The road to 5G

5G technology is going full speed towards the future. Learn more about VodafoneZiggo's plans.

5G is the network of the near future. And fantasies about it are abundant. To stay away from the fairy tales, I will lift up the bonnet of 5G for you. What is underneath? A look at the technology will reveal the possibilities of 5G in practice.

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What is 5G and what does it bring us?

The keys to autonomous cars and drones

Following 3G and 4G, 5G is the next generation of mobile communication. However, 5G is so much more than just "a faster and better 4G". Find out about the upcoming evolution.

5G has been designed in such a way that it offers higher speeds and more capacity, but most of all almost eliminates the time that passes between sending and receiving data, the so-called latency. The increased speed and capacity actually transform the current 80 km secondary road into a ramified ten-lane motorway with a 130 km speed limit. The ultrashort response time allows for autonomous cars, buses and lorries to become a reality. Such vehicles can only function if they are in constant communication with each other.

New, long-term technology
Worldwide, a lot of work is already being put into the development of 5G applications and building the accompanying networks. 5G is a new technology that needs a long-term perspective. It is not a revolution taking place overnight, but rather an evolution. Business cases are still being developed and the roll-out (by the telecom providers) requires a lot of time and especially a lot of money. Businesses, knowledge institutes, authorities and other parties, therefore, have to work closer together in order to provide the entire Netherlands with 5G.

Free up spectrum
The Netherlands faces another challenge in the bargain: introducing 5G requires more space to transmit radio waves. The air is divided into frequencies. Most of these are being used by telecom and media companies. The 3.5 GHz frequency band, crucial for 5G, is used by the security services. As a result, other parties north of the imaginary line Amsterdam-Zwolle cannot use these frequencies.

Investigative service
Recently, the government decided that the ground station of the investigative service in Burum (Friesland) needs to relocate to free up the 3.5 GHz frequency band for 5G. Not until this has been realized and spectrum (space in the radio waves) has been freed up and auctioned, does the introduction of 5G have a realistic chance of success. On a European level it has been decided this should be realized in 2020, but the Netherlands will not be able to meet that deadline. However, the deadline for the 700 MHz frequency band can be met by the Netherlands, as spectrum will be auctioned and made available in the fourth quarter of 2019 or the first quarter of 2020.

Pilot projects
VodafoneZiggo is convinced of the new possibilities and applications of 5G. We encourage the development of business cases by initiating pilot projects, for example as part of the collaborative project 5Groningen. In 2019 we will start 5G pilot projects in the Eindhoven area, together with Ericsson and other hi-tech companies in that region.

In addition, in our political lobby we focus on sufficient spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band becoming available earlier and on favourable auction conditions. Because, in order to realize the intended 5G speeds, a telecom provider needs blocks in the 3,400 – 3,800 MHz frequency band for a technically sound and cost effective result.

Therefore, it will still take a few years before 5G will be rolled out across the Netherlands. Developments outside the Netherlands, however, are gaining momentum, also outside of Europe with the US and China readily engaging in 5G. To maximise the economic potential of 5G, we don’t want to fall behind too much.

What are VodafoneZiggo’s plans with 5G?
5G has some unique characteristics enabling many new applications. With self-driving vehicles, fewer parking spaces will be needed in cities with more space for green areas. Drones will enable smart farming, allowing for less pesticides and water to be used in growing crops. In time, doctors can establish a diagnosis or even perform an operation without physically being in the same location as the patient.

Developing this kind of applications, however, will require a lot of time and money, and the roll-out of 5G will be expensive too. VodafoneZiggo believes in the potential of 5G and is currently investigating which technologies suit our company objectives.

Network, divided into slices
Two developments we monitor extra closely, are network slicing and edge computing. The first technology allows for one network connection to be, as it were, divided into ‘slices’, so several users are being offered different band widths simultaneously. In that way, you can guarantee a certain speed or capacity, for example, for critical applications like the emergency services or operating robots in a hospital.

Streamlining data traffic, right next to the source
'Edge computing' is a way to streamline data traffic of equipment. For example when it comes to connections using the Internet of Things (IoT), where household appliances exchange information with each other or are connected with the internet. By ensuring the data collection of these machines takes place at the source (before sending it to the central storage location or the cloud) these analyses can be offered real-time without losing time.

It is for sure that 5G will offer society lots of benefits. How that will pan out exactly, remains the question. VodafoneZiggo is now investigating the feasibility of these applications, preparing itself for the network of the future.

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