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EMF Studies

23 March 2017

Robots Delivering Pizza and House Viewing by VR: Is 5G Really the Future?

"The proportion of mobile-phone owners that own smartphones – which has driven the data and video explosion – has surged from a little over 20% in 2011 to 75% last year. Data usage per phone user rocketed from an average of 0.11Gb to 1.26Gb between 2011 and 2016, as gaming and video streaming services such as Netflix took off on mobiles."

[We have a question: Is providing individuals with faster gaming and video streaming services on mobile phones via 5G technology worth the health and environmental consequences that will result?]

A robot that utilises 5G technology on Deutsche Telekom's
stand at this month's Mobile World Congress.
Photo:  Paul Hanna/Reuters
Robots delivering pizza and house viewing by VR: is 5G really the future?
Mark Sweney, The Guardian, 11 March 2017

The blazingly fast next-generation mobile data network is not far away – but not everyone is convinced that we really need it

Philip Hammond says he wants the UK to become a “world leader” in 5G, the next-generation mobile technology that proponents say is the key to an internet-connected world of driverless cars, smart home appliances, delivery drones and lightning-fast video on the go.

The government, which has published a 70-page tome on its future 5G strategy, said in the budget it would invest up to £16m to run trials and support the technology’s development, to make sure the UK is at the crest of the “next wave of mobile technology services”.

However, 5G, which is set to be rolled out in the UK next decade, also has its critics. They argue consumers don’t need the superfast speeds the upgrade from current 4G technology promises, and many in the industry believe that logistical issues mean that 5G may not be properly rolled out in the UK for decades. In the meantime, there are still basic infrastructure issues – including rural areas with little or no broadband coverage at all – that need sorting out.

Last month, the telecoms and media regulator Ofcom published an update on 5G which highlighted a plethora of supposed benefits the technology will provide. The list includes superfast speeds for mobile broadband – downloading a high-definition movie will take just 1 second compared with almost 10 minutes using the older 3G network and up to a minute on 4G.

The mass connectivity it allows will also help expand the so-called internet of things (IoT), in which everyday appliances and devices wirelessly connect to the internet and each other. “IoT technology is being used in everything from smart homes to wearables,” says Ofcom. “5G should help the evolution of IoT. Possible future applications could include real-time health monitoring of patients, street lighting to suit the weather or traffic, environmental monitoring and smart agriculture.”

Analysts Gartner estimate that by 2020 there will be 20 billion IoT-connected devices.

In addition, 5G could be used to enable driverless cars to communicate with each other and other road users, as well as develop “smart manufacturing” – connecting all the various machines involved in a production chain – and the drone delivery networks that companies such as Amazon would like to develop.

“We believe delivery drones and droids could replace drivers for takeaway delivery,” says Bob Liao, an analyst at Macquarie. He points out that Just Eat has partnered with Starship Technologies, started by two of Skype’s co-founders, which already has “six-wheeled robots that navigate using cameras and ultrasonic sensors” that travel at 4mph and hold 10kg of cargo.

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