Experts explain how a new industry standard is accelerating the development of 5G technology, and how Intel will use the future wireless technology to power new ways of experiencing the Olympic Games.
When Olympic skiers, figure skaters and other athletes perform incredible feats this winter, spectators located miles away in the Olympic Village can come along for the ride and feel the rush. Through an array of ultra-high definition cameras connected via 5G, fans get an athlete’s view from various angles, plus details on the athlete’s name, country and previous records.
That’s just one way attendees will experience the power and speed of 5G, a future wireless network technology that Intel and 5G ecosystem collaborators will demonstrate at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in February.
The aim of bringing 5G to the Olympic Games is to demonstrate the performance, reliability and uses cases for the future wireless technology during a dynamic, high traffic event, according to Robert Topol, general manager of Intel’s 5G Business and Technology. His team will test how different devices interoperate with the new network technology, which is significantly faster, can carry more data with much lower latency than current 4G networks.
“Over the last six months we’ve seen an accelerated pace of 5G development,” said Topol. That’s because the first release of the 5G standard is coming in December of this year, called non-standalone new radio (NR).
The 5G NR wireless radio standard lays the foundation for 5G just as LTE did for 4G. Finalized in December, the non-standalone standard is expected to accelerate commercial 5G trials and deployments while the standalone 5G NR standard is developed. It’s anticipated to be in place by mid-2018, said Topol.
5G Tech Advances Ahead of PyeongChang 2018
Standardization and successful trials in 2017 stimulated faster 5G growth. Market research forecasts 5G connections will reach 1 billion worldwide within five years, which is much faster than 4G took to get to the same milestone. Subscriptions to 5G could reach 2.6 billion by 2025.
The industry has made great progress in 2017, both in terms of trials and in terms of standardization, according to analyst Geoff Blaber. The pace of progress means 5G could be ready even sooner than 2020, which was the original estimate.
“It means 5G can be delivered to the market quickly,” he said. “Having a standard means chip and infrastructure manufacturers can align their tech development roadmaps, which shortens the timeline to bring products to the market.”
Blaber said 5G trials in 2017 focused on fixed wireless — transmitting from one stationary point to another. The primary purpose was to learn how various technologies worked together.
In September, Intel teamed with networking and telecom companies in Europe to demonstrate some of the first public 5G live networks in the region.
One trial established a 5G-based data connection to some 2,000 passengers of a commercial cruise ship while it was docked in the Port of Tallinn in Estonia. Another trial showed how an enormous construction excavator could be driven remotely over a 5G network, demonstrating how machines can be remotely controlled in dangerous environments.
At PyeongChang 2018, Topol said Intel will use 5G to deliver streaming media and immersive experiences, but the months prior to and after the Olympic Games will bring additional trials for mobile applications and commercial services, including machine-to-machine communications aimed at advancing smart factories and smart cities.
“It’s going to shift from just testing out 5G operations to developing commercial services,” Topol said. “All underpinned by powerful edge and core network computing capabilities powered by Intel 5G technology.”
In November, Topol said Intel teamed up with other industry leaders, including Toyota, to trial 5G technology and connected cars in Japan. The test, powered by Intel GO 5G Automotive Platform, achieved data speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second for 4K resolution video communications with a car traveling at 18.6 mph (30 kph).
By the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, “you’ll not only see the evolution of the connected car and smartphones using 5G, you’ll start to see it used in things like autonomous delivery drones and smart-city applications,” Topol said.
“The Olympic venues in Tokyo will show a new generation of smart city applications, and 5G will be the fabric enabling those capabilities.”
Among its most powerful capabilities, 5G enables machines to communicate with each other, creating “contextual awareness,” said Topol. For example, a billboard in the smart village could use 5G to update its display in response to searches done by smartphone users nearby, or the network could automatically adjust its capacity to meet shifting needs.
“If I’m streaming a show or event on my smartphone, I don’t need the same guarantee of bandwidth and speed as an autonomous car,” said Blaber. “This is where 5G networks become a lot smarter. They can adjust to provide the quality of service needed by particular use cases.”
At each stage of trials, companies are learning how 5G technology may change the design and functionality of future connected devices, Topol said. His team is studying how consumers interact with the technology and how 5G capabilities might inspire changes in human behavior, similar to how touchscreen tech altered the way people interact with their devices.
As 5G enables higher quality, high-speed connections, including direct machine-to-machine communication, people may prefer to control technology by voice, said Topol.
“We will eventually reach a stage of ambient computing, where environments are sensitive and responsive to your presence,” he said. All forms of media experience will seamlessly move with people from the home network, to smartphone, to driving the car and the workplace, for example.
From handling mundane tasks in everyday life to bringing immersive ways to view the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Topol said 5G has the potential to change how people experience the world.