5G has been designed to offer higher speeds and more capacity, but especially to make the latency between transmitting and receiving data practically unnoticeable. The ultrashort response time enables autonomous cars, buses and lorries to become a reality. Such vehicles can only function if they can communicate with each other without any interruption or latency.
New technology that requires time and patience
Worldwide, 5G applications are already being developed as we speak, and the necessary networks built. 5G is a new technology that requires time and patience. It's not an overnight revolution, but rather an evolution. Business cases are in the making and the rollout of the networks (by the telecom providers) will need a lot of time and money. Companies, knowledge institutes, governments and other parties therefore need to cooperate more closely in order to provide 5G coverage for the entire country.
Freeing up spectrum
And the Netherlands is facing another challenge. To further optimise 5G, more spectrum is needed to transmit radio waves. The radio wave spectrum is divided into frequency blocks, part of which are used by telecom and media companies. The 3.5 GHz band is one of the frequencies suitable for 5G. But in the Netherlands, this frequency is also used by the security services. As a result, other parties above the imaginary line Amsterdam-Zwolle cannot use this frequency yet, and in the rest of the Netherlands only to a very limited extent.
The government has indicated that the ground station of the investigative service in Burum (Friesland) must relocate, in order to free up the 3.5 GHz frequency band for 5G. Not until this has been realised and spectrum (space in the radio waves) has been freed up and auctioned off, can the introduction of 5G on this 3.5 GHz band take place. At a European level it has been agreed that this should be implemented in 2020. That deadline will not be met, and instead the Netherlands expects 2022 to be feasible. The Netherlands does try to meet the deadline for the 700 MHz frequency band (which also enables 5G). The auction for this is currently scheduled for June 2020, after which the buyers can start using this spectrum.
5G is not a revolution, rather an evolution. Step by step we will convert to this new experience. First of all, it will take time before there is national 5G coverage. This is partly due to the fact that some radio frequencies intended for 5G will be sold by the government by auctions in the coming years. The exact outcome of the '5G landscape' partly depends on who will acquire these frequencies (and when this will take place). In the meantime, telecom companies are making their networks '5G ready'. And finally, people can only use 5G if their mobile device is compatible.
VodafoneZiggo prefers not to let the introduction of 5G depend on the frequency auction. For that reason we are using innovative technology to already embed 5G in existing frequency bands using our existing antennas. This is the fastest way for our customers to benefit from the advantages of 5G. We have renewed the equipment in our network and updated it with the latest software that enables us to transmit 4G as well as 5G. Initially, the internet speed of this 5G version will be approximately 10% higher than that of 4G. It results in peak speeds of up to 1 GB per second. Data transfer, for example in games, will be up to 30% faster.
Two languages, one frequency
How does this technology work exactly? For the 5G connection VodafoneZiggo uses Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). This technology from our partner Ericsson allows our network to use the same spectrum for 4G ánd 5G connections. The technology speaks 'two languages' in fact, in the same frequency band. The smart network instantly chooses between 4G and 5G, depending on the characteristics of the device. Outside the 5G coverage area the mobile automatically switches over to 4G. New 5G frequencies that will become available at some point in the future, will be added so that customers will continue to experience further improvements. In this way we keep investing in GigaNet, the powerful network of Vodafone and Ziggo, of which 5G is a part.
VodafoneZiggo is convinced of the new possibilities and applications of 5G. We stimulate the development of business cases by initiating pilot projects, for example as part of the 5Groningen partnership and the 5G Hub in Eindhoven, where we partner with Ericsson and other hi-tech businesses in these regions.
What are VodafoneZiggo's intentions with 5G?
5G has unique characteristics that enable many new applications. Autonomous vehicles will reduce the need for parking spaces in cities, creating more space for trees and shrubs. Drones will make 'smart farming' possible, which will help reduce the amount of pesticides and water needed to grow crops. In future, doctors will be able to diagnose or even operate without being in the same location as the patient.
The 5G picture of the future is promising. In due course, 5G technology will provide superfast internet. Yes, actually up to ten times faster than the fourth generation. The network will also be more stable than its predecessor; therefore fewer disruptions. Great for consumers of course. Eventually, 5G will become the standard for all technology we are currently using on an increasingly massive scale: streaming, downloading, online gaming. Where we used to experience latency or a glitch in calls or games once in a while, that experience will definitely improve and keep improving over time.
Developing all these applications will cost lots of time and money, and also the rollout of 5G will require substantial investments. VodafoneZiggo believes in the potential of 5G and is examining which technologies fit in with international practice and the business goals of our customers.
Two developments we pay extra attention to are network slicing and edge computing. With the first technology one can 'slice up' one network connection into multiple parts, to offer several users various bandwidths simultaneously. In this way one can guarantee a certain speed or capacity for critical applications like the emergency services or controlling robots in a hospital. You can compare it with the rush-hour (or emergency) lane of a motorway, to which certain vehicles have right of way (in an emergency).
Edge computing makes it possible to operate internet services closer to the end user. As a result, a mobile game, for example, reacts faster to the commands of a player. Or a robot at the assembly line reacts faster to video image recognition. If data is processed locally instead of on the internet, less network capacity is needed, which offers advantages for data security and privacy.
It is impossible to imagine society today without 5G and the benefits it will bring us will be plentiful. What this development will look like in detail, remains to be seen. VodafoneZiggo is currently examining the feasibility of all kinds of applications and in doing so, prepares itself, together with customers, for the near future.
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