The demand for mobile broadband continues and has been the cause of major global expansion efforts in wireless technology. The growth of deepening wireless networks is only made possible through the industry adhering to regulatory health and safety standards. In light of the current health and environmental concerns related to 5G, governments across the world have taken immediate steps to assess the impact of the new technology, to safeguard public health.
According to Developing Telecoms, the government of Namibia is reportedly proceeding with an assessment of the environmental impact of 5G before plans of introducing the next generation technology to the market.
The Namibian reports that the country’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism was instructed to begin the review, which came a short while after the municipality of Windhoek (the capital) announced that it was going to improve the city’s mobile network infrastructure to prepare it for 5G. There are also plans in place to transform the city into a smart city by 2022, which (according to reports) was approved by council last year.
According to the Namibian, Windhoek official documents showed that the municipality wants Huawei to take the lead for the network system upgrade. “The aim is for Huawei Communications (Pty) (Ltd) to design and build the 5G network for the city,”
The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) have been informed by the government to expediate the development of a 5G strategy for Namibia, which will be presented to the cabinet for deliberation.
Peya Mushelenga, Information Minister, said the proposed environmental assessment should be conducted before the possible introduction of 5G technology.
In a report published by the Windhoek Express earlier in May, local authorities assured its residents that it would not proceed with the deployment of any technology solution or infrastructure that would have a detrimental effect on residents. “Being a caring city as per the vision statement, the City remains committed to social progression, public safety, with specific emphasis on people and service orientation.”
The unlikely champion of Climate Change: 5G
5G has promised to bring many changes to how we lead our lives.
Faster speeds, more security, an ecosystem supporting technological innovations, autonomous vehicles, robots, telemedicine, and so much more.
However, while fueling the Fourth Industrial revolution, the fifth generation of mobile networks will need to be adopted with a green hand to usher in environment-friendly policies and regulations.
According to a report by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), the information and communication technology (ICT) sector will account for 3.5 percent of annual carbon emissions by next year, a larger share than both the aviation and shipping industries.
“That figure could jump to 14 percent of worldwide emissions by 2040, roughly equivalent to the percentage now attributable to the entire population of the United States,” the report highlighted.
And with the rise of 5G, experts predict that networks are expected to support 26 billion devices and connections worldwide by 2022, an increase of about 10 billion from 2015.
This is a natural occurrence, as 5G will bring with it a myriad of different devices such as cameras, sensors, smart appliances, smart factories, homes, and cities, which will eventually lead to more energy consumption.
Thus, the key lies within the infrastructure.
“This is a real concern for 5G,” Zach Chang, a carrier network product manager at Huawei said in a report by the Chinese tech titan. “It will be much more powerful than 4G in terms of processing power and bandwidth and has the potential to cover the whole Earth’s population,” he added.
Chang highlighted if the efficiency of the entire infrastructure doesn’t go up, it won’t make financial or environmental sense, and won’t be sustainable.
However, international standards for 5G networks are calling for greener ways of consuming energy in contrast to their 4G counterparts, with a goal to transmit more data using less power which would decrease the wattage required for all Internet traffic.
According to the report by Huawei, a single kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity is sufficient to download about 300 high-definition movies with 4G; 5G, however, use the same kilowatt-hour to power about 5,000 ultra-high definition movie downloads.
Major Chinese telecom providers have deployed new 5G base stations in Hangzhou that require fewer heat-generating electronic components, while using powerful artificial intelligence (AI) software to properly manage power, while trading air-conditioned cooling for open-air cooling.
“Compared to 4G stations, the new stations use almost 20 percent less electricity. That saves an estimated 4,130 kWh of power per site per year, which translates to about 1,125 kilograms (kg) of carbon emissions,” the report by Huawei said.
Similarly, Swedish Nokia and Spanish Telefonica have already begun paving the way for a greener approach of their 5G capabilities.
The telecom giants kicked off a 4G and 5G energy efficiency research that focused on the power consumption of the Radio Access Network (RAN) in Telefónica’s network, using Nokia’s AirScale portfolio, including AirScale Base Stations and AirScale massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna solutions, on-site base station energy consumption readings in various traffic load scenarios were combined, ranging from 0-100 percent.
