There are many areas of industry that are on the edge of a major technological breakthrough, only held back by the limitations of the 4G mobile networks. 5G mobile networks will be much more than just step up from past generations. 5G will not only be faster and more efficient; it’s already changing the way we think about communication and connectivity, both between people and devices.
Some are predicting that 5G will bring about the “fourth industrial revolution”, making way for the Internet of Things to become an everyday reality. This next-generation mobile network will revolutionise both everyday life and the economy in general, so it isn’t surprising that the government is taking the rollout very seriously.
What will 5G Offer?
There isn’t yet a definitive set of standards to measure 5G. The International Telecommunication Union is drafting technical specifications for 5G that include high data rates, massive connectivity, ultra-low latency, high reliability, and mobility at high speeds. It is also generally agreed that 5G will offer:
- Bigger system capacity
- Low device cost
- Seamless integration between devices, Wi-Fi and other networks
- Gigabit speeds for wireless broadband services
- Ability to connect devices to the network and to each other
- Network slicing, providing tailored network solutions instead of a “one size fits all” approach
5G has the capacity to revolutionise the economy because it comes together with a shift by the telecommunications industry away from voice-based services, and towards broadband and industrial applications. Industries that could experience drastic change include agriculture, health, transport and manufacturing, with many more set for similar upheavals. Each area has vastly different needs, but a successfully managed rollout of 5G networks could provide tailored solutions to each industry, resulting in massive system-wide changes.
Why is the Government Involved?
In Australia, telecommunications companies will lead the development and rollout of 5G networks, providing the infrastructure and services. The government’s role is to streamline the rollout process, create policy, act as a regulatory body, and consider the needs of the wider population. Because the 5G network will have massive impact on the economy, the government has stepped in at the beginning to oversee the process. In a paper entitled “5G – Enabling the Future Economy”, the Department of Communications says the government’s initial focus is on:
- 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.
There have been a number of areas that have attracted the attention of various Australian government bodies. In the discussion on spectrum allocation, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission expressed warnings about fair distribution of spectrums across companies, to increase competition and therefore provide high-quality, cost-effective services.
Security and privacy have been mentioned as possible areas of concern. With the advance of the Internet of Things, having many devices capable of sharing information raises concerns about confronting any foreseeable security issues now, instead of attempting to retrospectively address situations that may arise in future. Security is a multi-level concern – the government should be responsible for creating and upholding standards, telecommunication companies for providing solutions for network issues, and hardware manufacturers for building security into their devices.
The Australian Government has invested billions into telecommunications infrastructure, especially through NBN and the Mobile Black Spot Program. While dense urban areas have immediate business returns on investments by telcos, the government has focused a great deal of research and funding into providing coverage to regional areas. The government will therefore have even more incentive to see that the infrastructure is being used in the most efficient and effective way possible.
Laws governing the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure have been the same since 1997, and the government is looking to refine them in order to smooth the rollout of 5G. Spectrums will be auctioned off, with the ACCC paying close attention to the allocation to ensure market fairness now and in the future. All the telecommunications regulatory frameworks are being reviewed to ensure they are “fit-for-purpose” when the 5G networks become standard.
The Future of 5G
With 5G networks relying on current structures but looking to push forward into unknown territory, governmental oversight is important to make sure the process is safe, fair and effective. The new generation of mobile connectivity will have an impact on every Australian and area of industry, with massive influence on the economy. The Australian government will need to find a balance between regulating the rollout, and also supporting the advances that 5G will inevitably bring.