The features of 5G technology include ultralow latency and large increases in data transfer speed and volume.
5G promises a number of possibilities, but will rely on the specifications and standards to enable them as well as consumer demand for particular services. The possibilities open up a number of future applications, with some uses in the immediate future and some longer term.
Immediate 5G use cases offer an insight into what is coming later in the decade. It is expected that the practical use cases for the short term future will stimulate consumer demand for the full rollout. In turn, consumer demand will actually shape the applications and use cases of 5G.
Use cases are expected to be in a range of industries, including: agriculture, mining, business, manufacturing, transport, and smart cities and homes. The Department of Communications and the Arts stated that uses cases are likely to be built around the core capabilities of 5G:
enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB);
ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (URLLC); and
massive machine to machine communications (MMMC).
The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) stated that:
…this next stage of technology evolution will be a solution to some of our most compelling challenges at a global and national level—things like food supply, water management, climate issues, healthcare delivery, education access, emergency services; and the list goes on.
WAFarmers stated that 5G goes beyond a technology which will enable future benefits. They noted that 5G is essential to take advantage of the benefits of technologies which are rapidly becoming commonplace:
Many of these technologies not only exist today, they will soon be mainstream. All of these technologies rely on the quality of the underlying telecommunication networks that is why 5G is so important to the technology innovation we are seeing today.
Ericsson considered that 5G would be part of a wider suite of innovative technologies:
…5G will provide the glue that will enable all of these other new technologies—artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality—to actually achieve and do what they're designed to do. It gives that capability.
Nokia stated that ‘Industry 4.0 technologies … are maturing and promise to bring together the physical and digital economies’. Nokia considered that 5G will impact upon many aspects of everyday life and the workforce:
5G will be far more than just a new radio technology…5G mobile communications will cover a wider range of use cases and related applications including video streaming, augmented reality, different ways of data sharing, and various forms of machine type applications.
Inquiry participants considered that 5G would provide major benefit to industry and create opportunities for improved productivity outcomes. Government, especially local government, would also have the chance to leverage 5G networks to create Smart Cities and Smart Regions, applying the Internet of Things (IoT) to help improve the operation of local infrastructure and manage people movement better.
Consumer Demand for 5G – Enhanced Mobile Broadband
The application of 5G will rely, in large part, on the demand by consumers for various services. Mobile phones are the most commonly used devices to access the internet in Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) noted a continued growth in data downloads, ‘likely driven by consumers’ appetite for content streaming services, as well as content and video-rich social media, gaming and other applications’.
AMTA stated that the demand for mobile data is enormous and increasing:
The average data download per user for the mobile internet using a handset has increased by 1,600 per cent since 2012. This acceleration in demand is set to continue with 5G, with forecasts suggesting that by 2025 at least 20 per cent of users could exceed 160 gigabytes a month on a 5G device. This demand sounds a bit over the top, but mobile growth trends suggest it's not only possible but very likely an underestimate.
AMTA and Communications Alliance (CA) stated that continued industry investment in 5G networks and spectrum is being driven by consumer demand, and that 5G will deliver improvements needed ‘in order to meet the current and forecast strong and ever-increasing demand for mobile services’.
Optus stated that use cases will come out of the need for different services and applications, and would be driven by the users of the technology. Optus has formed an advisory group of business clients to co-create 5G solutions for existing issues. Optus explained that one technology such as virtual reality may have uses for a range of industries:
Virtual reality has applications in industry—for example, when it comes to workplace training. It has applications in health care in terms of remote medicine. I think the opportunity and challenge for us is to get down into the specifics and work with the individual business partners to understand their specific needs and innovate around those in conjunction with those partners.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) stated that consumers should be able to access trustworthy information on the capabilities of 5G:
We are already seeing overzealous pronouncements on the capabilities of 5G before it has been fully deployed in Australia, including insufficient consumer information about the actual capability of 5G networks.
