About More Than Just Fast Downloads

Image: iStock

Mobile networks are no longer just aimed at people chasing fast download speeds. Instead autonomous drones, self-driving cars and other smart devices will benefit most from Australia's new super-fast 5G networks launching next year.

Swarms of smart drones are set to patrol Australia's beaches, taking advantage of 5G's multi-gigabit data speeds to work in unison and stream high-definition video back to land, where artificial intelligence will scan for swimmers in distress and watch for sharks.

While individual Little Ripper Rescue drones equipped with video cameras are already used by lifeguards on the Far North Coast and Sydney's northern beaches, swarms of drones would see their combined video streams swamp today's 4G mobile networks, says Telstra networks chief Mike Wright.

"If we were only concerned about connecting people then we could almost stop at 4G, but the real strength of 5G is connecting all these different smart devices," Wright says.

While individual Little Ripper Rescue drones equipped with video cameras are already used by lifeguards on the Far North Coast and Sydney's northern beaches, swarms of drones would see their combined video streams swamp today's 4G mobile networks, says Telstra networks chief Mike Wright.

"If we were only concerned about connecting people then we could almost stop at 4G, but the real strength of 5G is connecting all these different smart devices," Wright says.

5G: Can It Replace The NBN And How Expensive Will It Be?

5G will provide convenient broadband access for some internet users. But as demand grows for ultra-high-definition video streaming, the NBN will remain the network of choice for most customers.

Read more

The 5G network will rely on two wireless bands, 3.6GHz and 26GHz, with devices seamlessly roaming between them. While the higher frequencies offer faster speeds, the lower frequencies reach further and are better at passing through solid objects like walls.

The Gold Coast is perfect for testing the new wireless technology in a range of environments, Wright says, from high-density seaside apartment towers and medium-density suburban sprawl to the sparsely populated hinterland.

Along with supporting Telstra's own 5G development, the Innovation Centre is open to Australian businesses including start-ups looking to get a head start on the global 5G boom.

Telstra is preparing for a commercial rollout in 2019, as is rival Optus, making them two of the world's first 5G networks. The rollouts will begin in the major population areas, with Telstra's 5G coverage eventually matching the reach of its 4G network.

The first 5G-capable devices should also appear in 2019 and Telstra is working with the international 3GPP standards body to ensure that Australia uses the same 5G bands as the rest of the world, so handsets will work around the globe. The 3GPP is meeting on the Gold Coast in September to finalise the standard, and Telstra has also pushed to extend the range of 5G towers to better suit Australian conditions.

For now Telstra's Cat-M1 IoT and NB-IoT wireless networks — designed for low-powered devices requiring limited bandwidth, such as remote sensors — will continue to run across the 4G network. Over time these internet of things networks may move across to take advantage of 5G's lower latency, reducing the lag when controlling devices remotely.

Meanwhile 5G is best-suited to bandwidth-intensive applications, like live video streaming, which can overwhelm 4G networks when multiple devices are operating in the area. Potential applications include 360-degree video streaming, along with virtual and augmented reality. Reduced network lag also makes 5G more practical for using live video feeds to control vehicles and robots remotely.

At the Innovation Centre launch Telstra demonstrated 3300 Mbps download speeds and 300 Mbps uploads, with 6 millisecond latency. This is more than three times faster than Telstra's existing 4GX network, while cutting latency by two-thirds, but the benefits of 5G technologies extend beyond a simple speed boost.

The new 5G mobile standard will also reduce congestion, offering the ability to isolate slices of the network to ensure bandwidth-hungry services run smoothly without impacting the performance of other nearby devices.

Telstra plans to test the technology during the Commonwealth Games, as 5G brings with it support for "beamforming", bending the radio signals from mobile towers to focus on specific areas — such as crowded sporting events — during peak demand.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this story!

Trending Stories Right Now