By ASINA PORNWASIN
INTERNET of Things, 5G, and cloud technology have become the key technologies for the mobile industry, said the chief technology officer of Ericsson Asia-Pacific, Magnus Ewerbring.
For its part, Ericsson's top priority is supporting customers - technology operators - to ensure they have the best network, and that networks evolve to better support user needs, said Ewerbring. And providing support, at this time, involves helping customers adopt the recent advances of 5G, Internet of Things (IoTs), and cloud technology.
Right now "5G is the very big focus in the entire industry," said Ewerbring. "Internet of Things is another big thing that's getting everything connected. The third is the cloud technology for operator networks, that help an operator become more efficient so that they can provide the services that consume more data."
IoT is also an important part of preparing the network, and cloud implementation is a key part, too. IoT and cloud are also used in 4G. Today's operators are gradually wading into IoT and cloud implementation.
But the company's immediate concern is paving the way for 5G.
Many operators are scheduling their 5G network launch for 2020 or soon after. In Thailand, launch date for 5G varies depending on operators. More importantly at the moment, Thailand's Office of National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the Thai regulator, needs to ensure that spectrum is available for Thai operators to launch the improved 5G service. This is key, said Ewerbring.
In many countries, regulators are now looking at what spectrum can be used for 5G and when it could be available. Only when it is available, will operators invest and launch the service.
"We have already absolutely rolled out a trial using a pre-commercial system, and would have a commercial system available very early for the market in North America and Korean, then China and Japan," said Ewerbring.
The Ericsson Mobility Report estimated that 540 million 5G connections would be available by 2022. "It is not very far away," Ewerbring said. "It is only five years and there are a lot of things that need to be done by then."
First will come the very important human-to-human connections, followed by IoT connections. In 2022, there will be 2.1 billion IoT connections, a rapid growth from today's 400 million IoT connections. The number of mobile subscriptions, including smartphones, personal computers, and other human connections will be many billions in 2022, composing the large majority of connections.
Spectrum, frequency choices needed
Which spectrum is the most suitable for 5G? Actually it is not yet designed, but is being discussed, said Ewerbring. One band that people are talk about a lot is around 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz and China may be an early adopter of that. Japan is looking at 4.4 GHz to 4.9GHz, and a very high frequency band such as 24GHz to 28GHz. Some countries are thinking about 39GHz. Compare to today's system, 5G will use high frequency, allowing an increase in bandwidth. More bandwidth has the advantage of allowing operators to move more information. North America is considering both 28GHZ and 39GHz, with some advocates looking lower down the band at 700MHz.
"With low frequency, the advantage is the signal will go a greater distance and perform better indoors, whereas higher frequencies have a tougher time to go deep indoors," said Ewerbring. "The advantage of the higher band frequency is it can be used more widely in some countries." There's a clear trade-off, and that needs to be carefully worked through.
Solutions will vary country to country. Local regulators will have to choose and assign the bands that can be used for 5G.
"In one country one band may be possible but they have to clear the spectrum for somebody else using it. We talk to NBTC and to other regulation bodies about what is the trend now, what are the good policy choices," Ewerbring said. It's part of the big picture facing the communication technology sector.
In talks with operators and local regulators around the world, he encourages them to thing about the advantages 5G brings to industry. It offers so much to the official digital Thailand initiative, Ewerbring said.
"This could be crucial part. Therefore, I think any countries that can start 5G early have the advantage. I really encourage local regulators to make sure spectrum is available, so operators can start their investment early. Industry can learn how to use it." But 5G is not just another change in the system, this time it is a revolution.
"In 5G you can do a lot since it is 10 to 100 times better and stronger than today's system. Data volumes is very much more being transferred. The key thing is that the delay is five times shorter than today. It is very important if you are controlling some things. For example, if you are controlling a machine remotely you can stop it right away from far away," said Ewerbring.
Security of 5G is another big issue, since in 2022 there will be 28 billion connections. Security will take on even greater importance Ericsson is working very actively on this and his company is supporting standardisation that would increase security.
"In some parts, we are using block chain technology. It is very good technology to make sure nobody is touching your file or reading your file," said Ewerbring.
Government needs to pave the way
Ericsson has been showing Thailand press, customers and regulators the results of the first 5G trial system done in collaboration with other companies. Ewerbring said 4G is now very strong in Thailand, but the company is already working on growing government and market interest in 5G, including promoting it as a better and more powerful system for users and services yet to come.
"In the mobile industry now, there are a lot of focuses. We are thinking about consumers, almost everyone has a smartphone. A lot is changing in how we use our mobile network. In Thailand, social media is very popular, Thais are very active using YouTube, e-commerce and so on. It is great that everybody is connected," said Ewerbring. He also commends the Thailand 4.0 vision as ambitious and in line with what other countries are developing.
Ericsson started to study the potential of 5G in 2010, seven years ago. Now the large commercial launch is expected in 2020, 10 years from research to industry standard. That is a long cycle by digital standards, but was necessary to pick the right technology.
"We need to work with the absolutely best technology with potential to deliver 100 times faster," said Ewerbring. "It is also important that it can be used in smartphones and can be produced in high enough volume that we can bring down the cost. Last year, 1.4 billion smartphones were sold in the world. Many people in Thailand can afford smartphones because the cost is acceptable."
Ewerbring insisted that 5G has a lot of potential. He sees it as key for the vision of a digital Thailand, and hopes the government and regulator provide the necessary framework for operators, including choosing the spectrum to be used and when it will be available.