While the world enjoyed the action at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, we were just as interested in what was happening away from the ice and snow. Namely the first large-scale 5G pilot service.
For critics it served as a marketing ploy for KT Group, South Korea’s largest telecom, who promoted the event as the first “5G Olympic Games in the world.”
For us though, the games with its driverless buses, immersive broadcasting, 360-degree instant replays and zooming, as well as the opening ceremony’s spectacular 5G-enabled peace dove, the trial seemed like a fun way of introducing the next generation of wireless communications to a wider audience.
However, the surface has yet to be scratched on what 5G can truly deliver to help improve our lives. It’s very much in its infancy, but already we see how more and more devices are increasing their worth to us with services that require reliable Internet connectivity. Even the humble doorbell has received a tech makeover. You can now see and speak to whoever is at your door, no matter where you are on the planet. Imagine one day a surgeon in one area of the country performing vital surgery somewhere else through a 5G-enabled robot. 5G will help the Internet cope with this increase in demand.
In 1899, the Head of the US Patents Office, Charles H. Duell, famously declared: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Then came the 20th century, the age of mass invention. Nearly 120 years on and, in this context, you sense that 5G is the start of something extraordinary. With some even stating it will: enable the future – accelerating innovation and growing the economy. Exciting stuff for everyone, you’d think. But it’s not that Mr Duell was wrong in 1899, though he was, he just demonstrates how fallible we all are when it comes to imagining the future.
If Mr Duell, a man surrounded by invention and America’s brightest minds couldn’t see computers, microchips, moon rockets and the Internet coming – to name just a few of the 20th century’s stunning breakthroughs that would have bent his head – then what chance do the rest of us have in explaining what the 5G future will be or look like? Except to say: It’s what you make it.
5G and OS
One thing that we know with certainty, and we write about this in two government-funded reports published today, is that the most cost effective and simplest way for the UK to adopt 5G is through the creation of a ‘Digital Twin’.
In 2016, the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport asked us to define an approach to successfully roll out 5G on a national scale. Due to the nature of 5G’s higher frequencies, which is great at carrying the huge amounts of data needed to make the Internet-connected future happen, it is hampered by a short range. 5G frequencies above 6Ghz are flaky. They can be impacted by manmade and natural features, even raindrops. So, from the outset it was obvious that geospatial data has a crucial role to play in the rollout.
We created a ‘digital twin’ of Bournemouth, which incorporated over 30 datasets to create a single 3D view of the town. This was integrated with 5GIC’s radio propagation model and overlaid with Met Office weather data to create a ‘live’ digital environment. This allowed us to understand and address all the challenges of rolling out 5G from behind a desk.
Being able to plan 5G like this offers significant savings. In one area of Bournemouth where planning had already taken place, OS’s planning tool was used to dramatically reduce the number of antennae it was thought to be needed, taking that number down to just a fifth of the original amount. This approach, we believe, saves on hardware, eliminates trial and error in the field and speeds the process up, leaving installers free for fine tuning.
Today we publish two reports with DCMS on our findings about the rollout of 5G. Read them both on our website: https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/business-and-government/smart/5g.html