Tech Innovation

This cruise ship has its own 5G mobile network

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

With the Google Pixel 2 and iPhone X launching this year, smartphones are evolving again, incorporating faster processors, edge-to-edge OLED displays, wide-angle camera lenses and face recognition. Yet the 4G/LTE network they connect to is now five years old.

The good news is that 5G mobile, the next generation of high-speed, fast-response cellular networking, is closer than you might think. While Ofcom has suggested that the “first wave of commercial [5G] products is expected to be available in 2020,” early deployments of the technology in the UK could start in 2018.

The world’s first 5G ship?

Trials are already underway in Europe, where Swedish network operator Telia is deploying a public 5G live network in collaboration with Ericsson and Intel. It’s a small but important test case, a milestone in 5G development that delivered high-speed connectivity to the Tallink Silja Europa cruise ship docked in the Port of Tallinn, Estonia.

The technology, which uses an Ericsson 5G base station and the Intel® 5G Mobile Trial Platform, extended the Telia network to 5G. This ultimately delivered super-fast Wi-Fi for 2,000 passengers aboard the Tallink Silja Europa and provided unmatched connectivity for the ship’s own information and communications technology systems.

Crucially, 5G mobile networking will also empower the Internet of Things (IoT), leading to millions of devices gaining internet connectivity. At the recent EU Digital Summit in Tallinn, for example, visitors had an opportunity to use an augmented reality headset to remotely control an excavator over the Telia 5G network.

Low latency remote control over 5G

This remote operation, enabled by 5G’s seamless speed and low latency, is a glimpse of things to come. Imagine driverless vehicles that can be remotely piloted over 5G if they encounter any trouble; real-time monitoring of automated factory systems; even augmented reality robo-surgery, allowing a doctor wearing a haptic glove to operate on a patient remotely using a robotic arm.

remote controlled 5G excavator
Visitors to the EU Digital Summit in Estonia remotely controlled this excavator over a 5G network.

As Gabriela Styf Sjöman, global head of networks for Telia Company explains, 5G is so much more than a speed upgrade for your next phone.

“It’s not only about building a new network but it’s also about building a new way of thinking and perceiving what a mobile network can be and can do. High speed, low latency, guaranteed capacity and truly mobile is going to push the boundaries of digitalization.”

Accelerating 5G deployment

The Telia trial is the latest in a series of projects designed to test the technology that will power the 5G revolution. Intel has already collaborated with AT&T and Ericsson for a 5G DIRECTV NOW trial in Austin, Texas. It has also worked with Verizon to test 5G in Indianapolis and with NTT Docomo to trial the standard in Tokyo.

That’s just the start. Development is poised to accelerate when the 5G new radio (NR) standard, the technical foundation of 5G, becomes finalised at the end of 2017. It’s the next big step on the roadmap to global 5G mobile deployments by 2020.

As Asha Keddy, Intel vice president, Client and Internet of Things Businesses and Systems Architecture, and general manager Next Generation and Standards, points out:

“Years from now – when our cars drive themselves and our smart homes make our lives easier – we’ll look back with a sense of nostalgia at our smartphones and apps that were world-changing at the time. And no doubt another new technological innovation will then be racing at us.”

Find out more about Intel and 5G technology here.

Main image copyright Shutterstock/By Iaremenko Sergii

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