The ACCC suggested that there may be some overlap between the National Broadband Network (NBN) and 5G:
…the ability of 5G networks to deliver gigabit wireless broadband speeds, in conjunction with increased capacity, means that they will be able to compete with or by pass the NBN in terms of home broadband. This will also be driven from the demand-side with the performance of NBN services in terms of price and quality having a significant impact on the degree of substitution sought by consumers.
In contrast, AMTA and CA stated that 5G and NBN could work together, as part of a national network:
As with 4G, 5G mobile networks will complement the NBN, fixed wireless and satellite services, as an essential part of the nation’s interconnected system of telecommunications networks. Mobile networks deliver a connectivity capability to consumers and businesses alike, while still relying on interconnection with fixed and microwave networks to provide the requisite backhaul and capacity.
The IoTAA agreed, and stated that 5G will be one part of a larger system, ‘including nbn [sic], satellites and other wireless and fixed infrastructure that will underpin Australia’s connectivity fabric’.
Further, the IoTAA stated that 5G can add value by adding continuity:
… 5G is unique in that it provides not only high-speed wireless connectivity, but also the ability to federate access types and provide service continuity and sharing across, for example mobile, fixed and Wi-Fi, if carriers choose to implement these capabilities.
The ACCC reported that, while mobile data downloads are increasing, they made up only 12 per cent of the total data downloaded for the quarter ending June 2019, with NBN and non-NBN fixed services making up the remaining 88 per cent.
A number of inquiry participants noted that various industries and businesses expected to benefit from the deployment and adoption of 5G.
Nokia explained that productivity could be enhanced as 5G technologies emerge and evolve:
The other industry 4.0 technologies—industrial IoT, edge computing, deep analytics based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, ubiquitous networking, augmented and virtual reality—are maturing and promise to bring together the physical and digital economies. As they reach a critical mass of adoption, the opportunity for realising a much bigger productivity boom is before us. However, this is reliant on a communications network beyond what exists today.
The Teletraffic Research Centre agreed that 5G would be significant for improving productivity and follow on from the rapid advances in productivity made by 3G and 4G, and stated that 5G ‘is necessary’ due to the increase in demand for capacity.
The Department of Agriculture identified the following benefits and uses of the technology:
The deployment of 5G and its capacity to facilitate digital agriculture has the potential to transform the sector with precision agriculture optimising production practices and driving productivity gains. Digital agriculture has been identified as a contributor to achieving the productivity gains required to develop Australian agriculture to a $100 billion sector by 2030.
WAFarmers concurred with the Department of Agriculture claiming the following:
Australia needs 5G as it will unlock the potential for farmers and agri-business to stay connected to the latest innovations which will enable a future set of technologies such as autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, drones, artificial intelligence, machine learning, connected paddock to the plate food safety, and remote surgery and health care.
WA Farmers noted the potential for large-scale regional trial sites in either Esperance or Margaret River to test and fully unlock the economic potential of 5G in rural and regional Australia:
If we pick an area like Esperance, which is very innovative, they have been able to produce very high-tonnage, highly profitable crops. It is a relatively condensed area. We could trial putting in 5G. I know they are very close together, but you can essentially run it along the high-value strip—120 kilometres by 20 or 30 kilometres wide—and put a whole network there. They are some of the most innovative farmers in the world and they would lead the rest of Australia.
The Department of Agriculture also looked forward to what 5G may be able to offer in the future:
Eventually, artificial intelligence enabled autonomous vehicles could undertake farming operations 24 hours per day seven days a week, using machine to machine learning, passing data and insights between each other. Operations could be remotely monitored by farmers from the homestead.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interconnected devices, machines and objects which can transfer data without the assistance of a human, enabling ultrarapid analytics. Nokia set out that 5G and IoT are symbiotic, and explained that: ‘IoT is a driver for 5G; 5G is an enabler of IoT’.
GSM Association (GSMA) stated that the ability of 5G to offer connectivity on ‘a massive scale’ is a ‘potential game changer’ with a number of use cases, including:
asset tracking and monitoring;
Further, although some use cases could be met by available technology, 5G could offer efficiencies for the delivery of IoT. GSMA stated that:
Massive IoT is a good example in which most of the use cases can be served with available technology, such as 2G, NB-IoT, etc. However, these are networks built and operated independently from each other. Serving the IoT use cases over 5G and Network Slicing technology has the potential to greatly reduce operational costs, increase efficiency and leverage additional capabilities an operator can offer.
