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Powering the economies of the future with 5G

The fifth generation of mobile telecommunication, 5G, offers a robust wireless architecture to connect clouds to edges and devices across the globe – and it can do so with less energy. 

According to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), mobile carriers in Australia continue to implement carbon management and energy efficiency initiatives, including the installation of energy ‘smart meters’ on 5G networks. These smart meters help providers better understand energy use and update services, with the ultimate goal being to transition to alternative energy sources where possible. Yet, more importantly, Ericsson reports that 5G will require less energy to power it all compared to 4G. 

Given the benefit to the economy, it’s critical Australia supports 5G rollout initiatives. Deloitte reports, “Australia is a world leader in terms of its 5G rollout with three live networks”, and “Currently, Australia is ranked 3rd in the world in terms of 5G connected devices per capita”. 

While this is promising, there’s a disparity in accessibility due to Australia’s diverse landscape and low population density. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) 2021 Mobile Infrastructure Report found that the 5G rollout focused more on cities than rural areas. While the 2022 report offers more insights into the high cost of network deployment in regional and remote areas versus metropolitan areas. 

However, if we can successfully open the “floodgates” of opportunity for organisations across Australia, 5G will boost a sustainable energy transition, support critical economic recovery, and power economies of the future.

A game-changer for technological development

The demands for ever more connectivity require more data transfer power. To address this demand, 5G will deliver ultra-fast connection speeds and gigantic bandwidth to drive companies’ efficiency and innovation potential. 

All the futuristic technologies we’ve long been hearing about are increasingly making a real-world impact. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Extended Reality (XR) technologies will significantly enable use cases such as high-precision tools for manufacturing, remote surgery and self-driving cars, which all rely on ultra-low latency standards. 

The full rollout of 5G means consumers will also be able to fully enjoy a huge variety of smart devices in the home, like roofs that detect storm damage and rubbish bins that ask to be emptied. In public, we can expect to receive notifications on open parking spaces or active air-quality warnings. For farming and food production, precision agriculture can help create efficiencies like never before by providing real-time, high-speed communications among sensors and devices, enhancing business and consumer experience and choice. 

More than just upgrading wireless communications ecosystems, 5G will boost innovation by connecting to other technologies like edge computing. Together, 5G together with edge computing will enable vast amounts of data to be wirelessly processed in real time—anywhere in Australia.

Boosting a sustainable transition

Perhaps even more important is the role of 5G enabling digital transformation on a sustainable pathway to reduce global emissions by up to 15 per cent by 2030. This will go far to cut costs, energy usage, emissions, and waste. 

Right now, throughput limitations force 4G network devices to work at full capacity, resulting in constant energy inefficiency. The increased capacity of 5G enables a 90 per cent reduction in network energy usage and perhaps ten years’ worth of battery life for low-power IoT devices. 

From energy distribution to challenges in food provision, IoT applications powered by 5G offer many other innovative solutions to sustainability. For example, 5G IoT smart grids will help solve issues with the last 5 km distribution, made more complex by the integration of renewable energy sources. The logically independent networks, enabled by 5G, allow the smart grid to meet different service needs with better coverage. 

Agriculture represents another exciting opportunity. By deploying a massive number of interconnected sensors that remotely collect and analyse precise data from crops, machinery, and livestock, the industry will benefit from optimised yields at far less cost.

Deloitte reports that in Queensland, there are currently trials of 5G technology that could have significant environmental benefits. For example, Telstra has deployed 55 IoT-enabled weather stations, providing local weather data to farmers in the region to enable greater crop yields and less intensive use of natural resources. 

Now is the time

Building sustainable 5G networks is no small feat, even compared to past telecom generations. It’s a massive undertaking that requires considerable public and private support for new infrastructure, devices, and services. Despite the costs, it’s critical to future-proof the economy and sustain competitiveness. 

Some doubt whether 5G is something we need for ourselves or industry. Though hard to imagine, think back to the time of dial-up performance. Now, contrast that experience with cable internet. That dramatic jump doesn’t even come close to the leap forward we can expect from the 4G to 5G transition. 

It’s not just about speed, though. Data capacity, latency and speed together will enable a radically new spectrum of possibilities. 

Business leaders recognise the importance of 5G, with 71 per cent of business respondents agreeing that 5G will make Australia more internationally competitive and 62 per cent agreeing that 5G will accelerate the growth of their business, highlighted in the 5G Unleashed Deloitte Report.

In short, we all must work together to invest in a mobile future that will offer considerable opportunities and inclusivity. With the right tools and know-how in place, our society will not only recover but evolve to prosper.

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