By this October, Korea’s big three telecommunications companies, LG Uplus, SK Telecom, and the KT Corporation, are expected to finish choosing 5G equipment suppliers and to start building the 5G network. They are planning to launch 5G smartphones in Korea in March 2019. Getting ready for the new generation of mobile communications, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) explains what 5G is, analyzes some concerns about it, and looks into the future of 5G.
What Is 5G?
5G: Improved Technology
5G stands for “the 5th Generation” of mobile communications. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has adopted “International Mobile Telecommunication (IMT)- 2020” as the official name for 5G, defining its objectives to complete the 5G standardization process and worldwide commercial launch by 2020. The ITU also suggests three main visions for 5G: enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra Reliable & Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC). 5G is expected to have specific capabilities related to these visions. First, regarding eMBB, the peak speeds of 5G will be 20 Gbps, which will be 20 times faster than 4G, the current generation. When downloading a 15 GB high-definition (HD) movie, for example, 4G takes about 240 seconds while 5G will take only about six seconds. Next, regarding URLLC, 5G will have the ultra-low latency of one millisecond (0.001 seconds), which results in an incredibly fast response time and only onemillisecond delay in network services. The latency of 5G will drop to about one tenth of the current 4G latency of about ten milliseconds. Lastly, regarding mMTC, 5G will enable up to one million devices to communicate with each other within an area of one square kilometer. In addition, 5G will have the high mobility that provides satisfactory network services at a high speed of up to 500 kilometers per hour. Moreover, the energy efficiency of 5G will be increased 100 times more than 4G, which means that 5G will use one hundredth of the amount of energy that 4G uses when loading the same amount of data.
Evolution of Mobile Communication
|Evolution of Mobile Communication from 1G to 5G|
Concerns About Introducing 5G
Doubts over Security
According to the mobile infrastructure market share in 2017 recorded by IHS Markit, a global survey company in London, Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications equipment company, ranked 1st accounting for 28% of the global market. When it comes to launching 5G, however, many countries have raised security concerns about supplying equipment from Chinese companies, such as Huawei and ZTE. This is because they are suspected of working on behalf of the Chinese government. The United States (US) was the first country to raise the possibility that Chinese telecommunications infrastructure companies could work as cyber-spies. The US worries that the confidential information of the US government and other American companies could leak to China. For the reason of protecting national security, last August, the US Congress decided to take the measure that Chinese communications companies should be banned from the US government and anyone working with the government. Some people interpreted this decision as a part of the trade war between the US and China because regulation on Chinese telecommunications companies will give the US companies a chance to increase their market share for 5G. Following the US, Australia has banned Huawei and ZTE from supplying technology for its 5G networks, and Japan is also considering taking a similar action due to concerns about security. Huawei, however, emphasized that it has not had any security issues until now and that the Chinese government has never asked for clients’ information.
In Korea, SK Telecom, the largest mobile carrier in Korea, decided not to buy Huawei equipment for launching 5G, while LG Uplus is likely to use 5G equipment supplied from Huawei as they partnered for the previous launch of 4G. The KT Corporation is still considering between the security concerns and cost-effectiveness of using Huawei equipment. As concerns have been rising in Korea, the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) announced that it would consider the security issues regarding the supply of infrastructure from Chinese companies before launching 5G in the country.
Concerns About Adverse Health Effects
5G uses the higher frequency over 3 GHz, while previous generations from 2G to 4G used the relatively lower frequency of 800 MHz-2.6 GHz. Some people have raised concerns that the higher frequency of 5G might have a negative effect on users’ health. Regarding this concern, Korea’s National Radio Research Agency (RRA) stated that the main cause of adverse health effects is not the frequency but the intensity of radio waves. In order to prevent health problems caused by intense radio waves, all of the devices are tested as to whether they are safe enough by checking the specific absorption rate (SAR), the rate of radio wave energy that a human body absorbs when exposed to a certain device. Korea’s safety standard of SAR value is 1.6 watts per kilogram, which is stricter than the internationally recommended standard of two watts per kilogram. Devices are available to be sold only after they meet the safety standard of SAR.
Meanwhile, as 5G requires more cell towers to be installed in many countries, some local residents in the US and the United Kingdom (UK) are expressing health concerns about the radiation that will be emitted by the 5G equipment. Although cellphones and cell towers emit radiation, many experts argue that the cellular equipment emits non-ionizing radiation without enough energy to break human DNA or cause cancer unlike radiation from x-rays and Computed Tomography (CT) scanners. The conflict between telecommunications companies and residents, however, seems to be on going and will possibly happen in Korea soon when telecommunications companies start to build the cell towers around the country.