The Department of Communications and the Arts (the Department) elaborated, and agreed that although IoT is already in operation, pairing it with 5G will allow new IoT applications. The Department stated that 5G can ‘significantly enhance the use of IoT’, by ‘improving the use of networked remote sensors and actuators for data collection, analytics and control’.
IoT which draws on 5G will be able to make use of the ultra-low latency communications, and support more devices per square kilometre. The Department suggested that ‘smart factories and warehouses, logistics management and autonomous vehicles’ are some potential uses.
The Teletraffic Research Centre elaborated on the importance of 5G to IoT:
The promise of 5G is threefold. A massive increase in bandwidth. A massive increase in the number of individual connections that can be supported—up to millions of connections per square kilometre. That's absolutely necessary to be able to support the new things that are emerging in the Internet of Things: the surveillance; the smart devices that we are all carrying—billions of smart devices around the world. Finally, ultralow latency to enable things like autonomous systems to work. These systems need to be able to communicate in very, very near real time. Ultralow latency is what's required. None of these things are achievable in 4G today.
The Department raised that it is exploring whether the ‘regulation governing the use of data could unduly inhibit the use of data collected by IoT applications’.
Smart Cities, Smart Regions, Smart Industries
The use of smart technologies within Australia is already well underway across a number of sectors, particularly for remote monitoring.
Opensensing and the Growing Data Foundation (GDF) highlighted that steps had already been taken to build an open, crowdsourced IoTs data network in Australia – The Things Network.
The Things Network operates on a very low power, long range wireless technology (LRWAN) with about 70 gateways across Adelaide. The technology is designed to send ‘data from relatively remote regions into a central server’.
The technology has been taken up by local government in South Australia to monitor sensors:
It's actually local government in South Australia that has taken up the technology. It fits very well with their mission because they can use this technology for their own purposes. They use sensors for people monitoring, park monitoring, water monitoring and irrigation monitoring…
Opensensing and the GDF noted that the network is being adopted more broadly by other individual and organisations for similar ‘low data rate’ monitoring:
…they can then make that network available to other constituents like farmers, viticulturists or businesses in the logistics area that are starting to take up this technology.
A number of inquiry participants referred to the interplay between 5G and Smart Cities, where data and communications technology are used to create more efficient and sustainable processes and improve performance and quality of life.
Nokia stated that ‘5G brings the ability to put a massive number of sensors into a square kilometre to tie all of these inputs together and control other systems’. Sensors using 5G are designed to have a ten-year battery life, increasing economic efficiency.
Smart freeways which improve traffic flow were highlighted by Main Roads WA as an example of an existing innovation which could be improved with 5G. Sensors which use existing mobile technology are on freeways and within the asphalt near traffic signals are used to connect traffic signal sets and improve the flow of traffic:
There are effectively two types of sensors that we use: the inductive loop and the Bluetooth sensors that we have on freeways. They communicate with a base station and either communicate centrally via 3G or 4G or connect straight through to a fibre backbone that we have running along our freeways. That technology is available, so 5G would just potentially mean that we could get the information slightly quicker and we could transfer more information.
Using 5G for smart freeways may also provide resilience to infrastructure. Main Roads WA explained that 5G could offer assistance:
If we lost our communications network, which can happen from time to time, typically through damage to our infrastructure, then something like 5G would potentially be used to provide an alternative comms path. With that larger bandwidth and lower latency, there is obviously more potential there to look at backup.
Waste management could also benefit from the addition of smart technology such as sensors and communication. Nokia highlighted the use of smart city technology for waste management, and explained how this could be of value:
…garbage collection is a resource of the city, and one of the key things is utilising that to a maximum level through sensors on garbage bins. We've already seen cities like Amsterdam detect when a bin needs to be emptied because it's overfull prior to a scheduled run. So that helps the amenity of the city because you don't have the overflowing bins. At the same time it can detect a bin that is empty and does not need to be serviced. So you can actually adjust the route of a garbage truck to maximize efficiency and save time.
