5G: Paving the way for a digitally enabled society
5G is probably one of the most anticipated leap-forwards that the country has been waiting for many years now. Putting an end to all the speculation, on December 12, Teletalk is officially launching 5G network services on a trial basis in Bangladesh, and Huawei as the technology partner has played a key role in making it all happen. To debug the hype around 5G, we sat to have a conversation with Kevin Xu, Chief Technology Officer of Huawei Bangladesh. Here's the exert of the discussion that we had:
What is 5G and how do you think 5G will affect our daily lives?
The 5th generation wireless network technology 5G, compared to 4G, can provide much higher speed, better connectivity and lower latency which opens so many doors of possibilities including massive machine-type communications, responsiveness and fast data transfer over 1GBPS. This is beneficial for individuals, families and companies. In addition to speed, Individuals will have AR/VR which will bring a new experience in entertainment, gaming etc. Families will have better connectivity with ICT devices. Fixed Wireless Access will take an important role to bring higher speed omitting the hassle of wires. For companies, 5G means industries like ports, manufacturers and traffic can utilise smart technology. As we know, 4G changed lives, but 5G will change society.
5G will be launched in Bangladesh on 12 December. What are your thoughts regarding that?
There are about 700 active telecom operators worldwide, among which about 180 have already launched 5G services. Huawei has been working with mobile operators in Bangladesh for more than twenty years. We cherish the transformation of 3G to 4G in Bangladesh, and now we enter the 5G era. We are happy to cooperate with Teletalk in launching 5G in Bangladesh. Bangladesh will be counted as one of the first few countries which are launching 5G.
Why is the deployment of 5G a big deal in Bangladesh? Which industries will benefit the most from 5G?
As we know, carbon emission has been a hot topic for a long time. ICT holds around 1.4% of the total carbon footprint. And since ICT is fundamental to the digital economy of Bangladesh, 5G can address the challenge of improving the ICT sector as a whole. With the introduction of 5G, we can decrease carbon footprints by making remote jobs much easier to do.
5G can support industries in reducing carbon emissions, like banking, where the improved connectivity can be integrated into smart banking. People won't need to go to the banks as they will have access to much faster and safer banking from home. Having better internet at home means more emphasis on working from home. Motor vehicles will be used less, which will amount to a decrease in carbon emissions and a smaller footprint. With 5G technology, we can also optimise the traffic light control system to transmit fast and accurate information to the control centre, thus improving traffic conditions on major roads. Traffic has always been a big issue in Dhaka and 5G will help tackle that problem as well.
The factories, especially readymade garments factories, which hold the second position in earning remittance in Bangladesh, 5G can find new ways of ensuring better product accuracy and efficient operational management.
Furthermore, 5G will enable smart ports, where the machines can be controlled via AI. We already have Chinese smart ports that are completely controlled by machines. There, people only stay in the offices to run the machines, which are always working with 100% accuracy. 5G will enable Bangladesh to replicate a similar efficient manufacturing system. Fast and reliable wireless connections will also improve sectors such as healthcare and general public services and will make worldwide communication even smoother. Overall, we think 5G has the power to reform society in a very positive manner.
How can telecom brands deploy 5G with their current infrastructure?
3G or 4G, we needed specific radio transmitters in mobile phones, which can provide a satisfactory output but not to the level of 5G. 5G has increased speed and higher bandwidth, so the transmission fibre bandwidth capacity needs to be expanded. There is also a requirement for more spectrum. An addition of 2.6 or 3.5 GHz to existing frequencies will be very fitting for the next steps. Huawei has been supplying almost 60% of the total 5G components worldwide and soon enough Bangladesh will be capable of running high-speed 5G as well. With time Bangladesh can adapt the existing cases and discover new localized applications. But in between, the industry also needs to work for a better 4G experience.
There are several network infrastructure providers right now with 5G solutions. What gives Huawei an edge compared to other competitors?
As we can see, many companies have launched their 5G networks in 2020. But our story was started long ago. You know, Huawei invests more than 10% of its revenue in research and innovation. We have been researching this technology since 2009 and until 2013, we spent nearly $600 million on 5G research alone. And Huawei started developing 5G equipment in 2012. More than 60% of 5G patents are currently owned by Huawei. More than 3000 5G patents are currently owned by Huawei.
We continue to invest in creative technologies to make our products more efficient and more green in terms of power-saving. A recent analysis stated that Huawei is at least two years ahead of other 5G vendors.
Huawei wants to work with operators to find out how we can solve your problems and improve the efficiency of a digital society. Societal improvement will take time, so we need to launch 5G as soon as possible. We can borrow and learn from other countries, but we still need time to customize them. Many operators might want to launch 5G services as soon as possible, but not to the scale of our project.
As we have learned, to use 5G we need 5G-enabled devices. Unfortunately, the number of compatible devices is still quite low in Bangladesh. Do you think this is a red flag for 5G adoption in the country?
I don't think that is a problem. When 4G was introduced, only high-end phones supported the technology. 4G only began to spread when mid and low range phones started to adopt it, quickly becoming an industry standard. As 5G technology has just been introduced to the world, we are still working on small scale coverage such as metropolitan cities. Presently, higher-end phones have been adopting the technology. The good part is 5G devices are already in the Market and even some companies have already launched 5G handsets in the Bangladesh market. Soon, when 5G infrastructure will be available enough, handheld device companies will start to implement 5G support on affordable phones.
China's life changed for the better after the launch of 4G. The Chinese market was booming, and the same happened in Bangladesh. Now, with the launch of 5G, once companies start manufacturing low-end smartphones that enable 5G connectivity, the industry will change once again. With 5G, every sector, especially ICT, will contribute to making a smarter and greener society. 5G will help Bangladesh's economy prosper as well.
Transcribed by Arfin Kazi