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Exciting Week for 5G in Canada

June 19, 2020


5G technology promises to be the next big thing in the race for enhanced mobile connectivity. For those of you who have probably heard the term but have no idea what it means, think of it this way. In order to operate, devices like cellphones require “mobile networks.” The first mobile network was created in the 1980s – we call this the first generation network or “1G.” Of course, in the 1980s cellphones were still in their infancy. As a result, so were mobile networks. So while 1G was ground-breaking, its capacity was limited. It delivered analog voice but that’s about it.

Thankfully, technology companies (Bell, Rogers, etc.) have made continuous improvements to their mobile networks over time. Each major improvement is dubbed a “generation.” The third generation, or “3G,” introduced mobile data. The most recent generation, “4G,” introduced faster download speeds. Unfortunately, 4G’s download speeds still aren’t fast enough for many of us given the desire to utilize streaming services while “on the go” (we’re probably all familiar with the dreaded buffering symbol). Its bandwidth capacity is also limited, meaning it can only handle so many users and data. Cue 5G.

5G promises to increase network speeds (no more annoying buffering symbols). It also possesses a greater bandwidth capacity. Additionally, experts say that it will enable more types of devices to connect to its network (such as self-driving cars). Little wonder, then, that so many experts are excited about its potential.

Unfortunately, despite its potential, 5G technology remains under-developed in Canada. This is concerning as the technology promises to benefit Canadians in numerous ways. For example, a recent report estimates that the technology could generate up to 250,000 jobs in Canada by 2026. That same report also notes that 5G has the potential to enhance the quality of life for both rural and urban communities. Therefore the sooner Canada is able to rollout this new technology, the faster its economy and society will be able to reap its benefits.

Luckily, two 5G news stories from last week suggest that the technology is finally making inroads in Canada. First, Bell announced that it is beginning to roll out its 5G network in five Canadian cities – Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Bell’s announcement comes after its rival, Rogers, announced that it began to roll out its 5G network in select Canadian cities earlier this year.

The second, and perhaps more exciting, 5G news story of last week was Bell and Western University’s announcement that they have entered into a partnership to create an advanced 5G research centre at Western. Under this new partnership, Western’s campus will be transformed into a “living lab” which will allow researchers to study and evaluate various 5G applications like smart vehicles, smart cities, and machine learning. Researchers also hope to explore 5G’s potential in fields such as medicine, agriculture, and communications.

While Canada still has a long way to go before it can be considered a 5G powerhouse, last week’s news stories are an indication that our country is now on the right track. There is still a lot of work to be done, however, if we wish to emerge as a world leader in the technology. Let’s therefore hope that last week’s announcements are a sign of things to come.

Author: Jerred Kiss


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