Smart Regions and Smart Agriculture
The application of technology to farms, supply chains and food production could change the way that agriculture is conducted. Smart agriculture, supported by 5G, would allow a number of efficiencies and gains to be realised. For example, Nokia stated that sensors could be deployed to monitor soil moisture and ensure that the right amount of water is used for irrigation.
WAFarmers commented on how vital the technology would be to the increase productivity in the agricultural sector in Western Australia, increasing the capability for farmers to monitor and environmentally and sustainably manage their arable land:
The next wave of technology that's come is being able to use the megadata that comes from being able to map every square metre—in fact, down to every individual plant that's across the paddock. When you're cropping five million hectares of land in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia you're producing between eight and 18 million tonnes. The lower the impact you have on the soil, the less carbon you put in the atmosphere, the less chemicals you need to use and the less fertiliser you need to use is all an advantage of the soils. You can't do that in real time with 3G. You can just do it with 4G, but 5G is the next big leap forward. It'll be as great as minimum till has been an impact on agriculture in Australia. It essentially allowed us to double production.
The opportunities to increase animal welfare were also identified as a potential benefit from the increased digital capacity of 5G. WAFarmers observed that the ‘immediate response for technology is on electronic eartags, traceability and automatic gates that open and close’ adding that an electronic tag that could monitor what they feed the animals, their stress levels, how happy they are, and identify ‘which animal is which, can open up an enormous opportunity’.
WAFarmers noted that the Australian Wine Industry hasn’t had the technology or spectrum to undertake real time monitoring of their vineyards, but envisioned rapid investment once 5G is rolled out ‘in regions like Margaret River, Swan Valley and Great Southern…’.
When asked about how 5G and blockchain technologies might be able to allow for greater scrutiny and produce testing and counter food and wine fraud, WAFarmers pointed out the importance of protecting Australia’s produce:
We produce a product that can be easily labelled as coming from another nation around the world, and there's an incentive because we are recognised as a premium producer, but it's pointless being recognised as a premium producer if there is duplication going on at a vast scale. We've seen it in the wine industry. It's actually out there also in the meat industry—wagyu, for instance. You lose your premium edge. You only get one bite of it with customers. So the opportunity not just to protect what we've got but to enhance its value is there, particularly with blockchain.
The Communications Alliance (CA) gave an example of how the Internet of Things can help provide efficiencies and also improve productivity in agricultural settings:
There is a terrific little company based in Southport called Pivotel. At the moment they are doing IoT networks in remote locations to better manage water. A cow can go for a week without food pretty easily, but a couple of hot days without water and then it's in trouble…They calculate 40 million litres of water for every 100 sensors over the lifetime of the sensors, saving each farmer about 650K in transport, logistics and labour.
Pivotel’s sensors use satellite to provide their backhaul at the moment, but are 5G compatible.
Water systems could also benefit from the application of technology which would allow greater monitoring and control. Nokia set out that 5G could give opportunities to save water for farmers:
Where irrigation systems are not controlled, for example, we lose roughly 50 per cent of water in transit because of pipe breaks and just poor usage of the water. So there's an opportunity there to digitise that system to control that.
Nokia elaborated that using smart technology could have a range of applications on a farm:
…[loss of cattle] could be noted through the use of digital technology, from the case where a water trough is empty and a pump is turned on to using drones to detect whether there is a fence break or using video in detecting whether a cow has died. If there's a watering trough where there's a dead animal nearby, cattle perceive it as poisoned and will not drink from it, so you have collateral damage from that event; whereas if you had video analysis of that scene you could detect an object there and alert the farmer of the need to check it out.
AMTA gave another example, called Smart Paddock:
…which is using IoT devices to track the health and whereabouts of cattle. They're estimating that around half a million cattle annually die prematurely, but, if you can identify the location and what's going on, you could basically save those or minimise that loss, which currently stands at around $700 million in lost revenue for that sector.
