Telenor: Malaysia Not Waiting to Play Catch Up on 5G


Telenor: Malaysia Not Waiting to Play 5G Catch Up

Head of Telenor Research Bjørn Taale Sandberg was impressed by what he saw at Putrajaya’s first 5G showcase last weekend. But he is taking a more pragmatic tone as to when 5G will roll out with a big bang.

Salmon farming and 5G may be an unusual pair of word to be used in a sentence - for now.

But as the latter’s impending broad scale rollout is expected to disrupt a huge number of industries, the oldest ones in the world such as fishing and farming are poised to benefit immensely.

Already, in Norway, 5G tests is getting ready to be deployed in fish farms dotted along the North Sea, as the country’s largest telecom provider Telenor Group is ramping up 5G expansion.

5G is really the science to support massive Internet of Things

“These fish farms are typically remotely operated and mounted with high-definition cameras under and over the water. The feeding is also done remotely.”

“But you need very reliable communication to operate these farms, and 5G is excellent for that,” says Bjørn Taale Sandberg, Head of Telenor Research.

Salmon farms are just one of the many test sites slated to be used by Telenor for its 5G pilot projects, which began in Norway back in November 2018.

Healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, automotive - on top of broadband access -   are slated to be some of the key adopters, as industries move towards automation to have less dependence on workers.  

“5G is really the science to support massive Internet of Things,” says Sandberg, who was in Malaysia to attend Putrajaya’s first 5G Showcase last week.

“You can put sensors on anything physical and get data from those sensors. That data can be used to train artificial intelligence and machine learning models, which can be used to optimise value chain, traffic, port operations, hospital operations - more or less anything you can think of.”

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Malaysia was abuzz with 5G in the highly-publicised showcase, drawing some 4000 visitors, enamoured by demonstrations of 5G-use cases including hologram calls, smart helmets and drones to in real-time emergency services.

“Countries which are early with 5G testing, learning and understanding about where it can be used, and have policies to encourage the 5G rollout, is setting up the country for success in the digital future,” says Sandberg.

Nonetheless, while the fifth generation of mobile network technology will undoubtedly deliver higher speeds than 4G, Sandberg says the initial 5G use cases are going to be mostly about business.

“We don’t see 5G as a general coverage technology now.”

“We think 5G will be rolled out in pockets or island. So, mobile operators, together with equipment vendors will design for an area to help serve their need. For example, in hospitals, refineries, industrial or gas plants.”

Industry Grappling with the Business Case of 5G

Enterprises are also uncertain about 5G costs, making consumer use deployment risky and expensive at the moment.

"That is a question that the industry is grappling with right now. We will not approach this in the same way we’ve approached earlier technologies where we sort of say ‘Let’s cover the country with this tech over many months. The people and money will then come’”

“We don’t think that’s true for 5G. We need to work with partners.”

“With 5G, it’s about understanding what kind of solutions can be built using this tech and what’s the value of those solutions - and some of that can be shared by the operators that operate the network.”

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Having said that, he sees 5G commercial use to be rolled out in urban locations first, along with 4G usage.

“If you have a very dense, urban area where the demand is very high and capacity is limited, then you want to be very early with 5G.”

“And the reason is because 5G is more efficient than 4G in the way it uses radio spectrum, which is very expensive. 5G can give you more bits per hertz.” The 5G platform is expected to bring about a high data rate, reduced latency and energy savings.

“This means that it will replace 4G,” he emphasises. “But we are talking maybe ten years into the future, for it to completely replace 4G,” Sandberg adds.

So, as carriers and mobile phone makers talk up 5G, it will take a while for the network to arrive with a big bang, while promises of movie downloads in mere seconds may still be a few years away from now.

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