Getting our sleeves rolled up!
I’m Derek Boyd, Interim Director of the Scotland 5G Centre and I’m delighted and privileged to be leading the Centre during its initial phase of operation.
Our vision is to accelerate the adoption of 5G and realise its economic and social potential for Scotland; it’s a big task but we’ve got three great founding partners and compelling projects to build on. However, these projects and partners are just the beginning and the start of the broader, more inclusive Centre that will evolve.
Our initial projects will help test 5G in different locations – from challenging, sparsely populated rural environments to a densely populated urban centre. Learning from these testbeds will shape the rollout of 5G networks, not only in Scotland, but across the globe. One of these projects, the Infrastructure Deployment Accelerator, headed up by Scottish Futures Trust, will lead to faster and wider deployment of 5G in Scotland, which is something we badly need.
5G myths and realities
Perhaps surprisingly to many, 5G is not just about mobile communications. In fact, 5G reaches more widely than that: it’s an umbrella for a raft of new technologies aimed at solving some of the challenges facing the telecommunications industry today. As I hear the talk of ‘These young people always on their phones …’, I often laugh as I look at rail carriages or pubs full of people of all ages scanning social media, checking news, listening to music, posting selfies etc. This is certainly not the domain of youngsters alone but is a feature of modern life across current and future generations.
Many people will question the need for 5G when good 4G coverage (if you can get it) seems perfectly adequate. In order to explain this, it’s worth considering the growth in mobile traffic. According to CISCO Systems, global mobile internet usage was 19.01 Exabytes per month in 2018. By 2022, it is forecast to increase to 77.5 Exabytes per month; a compound annual growth rate of 46%. And in case, like me, you’re wondering, an Exabyte is 10-to-the-power-of-18 bytes!
Hence, we can immediately understand the requirement for new waves of technology to meet this incredible user demand.
The immediate needs
Therefore, the first target of 5G is to allow many more devices to connect simultaneously whilst maintaining or increasing data transfer capability. Additionally, the internet of things (IoT) is placing additional demands on the system with some 190m ‘machine-to-machine’ connections in Europe in 2019.
The third dimension that a new generation of system is required to address is the need for or ‘Ultra-reliable low latency communications’ (or URLLC). This is one of the most exciting areas of 5G that will serve a new wave of ‘autonomous’ functions whereby tasks that are restricted to humans today can be performed much more safely, reliably or accurately by machines or with the assistance of machines.
Hand-in-hand with this comes a requirement for new levels of cybersecurity as we require these complex systems to be ever more secure and difficult for those with malign intentions to attack.
Each of these topics contains its own extremely challenging requirements and technology of almost bewildering complexity is emerging to solve it. 5G therefore is far from a ‘done deal’. Many of the solutions are still emerging from globally leading universities, not just at our founding partner universities but across Scotland.
Hence the broad remit of the centre: not only to ensure Scotland is among the leading nations deploying this new technology globally but also to raise the profile of Scotland’s academic and business community developing new technologies, products and services.
I look forward to working with many of you as we seek to advance Scotland’s interests.