Eleven different pre-defined traffic load scenarios, which measured energy consumed per Mbps, were tested, with the study revealing that 5G RAN technology is significantly more efficient per data traffic capacity than legacy technologies.
“We are committed to supporting action on climate change and engender a sustainable culture throughout our entire company,” Juan Manuel Caro, director of operational transformation at global CTIO at Telefónica, said in a statement.
Across Europe and Japan, telcos have developed base stations that use liquid cooling and solar power, which can drastically reduce energy expenses by nearly a third, while lowering CO2 emissions by up to 80 percent.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Both Nokia and Telefonica are currently developing a smarter energy network infrastructure, alongside power-saving features powered by AI and machine learning (ML). The telecom giants have pledged to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius, with Nokia aiming to lower emissions from its operations by 41 percent by 2030.
“Our greatest contribution to overcoming the world’s sustainability challenges is through the solutions and technology we develop and provide. Nokia’s technology is designed to be energy efficient during use, but also require less energy during manufacture,” Tommi Uitto, president of mobile networks at Nokia said in a statement.
Swiss telco Sunrise recognized for advanced 5G network
Companies and telecom operators have been competing to adopt and deploy the latest technologies, and more specifically, tech with fifth-generation network capabilities.
Sunrise – Switzerland’s second-largest telco – was awarded the connect 5G Innovation Award for the fastest and most reliable 5G network in the country, according to the Connect mobile network test.
The Swiss operator provides products and services that are unmatched in their ability to maximize network performance, ensure efficient service delivery and assist in the development of high-quality products.
5G infrastructure and network efficiency
Countries around the world have been keen to accelerate 5G rollout for their citizens, however, today few telcos have succeeded in offering mobile subscribers immediate service benefits of the advanced network.
The Sunrise network covers more than 90% of the Swiss population and over 686 cities and villages with high-speed 5G (up to 2 Gbit/s), according to their website. “Sunrise offers the leading 5G network in Switzerland and is continuing its plan to secure Switzerland’s leading digital infrastructure position within Europe using 5G and is continually supplying new cities/villages with this technology.”
André Krause, CEO of Sunrise said, “We were the first provider to launch 5G in Switzerland and Europe. Since then, leading independent tests have confirmed that Sunrise has the fastest and most reliable 5G network. This is just as important for business customer applications as it is for the consumers who already use a 5G device. 5G devices are selling very well, growth is rapid. Thanks to the investments we have made, customers are enjoying the benefits of a world-leading mobile network. Unfortunately, Switzerland is in danger of losing this advantage if it does not align its framework conditions with those abroad.”
Sunrise is the only provider in the whole D-A-CH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) to achieve the top overall mark – “OUTSTANDING” – for the fifth time in a row.
Opportunities and challenges
In recent months, 5G was allocated to three mobile operators Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt with 2,000 antennas installed last year alone.
A report published by OpenSignal this year, highlighted the seamless services provided by the country’s networks. “Users enjoy a very consistent experience across all video streaming providers and resolutions, with fast loading times and almost non-existent stalling in Switzerland.”
On the other hand, Switzerland has faced challenges regarding approval procedures and municipality restrictions that have caused delays on their 5G fast-track plan, as well as the lingering debate on the health risks of 5G wireless connection.
5G Network Security: UK tightens grip on Huawei even more
The UK government continues to tighten its grip on Chinese tech titan Huawei, and other “high-risk vendors” from the country’s 5G network rollout, by announcing a roadmap that would see UK telcos unable to install Huawei equipment as of September 2021.
This will prove costly for British carriers who will be forced to kickoff the removal of Huawei equipment from their 5G networks – most of which were launched in 2019 – to comply with the decision made by the Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
“Today I am setting out a clear path for the complete removal of high-risk vendors from our 5G networks,” Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement. “This will be done through new and unprecedented powers to identify and ban telecoms equipment which poses a threat to our national security.”
The roadmap will also include the launching of a new 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy that will pave the way to attract new vendors within the British market; bolstering the country’s position on security by allowing the network to have kits made by several companies rather than relying on one or two big players.
