Special Report
A special report is content that is edited and produced by the special reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report but do not have editorial control.

5G has ushered in a new era, one where everything in the world is fully connected

Countries adapting to new tech at rapid pace to stay competitive in global economy

5G is the fifth generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects and devices.

To explain the growth of connectivity and computing, it is helpful to compare it to the early days of electricity. At first, electricity was only used for lighting. Gradually, it expanded to power home appliances and industrial equipment, which brought tremendous change to all industries and officially ushered in the electric age. During this process the use of electricity in homes and industries created sectors that were dozens of or even a hundred times larger than the electric sector itself.

The evolution from 1G up through 4G pretty much solved the challenge of connecting people. 5G on the other hand, has ushered in an entirely new era, one where everything in the world is fully connected.

Following the impact of the pandemic, the digital economy is now the driving force for the global economy. ICT infrastructure, as the cornerstone of the digital economy, is playing an increasingly important role. The value of the ICT now transcends the telecoms industry and has transformative implications for the global economy as a whole. With the challenges now facing the country, the digital economy is more central than ever to Ireland’s future rebound and recovery.

Innovation 

Fergal Monaghan, 5G programme director for Huawei Ireland, believes that Ireland needs a competitive market for 5G infrastructure which will help maximise gains from tech innovation and ensure competitiveness and balanced regional development.

“We are fully committed to being part of the rollout of 5G across Ireland, helping to create a world-leading digital infrastructure,” he says.

“The business case for 5G is not just better connectivity. When technologies like 5G, computing, cloud and AI come together, they reinforce each other and create numerous opportunities across five major tech domains: connectivity, AI, cloud, computing and industry applications.”

Countries that want to stay competitive in the global economy are adapting to 5G technology at an increasingly rapid pace. A 2020 Amárach Research study commissioned by Huawei found a delay in the rollout of 5G would lead to a slowdown in technological innovation and a reduction in economic growth in Ireland.

Using OECD predictions of Ireland’s long-term economic growth between 2020 and 2035, Amárach Research calculated the opportunity cost of low 5G adoption in Ireland is a loss in GDP of €6.1 billion by 2025, €12.6 billion by 2030 and €20.9 billion by 2035.

Dominant

Eir’s position as the dominant provider of 5G networks, which began in 2019, now boasts more than 70 per cent population coverage.

Fergal McCann, Eir’s director of mobile networks, is bullish on the benefits of 5G.

“5G can enable real-time remote team working, with a faster, more reliable connection. This is particularly vital as hybrid working becomes a more permanent feature of our working lives. 5G isn’t just about faster connectivity, this is next-generation technology that brings with it the power to unlock innovation and benefits for people, businesses, education, communities and governments,” says McCann.

The technical benefits are impressive and includes lower latency, faster data speeds and enhanced network capacity. These benefits enable new opportunities for business as data and mobility become more critical for day-to-day business operations.

The speeds are typically 10 times faster than 4G and latency is reduced significantly so that businesses can use more mission-critical, real-time applications over a 5G network like remote AI, automation and diagnostics and autonomous transport.

According to Monaghan, Huawei itself offers a comprehensive range of products and solutions that address power consumption issues of wireless networks. Its solutions can reduce the use of electricity from grids and fossil fuels by diesel generators and improve the energy mix that powers base stations.

“On the power distribution front, we provide an industry-leading high-density power solution. For each site, just one cabinet – or even just one blade – is needed, which supports the long-term evolution of mobile networks. These solutions maximise the share of energy used by communications equipment and ensure electricity is fully used. Wireless networks need to work in synergy with power supply, distribution and use,” says Monaghan.

Power saving

To support green development models and carbon neutrality, Huawei keeps innovating at three levels: equipment, sites and networks. At the equipment level, Huawei uses components with higher power efficiency to make hardware platforms more energy efficient. At the site level, Huawei’s simplified site solutions help operators lower energy consumption, as well as save on electricity and rent.

At the network level, Huawei has launched a multi-band and multi-RAT power saving solution. This solution can cut energy consumption in wireless networks without compromising network performance. With Huawei’s innovative solution, 5G equipment working in low and high bands can share a cabinet, and as a result, less energy is used. When it comes to multi-band equipment power saving, Huawei’s goal is to make one plus one less than one.

Eir is following similar rollouts, recognising that the volume of antennas will increase and aims to use monopoles to support these additional demands. In some cases, infrastructures will be needed in population areas, with more than 400 new deployments now active to cater for requirements.

Innovation will never stop. The next decade will be a decade of 5G, with 5G continuing to evolve and innovate toward 5.5G.

Jillian Godsil

Jillian Godsil is a contributor to The Irish Times

READ MORE