Rising Cost of 5G
5G is expected to be more expensive than the current telecommunications services. Since 5G will be much faster, more data will be used when consumers use the internet over the same period of time. Therefore, consumers will have to pay more as they use more data even if it costs the same amount of money per unit of data. Moreover, 5G may cost1.5 to two times more to build a lot more cell towers. 5G will require denser cell towers because it will not travel far, bend to pass through obstacles, nor penetrate obstacles as well as the current 4G.
|Small 5G Cell Attached to a Street Light|
Telecommunications companies might worry if consumers would not be willing to pay much more for 5G which does not have any other new feature than an upgrade in speed. Therefore, in order to offer the service at a reasonable price, MSIT has started to develop a policy based on 5G pricing, which will be used to approve the data plans of telecommunications companies early next year. In addition, the field of telecommunications industry expects that companies will base the cost not on the usage of 5G data but on its speed.
Future of 5G
|Realization of the Smart Home with 5G Connecting Home Devices|
5G combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) will realize developed smart homes where all home appliances will be connected with one another and automatically controlled to meet a homeowners’ needs. In a smart home, the owner will control the house by sending commands to devices, which will be stored in the cloud. Based on the previous commands and information about the owner in the cloud storage, the house will automatically offer the most succinct service according to the owner’s personal situation and lifestyle. For example, if an owner commands a light to be turned off 10 minutes after he gets into bed every night, the smart home will remember that command and automatically turn off the same light at the same time each night. This service will be realized due to 5G’s faster speeds which will allow home appliances to communicate and to process the massive amounts of data stored in the cloud. Moreover, the massive communication of 5G will allow IoT services with the maximum of one million home appliances to communicate with one another within an area of one square kilometer.
Development of Autonomous Vehicles
|Realization of Smarter and Safer Autonomous Cars|
5G will also be a key in the acceleration of the realization of autonomous vehicles with the ability to process massive data. Autonomous vehicles produce about 4,000 GB per day from the cameras attached to cars, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) and Light Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which detect obstacles on the road. This huge amount of data can be processed by 5G, but not by the current 4G network. Moreover, 5G will enable autonomous vehicles to respond much faster, within about one-millisecond latency to be precise. For example, when a vehicle using 5G drives at 100 kilometer per hour, the braking distance will only be about 2.78 centimeters after the car detects the obstacles and tries to stop. Using 4G with the latency of 40 milliseconds, however, the braking distance is about 1.11 meters, which is not safe enough to avoid an accident. Therefore, smarter and safer autonomous vehicles will be realized with 5G in the near future.
People have enjoyed new forms of entertainment as advanced technologies, like computers and the Internet, have been introduced. In the future, the upcoming 5G mobile network will transform entertainment again. Regarding eSports and mobile games, 5G will offer lag-free games with faster responses. Moreover, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) games will become more convenient, faster, and more realistic with the 5G network. Wireless VR headsets will be available with 5G because it will be able to transmit gaming data fast enough without cables. Also, 5G will enable massive multiplayer VR and AR games at a faster speed and expand the variety of games. For example, more realistic action games and rhythm games with a faster response will be released for VR and AR play.
|People Enjoying VR Games at SK Telecom 5G Experience Center|
In addition , 5G will enable more realistic live sports broadcasting. It will offer live broadcasting with the interactive time slice, where lots of cameras from different angles take pictures of a performance at the same moment. With this technique, viewers can stop the screen at any time to see a particular moment of the performance from different angles. 5G is required to transmit a large number of HD images in real time without delay. During the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, for example, the KT Corporation applied the time slice technique for the ice sports, including figure skate, short track, and ice hockey, and offered the videos at its 5G experience center. In addition to the time slice technique, 5G will offer live VR streaming of international sports events like the Olympics and the World Cup. It will be available through the ability of the 5G network which can handle high traffic volumes from lots of viewers trying to access the streaming service at the same time.
|Time slice allows viewers to stop the screen at any time to see particular performance of a figure skater in various angles.|
ITU is planning to introduce 5G to the world by 2020. After which, this new generation of mobile network will realize the future wonderland that people have imagined. At the same time, however, sudden changes might bring about disorders and concerns from society. Therefore, the SKT hopes that Kingos will get ready for taking advantage of this new technology.
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