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Australian Government releases strategy to support rollout of 5G mobile technology

The Australian Government yesterday released a 5G directions paper and will convene a working group to drive the deployment of 5G mobile technology in Australia. The commercial rollout of 5G mobile networks is expected to commence in 2020. 5G will support improved connectivity, significantly faster data speeds,  and very low latency. These characteristics will enable 5G to underpin substantial economic and social benefits across the economy. What is 5G? 5th generation mobile networks or 5th generation wireless systems, abbreviated 5G, are the proposed next telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialised agency for information and communications technologies. This body decides global spectrum allocation frameworks and harmonises international spectrum to ensure networks and connected devices can communicate seamlessly. The ITU will undertake the formal, international process to identify bands for 5G by 2020. It has developed draft technical specifications for 5G which include:

  • high data rates (1 Gbps for hotspots, 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload for wide-area coverage)
  • massive connectivity (1 million connections per square kilometre)
  • ultra-low latency (1 millisecond)
  • high reliability (99.999% for mission critical ‘ultra-reliable’ communications), and
  • mobility at high speeds (up to 500 km/h i.e. high speed trains).

In working towards these specifications, 5G represents a significant leap from the capabilities of previous generations and introduces a range of new technological possibilities. The success of 5G in delivering new technologies and services will be supported by existing communications infrastructure, including the NBN, Australia’s broadband access network. This convergence of high-speed fixed-line and mobile services will collectively produce a consistent and ubiquitous user experience.

There is currently no standard for 5G deployments.

The paper, titled 5G—Enabling the future economy, outlines the immediate actions for Government to take that will support the timely rollout of 5G in Australia. These include:

  • making spectrum available in a timely manner
  • actively engaging in the international standardisation process
  • streamlining arrangements to allow mobile carriers to deploy infrastructure more quickly, and
  • reviewing existing telecommunications regulatory arrangements to ensure they are fit-for-purpose.

According to the paper, 5G enables productivity outcomes across key verticals of the economy as a result of a range of characteristics, such as network slicing and mesh networks.

Network slicing allows operators to split their network into separate sub-networks (also referred to as slices), enabling them to dedicate network resources to different users and applications. Sub-networks can ‘slice’ the infrastructure resources from the physical network to create virtual independent networks.

This is a significant development from previous mobile network generations, as it enables an operator to deliver many different capabilities by creating slices that can be tailored for the intended usage. For example, an operator could create a network slice for IoT devices, or alternatively, a network slice for higher security for a higher quality of service for government or public safety uses. Mesh networks can be utilised to increase the range of coverage, where the ‘mesh’ is an interconnection among a network of devices. Only one device in the mesh needs to be connected to the network, which can then relay data to other nearby devices.

Mesh networks not only provide the opportunity to support 5G deployment but also have the additional benefit of providing efficient network speeds. Through dynamic routing, devices on a mesh network are able to seek the fastest and most reliable pathway to send and receive data. As such, this architecture can provide a cost effective solution for coverage in more remote areas. For example, primary industries would benefit from this network approach by simplifying network connections and costs associated with deploying and managing an IoT sensor network.

The paper also reports how countries like the US, Korea, Japan and Europe are preparing for the testing of 5G technology and reviewing the spectrum arrangements.

Currently, the Government is currently undertaking work to modernise Australia’s spectrum management framework to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose. In May 2017, it outlined its proposed reforms to the framework which are designed to simplify and streamline the processes for spectrum allocation and provide a transparent, efficient and flexible spectrum management framework. This will be the most significant change to the Australian spectrum management framework in the last 25 years. Read the full 5G—Enabling the future economy paper here.

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