We had the opportunity to interview the main researcher of the Chinese Telecommunications Research Institute, Professor Zhang, regarding the development, use and applications of 5G.

Pressenza: How long has 5G been known? Where did the new technology come from, when did it emerge, who developed it and who promoted it first?

     Zhang: 5G, the fifth-generation mobile communication technology, is the latest generation in commercial use. It is the continuation of 2G, 3G, and 4G technology. Each generation of communication technology has technical standards. 5G is a standard jointly developed by the International Telecommunication Union ITU that promotes development, jointly developed by the major network operators, manufacturers in general, chip manufacturers, basic manufacturers, academic circles, research institutions and government agencies. In fact, the ITU defined 5G as early as 2015, and began research on this technology in 2016.

Pressenza: What is your development in China?

     Zhang: On November 1, 2019, the 5G commercial package was officially launched. This marks the official passage of the 5G era in China.

As of October this year, China has already built almost 700,000 base stations, which is more than double the total number of 5G base stations in the world. The number of 5G terminals in China has now exceeded 180 million.

Pressenza: What is the purpose of 5G?

     Zhang: From 1G to 4G, the basic approach was to solve the problem of communication between people. 5G seeks to solve the connection between people and things, things among themselves, so we often say that 4G changes life and 5G changes society. With the achievement of 5G, more and more industries and companies are involved in implementing 5G. The high speed, low delay and massive connection capacity of 5G will enable the digital transformation of thousands of industries. 5G technology will empower industries, automobiles, medical treatment, energy, media, and other industries, and will build an intelligent society with all things connected.

Pressenza: What do we need to be able to use 5G technology in general application scenarios?

     Zhang: The industry application scenario requires 5G industrial modules to connect traditional equipment to the 5G network.

Pressenza: What are the disadvantages of 5G technology?

     Zhang: The first disadvantage is that increased bandwidth means less coverage.

The 2G signal tower generally covers a range of 1 km to 2 km. One of its main advantages is that it can cover a wide area with relatively few base stations. This is because the network does not require as much bandwidth, which means that the network can deploy fewer base stations. When the technology is developed towards the 4G network, the base station transmission power increases gradually, so that to cover the same range, the number of 4G is much lower than that of 2G and 3G. With the introduction of the 5G network, this trend will continue, and more base stations are needed to produce such a large bandwidth.

Second disadvantage: increased cost of building base stations.

Increased bandwidth improves network capacity, so that different devices can perform a large number of data transmissions at the same time. However, with the increase of data processing capacity and the improvement of base station reception and processing capacity, the power required by the 5G network increases significantly compared to that of 4G. Because of this, the construction cost of 5G is obviously higher than that of 4G.

Pressenza: The international community expresses many tensions regarding 5G, and believes that there are disputes over the use and control of 5G. How do you deal with these disputes?

      Zhang: In the era of 5G, the overall strength of China’s communications industry has reached the most advanced level in the world. Technology and markets, which have been almost monopolized by the West, have also moved to the eastern lion in the 5G era. No matter how the external environment changes, we must develop a technological path that is safe and credible, independent and controllable. We must also strengthen education, especially basic education. Improve our environment and continue to innovate.

Pressenza: What is the benefit of this for ordinary people?

     Zhang: The 5G can support applications in three scenarios, namely, embB (enhanced mobile broadband), MTC (mass machine communication), urrlc (low-delay, high-reliability communication), and can satisfy the extreme experience of VR and ultra-high-definition video, enable mass Internet access for devices, meet the strict requirements of vehicle network and industrial control, and apply the 5G to artificial intelligence, automatic driving and other fields. Data transmission is fast, just as the advantages of long-distance transmission can make data more accurate. 5G has unique advantages in the era of large data. It can be said that 5G will make a great contribution to the field of science and technology to improve and perfect our lives.

Pressenza: What are the benefits for the state, business, government and other institutions?

     Zhang: 5G is a general technology, like electricity. Electricity is used for lighting. We entered the electric age more than 100 years ago because electric power reached thousands of homes and all walks of life. Now, 5G opens a special opportunity, just as electricity went from lighting to electrification more than 100 years ago. The 5G will build a new infrastructure to support the development of the digital economy. It will be the first of the new infrastructures, connecting the whole scenario, making artificial intelligence ubiquitous, computing everywhere and making the cloud accessible. It will accelerate the digitization of millions of industries, create new value and new opportunities, and contribute greatly to the national economy.

Pressenza: What does the control and development of this technology depend on?

     Zhang: The development of the technology depends on a complete business ecosystem.

First, at present, China still depends on a 5G network of telecommunication operators to develop the application to the industry. On the one hand, telecom operators need to do the deployment and optimization of the 5G network to meet the needs of industry users in terms of bandwidth, 5G uplink, transmission delay and security. Moreover, telecommunication operators need to integrate into the industry’s application value chain, explore flexible and diverse modes of cooperation, fully exploit the benefits of networking, and jointly promote 5G industry application with partners.

Secondly, industry users, telecommunication operators, network equipment manufacturers, system integrators, information and communication technology companies, equipment manufacturers and other parties are jointly involved in the 5G industry application. On the one hand, they cultivate the industry’s demand for 5G applications and focus on the development of 5G lines such as manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and logistics, the retail industry and the construction industry.

That’s where we are.

Pressenza: Thank you very much Prof. Zhang for giving us this interesting interview!