The challenge of mobile phone coverage in regional areas was highlighted by IoTAA, who have a food and agriculture workstream. IoTAA stated that:
…farmers are quite disadvantaged for mobile coverage. That's not just for their phones, for collecting data, but, even worse, for receiving back the information—that backward bandwidth problem… It would be a travesty, in my mind, if we ended up having yet another rural divide problem with 5G. Our recommendation was: prioritise areas, not just zones.
The Department of Agriculture highlighted that existing mobile coverage is limited, making it difficult for producers to see the benefits of agricultural technology:
Where deployed into rural and regional areas, 5G mobile technology will provide significant opportunities for agricultural businesses to fully embrace digital agriculture. Mobile networks are important to agriculture and are the main means of connection to the internet. However, mobile network coverage is limited, with 43 per cent of farmers reporting they have little or no coverage in a 2017 survey, and improving this would remain the key focus for agriculture.
The CSIRO’s report ‘Accelerating Precision Agriculture to Decision Agriculture’ noted that poor connectivity to telecommunications infrastructure was inhibiting adoption to technological advancements:
A lack of access to mobile and internet telecommunications infrastructure is a major impediment to the adoption of digital agriculture systems. 55% of producers reported that they relied on the mobile phone network for internet, yet 43% had patchy or no mobile reception across their property.
The CSIRO added that a lack of access to telecommunications infrastructure was ‘costing producers, agribusinesses and the Australian economy billions of dollars each year in terms of lost productivity (and profitability)’.
The report highlighted that digital agriculture could increase production values significantly:
Economic modelling has shown that digital agriculture could increase the gross value of Australian agricultural production by $20.3 billion (25% increase on 2014-15 levels).
Ericsson stated that 5G is already being deployed in the mining industry, albeit not to its full potential. The ‘mine of the future’ is currently being trialled in Sweden, and explores the role of automation:
Ericsson is working closely with a number of partners to deliver industrialised connectivity and automation mining solutions via 5G. For example: ˗ Boliden is working with a number of partners, including Ericsson, to create the ‘mine of the future’ at Aitik the largest open pit mine in Europe in the north of Sweden.
The key outcomes of the trial were:
Automation to enable the remote operation of diggers;
Productivity improvements by being able to continue to work on the mine remotely soon after blasts;
Better safety outcomes with ‘smart ventilation’ improving air quality;
The delivery of versatile wireless industrial mining connectivity, enabling greater safety as well as productivity; and
A 20% increase in drill rig productivity in the Boliden Aitik mine.
Smart mining is expected to reduce risks and health concerns of workers’ well-being and safety while on site through automation of mining facilities. Nokia noted that the technology being developed will allow workers to streamline operations from data collected through robotics, digitally enhanced equipment, sensors, predictive analytics and memory education will:
Remove workers from the most dangerous parts of the mine
Monitor worker health and direct them away from exclusion zones
Optimize resource use and prevent bottlenecks at every step of the mining process
Gain 360-degree situational awareness in remote operating environments
Enable predictive maintenance of machines and other important equipment
Make better decisions from the command centre to the mine face.
A major application of 5G infrastructure is the automation of vehicles, including the addition of more advanced driver assist technologies including:
vehicle-to-vehicle communication: broadcasting position, speed and heading of the vehicles with other road users;
vehicle-to-infrastructure communication: vehicles talking to traffic lights for example; and
Automated vehicles using the enabling infrastructure of 5G offer the potential to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to both metropolitan and regional Australians. AMTA and CA stated that:
…autonomous vehicles will reduce costs as well as improve safety and accessibility for all road users. The NRMA noted that autonomous vehicles will deliver improved safety, decrease congestion, provide options for young, elderly and disabled people, as well as reduce pollution and emissions.
Telstra also expressed a similar sentiment regarding the benefits of autonomous vehicles:
Beyond access to information, we will also see emergency responders using 5G enabled autonomous vehicles or driving assistance to increase their safety when driving in disaster areas or in hazardous terrain during rescue missions.