In parallel, the UK government is set to invest an initial £250 million ($332 million) in a plethora of innovation-powered projects, which include establishing a secure research facility, labelled the National Telecoms Lab.
“We hope that the diversification strategy will make sure we are never again dependent on a handful of telecoms vendors for the smooth and secure running of our networks,” Dowden said in a statement.
Communications regulator Ofcom is to be tasked with the monitoring and assessing of security protocols among telecoms providers.
The emergence of another ban on Huawei equipment heightens frustrations within the British telecoms sector, which has dealt with a multitude of changes issued by the government on the use of Huawei kits.
Industry executives have expressed concerns regarding another deadline that had been set without its consultation.
The roadmap will impact some British carriers who have already stockpiled on essential Huawei equipment that was to facilitate initial phases of constructing the country’s 5G network capabilities.
The law will render the stockpile moot for long-term usage and maintenance.
The trickiness of the ban is due to Huawei’s designing and manufacturing the kit controlling how and where data is being sent, such as network switches, gateways, routers and bridges.
These represent a core part of 5G infrastructure that touch basically everything traversing the Internet, which are critical for the network to function properly.
The UK has repeatedly shifted their stance on the use of Huawei equipment over the past year, by initially allowing telcos to use the company’s kits for up to a third of their 5G networks back in January that would cap Huawei’s market share at 35 percent; with that, the industry adapted their plans and strategies accordingly.
However, during the summer, the government changed its stance once more by introducing a full out ban on purchasing new equipment by the Chinese tech giant, as well as a complete phase-out of the company’s equipment by a deadline set to 2027.
Initially, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) implemented the 35 percent market share cap rule on Huawei but was then forced to change its recommendation following fresh restrictions announced by Washington in May, preventing computer chips based on American designs from being used in any of its equipment.
The 5G security concerns, which were ignited by the Trump administration’s trade spat with China, includes espionage, sabotage, and blackmail. The U.S. government considers Huawei as a security risk and has urged allies to shun its equipment over fears it could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.
Britain’s premier initially resisted the ban, allowing Huawei to rollout a new high-speed network in Britain back in January, but changed his mind later in July, as he looked to align his country with its NATO ally.
However, British telcos seem divided over the roadmap, as members of the industry, such as Vodafone CTO Scott Petty and Hamish MacLeod, Director of the trade association for British carriers Mobile UK, warmly welcomed the Digital Ministry’s roadmap.
“This [strategy] will nurture UK talent, foster innovation and competition and deliver more jobs and investment across the economy,” MacLeod said in a statement, with Petty adding that, “This strategy and financial commitment from the government is good for the industry, and for smaller UK technology firms that will only grow with the right support.”
The decision to freeze out Huawei from the British 5G network will carry a hefty price tag of £2bn that British telcos will have to cover, as well as causing several years of delay to nationwide 5G rollout.
The worldwide Huawei debate was initially sparked after the Trump Administration argued that China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law states that organizations must support, co-operate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work, meaning that Beijing could force Huawei to do its bidding.
Huawei has firmly rejected and denied the allegations made against its equipment being used to spy on behalf of the Chinese government.
In a statement issued by the company, Huawei expressed that “it has never been asked to conduct acts of espionage, and would categorically refuse to comply if the request was made,” adding that they, “would never compromise or harm any country, organization, or individual, especially when it comes to cyber-security and user privacy protection.”
The NCSC conducted an investigation looking into the equipment manufactured by the Chinese tech titan in March of 2019, but reported that it hadn’t found any evidence of malicious state activities, although it was able to identify several serious defects in the devices’ software engineering and cyber-security measures.
However, previous experiences with the company’s activities has shaken its trustworthiness in front of governments of the world.
In previous years and according to U.S. court documents, Huawei employees had been caught conducting acts of corporate espionage in the United States, by attempting to steal the intellectual property of T-Mobile’s phone-testing robot.
While this incident was not tied to any activities facilitating state-sponsored espionage, it significantly dealt a blow to Huawei’s trustworthiness nonetheless.
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