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Why is everyone talking about 5G?

What even is 5G?

We have sequentially moved from generation to generation of mobile network throughout the years. Currently your mobile will operate on anything between 2G, 3G or 4G, depending on what type of phone you have and your proximity to the required hardware for each network. Older phones, like the faithful Nokia 3310 still uses 2G technology, however, 2G will eventually be phased out in Australia as newer smartphones take over that have 3 and/or 4G capabilities.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile network technology which, like 4G before it, focuses on mobile data. This next evolution of mobile network comes with some big promises. For instance, it will have 10 times more data capacity than 4G, meaning the speed will be unrivalled. For most of the population that means more reliable and higher quality video streaming, faster wireless internet and more simultaneous connections ie. More devices will be able to connect to the network at the same time. Given the rise in smartphones, this will become crucial. Did you know, that nearly 60% of all global data use is currently from video streaming over mobile networks? That’s a lot of You Tube!

For the tech obsessed, these improvements will also open the doors for a multitude of technologies that will rely on lighting fast speeds to operate effectively. Where 4G paved the way for real-time video streaming tools like Facebook Live and instant video sharing apps like Snapchat, 5G will open the market to new technology that we can only fantasize about; 5G is predicted to trigger major technological disruption.

Around $5.8 billion will be invested into 5G technology nationally in the next 5 years, with $800 million of that being in South Australia, so it appears people are believing the hype.

Some of the promised improvements of 5G include:

− Faster network speeds: Depending on your mobile device, 5G promises individual users seeing speeds of up to 100Mbps (Megabits per second), that’s as fast as the nbn at a minimum!

− Reduced latency: Latency is the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer. Or more simply, it’s the delay between when your mobile sends out a request to the wider internet for data, like loading the Facebook app, and that data coming back again, when the app has loaded. The 4G network has a typical latency of 60 milliseconds. 5G could decrease this to as low as just 1 millisecond.

− More simultaneous connections: Further to the smartphone market growing, the not so distant future will see significantly more devices needing to connect to a mobile network, think autonomous vehicles, smart city infrastructure and Internet of Thing (IoT) devices. We’re talking anything from your washing machine, to your car, to the traffic lights all needing to connect to a reliable and fast mobile network.

To put into context what this speed means, it’s expected 5G's median streaming quality to be at 8K, up from 2K over 4G. While this might sound like complete overkill for watching cat videos on your iPhone, this kind of quality could make immersive virtual reality 360-degree video streaming a reality. For the gamers out there, this is mind blowing news; but this also means incredible things for other industries. For example, the reduced latency and increased speed means a surgeon won’t even need to be in the same country to operate on a patient, a VR headset and robot will allow them to virtually perform the operation.

For our industry, improvements in VR technology will mean we can virtually inspect plant and equipment without having to leave the office, saving not only time and operational costs, but it’s also a much safer means of inspecting equipment. Further to this, just like a doctor can operate remotely, our civils teams will be able to control machinery remotely as well. The team would be able to prepare sites from the comfort of their office chair. For example, a robotic digger can dig a trench for cable, and the remote operator will be able to feel real-time feedback from the operating handles, as if they’re actually in the digger. Meaning if they’ve hit a rock or a snag, they’ll know about it. If someone does need to go out to site, they’ll be able to jump into an autonomous vehicle, catch up on some emails while being chauffeured by their car to site, be dropped off at site while the car will find a suitable place to park, and will come back again to pick the passenger up with a simple request from the passenger’s phone.

While some of this technology is still a little while away, without 5G it won’t actually be possible. The speed and data processing capabilities need to be as fast, if not faster, than human reflexes for these systems to work.

What will 5G mean for the energy industry?

Enerven are already at the forefront of decentralised energy systems in the form of embedded networks, microgrids or Smart Grids and renewable energy solutions but there is a lot of discussion around how 5G will help to support energy utilities to more easily transition towards decentralised renewable-oriented systems and electrical grids.

Accenture research suggests that, “smart city solutions applied to the management of vehicle traffic and electrical grids could produce $160 billion in benefits and savings through reductions in energy usage, traffic congestion and fuel costs”. 5G will allow for the “Smart Grid”, which is essentially an electricity supply network that uses 5G technology to detect and react to local changes and usage.

Smart Grids can autonomously control and manage multiple energy sources and technologies such as distributed energy resources and renewables to deliver more reliable power supply. These smart grids allow operators, like Enerven, to better optimise energy usage via ‘demand response’ methods such as releasing or storing renewables according to peak demand, forecast weather and optimise for time of day. This would mean electricity prices will ultimately fall, as the “power” will increasingly end up in the customers’ hands.

What is Enerven doing about 5G?

As a key maintenance contractor to SA Power Networks, we have intimate knowledge of the distribution network and the necessary access to install, as well as maintain the antennas required for 5G capability, once they’ve been installed. We know what hoops to jump through, and we can do it all for you.

The hardware or “antenna”, is about the size of a shoe box and because the wavelengths emitted by 5G are smaller than its 4G counterpart, the antennas need to be fitted quite closely together for you to be able to use the network. If the antennas aren’t in close range, your device would revert back to the 4G network. 

What can Enerven do for you?

Our Communications Network Solutions (CNS) team are passionate about what they do and are proud to be at the forefront of this kind of technology. Enerven CNS has been building its telecommunications capability exponentially since their successful selection as business partner for the NBN project in 2012. Since the early beginnings, Enerven has been awarded the “Number 1 delivery partner nationally” for five of the last six quarters.

We are seeing new opportunities in the wireless telephony space especially on 4G In-Fill and 5G small cell deployment and are ecstatic to be playing in this space. Due to our history with SA Power Networks, we know utilities inside out and can produce detailed designs and solutions to different specifications. We understand the risks associated with working close to utilities, including gas pipelines, and incorporate all relevant safety considerations implications in our designs. Enerven’s utilities industry exposure, along with comprehensive process and optimisation experience, ensures we are uniquely skilled to provide unique tailored solutions that have a direct and tangible impact on your businesses investments.

To find out more about how our Communication Network Solutions team can help you, download our Capability Statement or call 1300 334 523 today