Automated vehicles are also predicted to benefit the environment through both reducing emissions and alleviating traffic congestion. Optus noted the potential of automated vehicles to contribute to emissions reduction:
5G technology will power self-driving cars, which in turn may reduce emissions by up to 90 percent and cut travel time by 40 percent.
The Department of Communications and the Arts referred to a report claiming the following:
Traffic congestion, which is estimated to cost Australia $53 billion by 2031, could be proactively reduced by smart city traffic management systems that are informed by machine-to-machine communications with autonomous vehicles.
Cohda Wireless highlighted a project that it had employed in Sydney to ensure that heavy fright vehicles kept moving to reduce traffic congestion – the freight signal priority project:
The intention there was to keep the heavy vehicles moving, so we equipped 120 sets of traffic signals along Parramatta Road, Pennant Hills Road and King Georges Road … and we also equipped 120 heavy vehicles. The idea there was that if it didn't look like a truck was going to make it through before the light turned red you had the option of requesting a greenlight extension to try to keep those heavy vehicles moving. That has flow-on effects for all the rest of the traffic…
The deployment of automated vehicles will require changes to existing road infrastructure. Queensland Transport and Main Roads was keen to ensure that automated vehicle safety features are compatible with existing services due to the progressive rollout of the 5G network and noted the following:
As 5G networks and performance does become available, current and new services will likely rely on the availability of some 5G functions. Connected vehicle safety services must be able to operate when and where 3G/4G/5G services are not available. Due to technology integration, efficiency and consumer needs, the connected vehicle platform uses a mix of WiFi and mobile phone communication and that mix will change depending access to 3G/4G/5G…5G development and services must harmonise with current road transport safety services and initiatives.
State governments are preparing for the deployment of automated vehicles. For example, Queensland Transport and Main Roads is ‘developing and deploying connected vehicle services and has strong links with the international deployments’.
Main Roads Western Australia pointed out that it was ‘involved in a number of working groups with Austroads to investigate the rollout of autonomous vehicles and cooperative ITS’.
They added that ‘obviously 5G is one of the potential enablers for that kind of infrastructure, and that's one of the reasons why we are very keen to look at opportunities of co-location of our assets for the 5G network.’
Further, Queensland Transport and Main Roads stated that the safety benefits of automated vehicles may not be distributed evenly:
It is…widely acknowledged in the intelligent transport systems community that the scale and coverage of deployment of 5G, over the next decade, is likely to be insufficient to reach key regional and remote areas where the road safety need is greatest.
Interaction with other vehicles
Automated vehicles will interact with other vehicles, road infrastructure and pedestrians in real time. The way in which the network operates with other elements is shown in the diagram below.
Figure 3.1: What 5G is about
Network operators and network equipment manufacturers are currently working with vehicle manufacturers to develop autonomous vehicles. Telstra, Ericsson and Lexus have partnered to trial a ‘Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technology using Telstra’s 4G network. A V2X system allows cars to ‘talk’ to the environment around them using short-range communications and the 4G network. Ericsson explained that:
The environment around the car could be other cars and trucks, traffic lights, roadworks or even pedestrians and cyclists.
The use and development of V2X, over 4G and 5G networks will help create clever transport systems to support more efficient use of roads, better traffic management (i.e. reduced congestion) and, in the future, coordinated and safer driverless vehicle operation.
Cohda Wireless Pty Ltd, an Australian world leading company in V2X vehicular technology systems, provided some insight into how vehicle-to-vehicle communication, using the low latency features of 5G, would benefit drivers and other road users:
It's the vehicles talking to just the vehicles around them. In an open road and out in the country, that might be a two-kilometre range or something like that, but in a city environment that will really compress to maybe 200 or 300 metres. So really it is the short-range communications to just the vehicles and the other road users—not just vehicles; it's pedestrians, cyclists and so on as well—in the immediate vicinity. The information that is shared there is really information such as position, speed and heading of the vehicles. That's broadcast 10 times a second to all the vehicles around them so other vehicles can receive that and be able to extrapolate the position in time and space of the other vehicles around them, assess threats and so on.
