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Feb 22, 2021 Florent Hainaut #IT

5G: What are the consequences and advantages for my company?

What will 5G change?

According to mobile phone operators, the fifth generation of wireless communication technology is designed to meet the data growth and connectivity needs of modern society. In addition to spectacular data exchange and storage capacities, call volumes are virtually unlimited. 5G will make use of an as-yet unused millimetre waveband, as well as low and medium frequencies. To give you an idea, a movie of 800 MB takes about 40 seconds to download in 4G and in 5G this will be reduced to only one second.

When is 5G planned for Belgium?

According to some specialists, 5G is expected to be introduced rapidly from the beginning of 2022. By mid-2023, 70% of the Belgian population should benefit from the new technology.

Elsewhere in the world, some operators have already launched 5G in certain countries (United States, South Korea, Lesotho, Qatar and Italy), but on a limited scale, notably geographically. It can only be connected via a Wi-Fi network or a router allowing connection to the mobile network. To benefit from it, you need not only a phone provider that offers it, but also a compatible smartphone such as the Apple Iphone 12, the Samsung Galaxy S21, the OnePlus Nord or the Xiaomi Mi 10.

Compare all the telephone operators in Belgium now.

The different applications of 5G

Because 5G technology is much more powerful than 3G and 4G, it offers many more possibilities in terms of application areas.

- Remote control of objects such as drones or connected cars is only possible if the response time of the network antennas is greatly reduced. Currently, the latency time is around 35 milliseconds and 5G would reduce it to 1 ms.

- Telemedicine has high expectations of 5G. For several years now, surgical procedures have been performed thousands of kilometres away, especially in developing countries, where medical personnel are inadequate. It is expected that this new technology will improve the image quality and increase the chance of successful operations.

- The mining sector also has high expectations of 5G. For example, one of the operations permitted by the 5G network is the use of drones to explore tunnels without risk to humans. Blasting and rockfalls can be delegated to remotely controlled machines.

Will the roll-out of 5G be an energy chasm?

The introduction of this new technology will have two important consequences. Less energy is needed to operate, so probably less exposure to the waves. On the other hand, with all the new connected gadgets, it is very likely that the antennas will be on all the time.

Are the concerns about the health risks of 5G well-founded?

The biggest concern surrounding 5G comes from the increase in the number of base stations emitting electromagnetic waves. Many people wonder about the medium to long-term health effects of broadband.

There are two types of radiation: ionising radiation and non-ionising radiation. The first modify DNA by their wavelengths such as UV or X-rays and can cause mutations that lead to cancer. Non-ionising radiation such as electromagnetic waves (used for 5G) does not cause DNA changes but has a thermal effect, the long-term effects of which may be underestimated due to lack of experience.

It is not possible to say anything about the health risk of 5G at the moment. A ten-year retrospective is needed to see it more clearly.

What are the benefits for my business?

5G may not be revolutionary for your business, but it does have certain advantages.

Firstly, the optimisation of teleworking, in particular to be able to work faster, more efficiently and more productively anywhere. The 4G network, on the other hand, can sometimes be responsible for saturated video during a video conference. With 5G, you can be almost instant, whether you are abroad or not.

Since 5G speeds are up to 10 times faster than 4G, it will also be possible to perform even more complex operations, such as downloading large files, editing and sharing them from your smartphone. One could imagine enjoying all the Microsoft and Adobe suites directly from the company network via the mobile phone.

5G could make educational tools even more interactive and this would allow employees to follow distance learning, for example, and even interact with trainers in real time. Thanks to the high throughput, the transformation of content could be shared in augmented or virtual reality. 5G also makes it possible to ensure video quality in 4K for example.

Which Belgian operators have a licence and are expected to introduce 5G in the near future?

The Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications has granted provisional rights to 5 operators in Belgium: Proximus, Orange, Telenet but also 2 players specialising in B2B, namely Cegeka and Entropia.

These provisional rights should remain active for at least one year while waiting for the new frequency bands to be auctioned. On the operators' side, not everyone likes it because Orange said it did not meet their expectations in terms of spectrum allocation, while Proximus has already launched its 5G subscription.

Be careful, there are several conditions in order to be able to benefit from the 5G network. You must not only have a compatible smartphone but also the subscription that goes with it. For the moment, there is a Proximus subscription that offers this but even with the subscription you will surf in 4G most of the time unless you are in certain geographical areas. See the network coverage map here.

To read: Artificial intelligence: is it riskier to be a lawyer or a plumber?