5G in conjunction with V2X technology enables users to identify vehicle position with greater accuracy in urban areas where GPS signals are ineffective. Cohda Wireless identified its project with the New York City Department of Transportation to provide greater accuracy on the streets:
They have a big deployment of this V2X technology happening in Manhattan. They're going to equip around 4,000 vehicles, mostly city vehicles and some taxis as well, and about 400 sets of traffic lights. The challenge in New York is the urban canyons, in that GPS systems just don't work very well in urban canyons … As soon as you get over about five stories you start to have some problems with urban canyons and the poor performance of GPS. In fact, we were the only company which was able to demonstrate using our positioning technology to provide metre-level accuracy on the streets in Manhattan.
Cohda Wireless provided additional evidence of how automated vehicles are providing further benefits such as reducing fuel consumption:
A good example is Peloton, in the US. This is a company doing aftermarket platooning solutions for trucking to allow trucks to platoon together at close-following distances to reduce fuel consumption. This whole platooning idea is probably one of the big leaders in connected autonomous vehicle deployments. We also have a lot of engagements in the mining sector as well.
The complexity of interactions between vehicles and other systems means that the successful deployment of autonomous vehicles will be dependent upon robust regulatory frameworks and collaboration between multiple parties. The Department of Communications and the Arts stated that:
If 5G is to be used to support downstream technologies they also need to have appropriate sectoral frameworks. For example, if 5G is to support autonomous vehicles there needs to be a framework for autonomous vehicles so there is scope for 5G to support them. In the case of autonomous vehicles, Australia is well advanced in this regard, in that several jurisdictions have relevant legislation in place, all have trials underway and there are Guidelines for Trial of Autonomous Vehicles in Australia.
A significant benefit of automated vehicles using the low latency of 5G mobile technology is the potential to dramatically improve road safety. The Australian and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) set out that:
5G will be key in enhancing cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communications technology. C-V2X technology allows vehicles to directly communicate with each other, roadside infrastructure, and other road users. This unique sensing allows vehicles to detect and mitigate against potential hazards, traffic and road conditions quicker and from longer distances than other sensors such as cameras, radar and LiDAR. For example, under 4G, the time between a sensor recognising a hazard on the road may be 20 milliseconds whereas under SG this is reduced to 1 millisecond – a camera flash.
Echoing this sentiment, the Department of Communications and the Arts stated that:
Improved road safety is also expected to be a key outcome of autonomous vehicles, as the majority of car accidents involve human error. In the 12 months to July 2017, there were 1,235 deaths on Australian roads with road trauma costing the Australian community an estimated $27 billion annually. Autonomous vehicles can have a valuable role not just in terms of financial savings, but in saving human lives.
ADVI further noted experts agreed that ‘90 per cent of accidents could be eliminated through advanced driverless vehicle technology’, and that an efficient deployment of 5G would assist with improvements to safety:
…safety is really the fundamental winner out of getting the 5G rollout right and also getting the driverless vehicle implementation in place faster. The safety benefits are significant, and that really underpins why we're involved in it.
Cohda Wireless elaborated on how vehicle-to-vehicle communication could help improve road safety by warning divers:
…exploiting the network effect to have your vehicle talking to all the vehicles around it, including vehicles that may be around a blind corner that the cameras and radar in your vehicle can't even see yet. You can detect that vehicle. For example, if two vehicles are approaching a blind intersection and neither of them are going to stop in time, you can generate a warning in that scenario.
In addition to delivering productivity gains, automated vehicles also offer to potential to improve the welfare of citizens. Telstra noted the following:
… we see 5G underpinning the transition to automated and connected vehicles, both on the roads and in low altitude airspace (drones). This transition will deliver potential for significant benefits in the areas of social equity, access and inclusion.
Telstra elaborated that the benefits of autonomous vehicles would aid people who are not able to drive or who lack easy access to public transport, such as ‘elderly people, people with disabilities, children, unlicensed [people] or those for whom car ownership and licensing is economically unviable’.
Automated vehicles are already being deployed in a limited capacity in some industry sectors. There is also a growing number of automated vehicles in non-industrial environments. The AMTA and CA noted that:
Autonomous vehicles are being used now with 4G, particularly in mining and agriculture, but 5G and ultra-reliable low latency communications will greatly enhance the use of autonomous vehicles across industries and the general community.
In addition to providing the actual transport, Telstra also noted the psychological benefits associated with providing new transport options to the communities who lack access to private vehicles and mainstream public transport:
Models such as Mobility-as-a-Service will bring benefits in terms of increased empowerment for these people as they are able to plan and control their transport and journey options and an increased sense of independence that comes from not being reliant on others for transport.
Entertainment and Leisure
Although 5G technology is at ‘a relatively early stage of development, development, and there is some way to go before its full potential is realised’, it is expected that there will be immediate benefits for consumers and, in time, the new use cases for mobile technology will be unlocked. 5G has been suggested to be an alternative to fixed networks, providing ‘fibre-like user experiences for the unconnected’.
VHA confirmed that 5G would provide benefits for consumers:
For most people, for most customers, it's going to be faster throughput, enhanced mobile broadband services. It's going to be HD streaming. It's going to be faster downloads. It's going to be the enhancement of that core mobile broadband experience and then there will be many more exciting niche applications around the edge.
Telstra has reported that the use of 5G small cells in areas with high-density traffic can support additional capacity and performance. This was demonstrated during the 2019 AFL Grand Final, where ‘5G users experienced three to four times the speeds available on 4G, and 4G users also had improved performance due to traffic moving to 5G’.
The lower latency and higher capacity of 5G will improve the experience of gaming competitors and casual gamers, and ‘promises to immerse the viewer in a virtual world of high-resolution digital imagery. Optus reported that the Australian gaming market is worth $4 billion, of which 25 per cent is mobile gaming, and that ‘… research shows that one third of gamers would be willing to pay more for 5G gaming services’. It is likely that the gaming industry will be the first to taken advantage of 5G technology, including the use of augmented and virtual reality, and this will help drive the ‘acceptance and delivery of 5G networks’.
VHA reported that Vodafone UK had conducted a holographic telephone call.
The low latency and high speeds of 5G made it possible to project a 3D holograph of someone who was more than 330kms away. This technology could transform the way families stay in touch or the remote working experience. It also delivers increased accessibility to education and healthcare for people living in remote areas.
Consumer demand for more mobile data is strong, and will drive carriers to deploy 5G, but significant benefits will be felt broadly in industries like agriculture and mining, transport, local governance and entertainment.
Use cases should be driven from actual need rather than marketing, and the Committee was pleased that carriers like Optus are engaging with business to create 5G use cases that respond to existing issues.
The technologies that 5G enables will have a range of applications across different industries, and the same technology may mean very different things according to the specific encounter a consumer has with it. For example, virtual reality may allow health services to be expanded for consumers who are not able to access a particular specialist, and for a consumer playing a game, will allow a greater engagement and enjoyment of the game.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will benefit a number of industries and consumers, allowing greater monitoring of supply chains and services and enabling efficiencies and increase productivity. Robotics will be one area in which the data capacity and low latency of 5G will be advantageous.
The promise of automated vehicles is significant, and has implications for accessibility, increased safety for road users and pedestrians, lowering of fuel costs and emissions and increasing the efficiency of traffic flow.
Australian companies like Cohda Wireless are leading the world in the development of technologies which will rely on 5G for greater deployment. The Committee heard that Australia is at the forefront of vehicle communication technology, and commends the work of Cohda Wireless in this space.
Agriculture use cases demand 5G technology, however the Committee is concerned that these areas may not be economically viable for the initial rollout.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government work with carriers to develop campaigns to boost industry awareness about the advantages of 5G to businesses to help realise the benefits of this new network quickly. This campaign should include elements to lift 5G awareness within local government.