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Kickstarting the Future: The advent of 5G technology in PH

In recent years, interconnectivity has taken precedence at a tremendous pace with the emergence of various technologies that have become increasingly linked as cellular network technologies is swiftly being realized by torrential breakthroughs in the domain of wireless networking and telecommunications, two disciplines that encompass the wireless transmission of data to facilitate communication across networks.

With this substantial growth, 5G—the fifth and newest generation of mobile cellular technology—will assume a greater role than its predecessors.

What, why,  how?

Mobile network generations have developed at breakneck speeds throughout the years.

It began with 1G technology, which offered then-groundbreaking analog voice transmission. This was followed by the introduction of 2G, which launched digital systems that enabled the consolidation of multiple phone calls or internet connections into one radio channel. By late 2002 to early 2003, 3G kickstarted the era of mobile data, which was then followed by 4G that enabled users to fully enjoy digital media on their mobile devices, including video-streaming, multimedia apps, and high-quality music with enhanced throughput rates—the average frequency rate of successful data transfers over a specific communication channel.

Now at the current apex in mobile network technology, 5G is aiming to standardize interconnectivity among machines, devices, and objects while also enhancing existing data transmission speeds, mitigating response time issues, achieving lower power consumption, and improving overall system capacity.

“It will help a lot of sectors, [namely, the industrial and educational sectors]—even government services and information dissemination—because of the explosive growth of the internet of things,” elaborates Dr. Marnel Peradilla, an associate professor from the Computer Technology Department.

5G will be able to achieve this because of the shorter wavelengths—or the distance between two peaks of a  radio wave formed by the propagation of radiant energy—that it utilizes. This allows 5G networks to transmit larger payloads of data 100 times faster than 4G. One of the pitfalls, however, is its smaller coverage due to the shorter wavelengths. Along with this, another concern is the projected increase in costs concerning its implementation due to the infrastructure that needs to be established and maintained.

Reports of 5G posing a global problem have also recently surfaced. They revealed 5G operates in frequencies alarmingly close to ones utilized by Earth observation satellites, which are used for meteorological purposes. These may cause interference that could critically affect data collection.

Despite this, Peradilla justifies the need for faster connection speeds and higher bandwidth—which denotes the maximum amount of data that may be transmitted in a predetermined time—due to the massive quantities of data that is perpetually acquired, processed, and executed by machines and systems scattered across the planet.

In the PH context

Implementing 5G technology in the country, however, poses several challenges that prove to be uneconomical. Peradilla explains that 5G infrastructure may most likely be restricted to large cities that experience severe network traffic brought by numerous underlying issues such as congestion; poor latency or response time; and insufficient bandwidth to name a few.

In a previous interview with The Philippine Star, Department of Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary for Operations Engr. Eliseo Rio Jr. disclosed that approximately 1.4 billion short message services or texts are being sent daily. The Philippines currently has 17,000 telecommunications towers spread across the country, serving 104.9 million people that text, call, and browse the internet simultaneously from all over the country. Although 5G technology promises better communications among devices in different platforms, the nation is far from being equipped to sustain the said advancement.

Yung geographical situation kasi natin here [in the] Philippines is really one of the obstacles for the [telecommunications companies] in building the backbone of the infrastructure well. ‘Yun nga, dahil [archipelagic yung bansa, connecting] all [7,107] islands will be challenging and difficult,” Peradilla points out.

Despite the situation at hand, telecommunications company Globe—with the help of Huawei—presented 5G postpaid plan offers with speeds reaching 500 megabits per second last June to their subscribers, which was only made available to select areas in Pasig, Rizal, Cavite, and Bulacan in July.

Initial research on the integration of 5G technology in the country commenced way back in 2009, with the potential of the technology being seen as essential to the growth of various industries, especially in manufacturing and energy and utilities. Although 10 years in development, the country will have to first overcome the Long Term Evolution or LTE marketing, which only started to boom in recent years.

Changing landscapes

Immediate progression from this state of preparedness may not be promised, but with the introduction of new technologies and advancements comes inevitable changes to affected industries and sectors of society.

Computer Technology Department Assistant Professor Fritz Flores predicts this, elaborating that with faster internet, businesses will mostly likely “migrate online.” “Ngayon kasi, nahihirapan mag-online yung mga [businesses] kasi ang bagal ng internet—bulok. Parang yung sa Amazon, what happens is people don’t even have to go outside of [their houses] since everything’s online. Baka that’s what’s gonna happen with 5G; it’s going to be easier to get that data,” Florez furthers.

(Now, businesses find it hard to utilize online transactions because of the slow internet speed. Just like with Amazon, what happens is people don’t even have to go outside of their houses since everything’s online.)

Peradilla supports Flores’ statement, hoping that 5G in the country will benefit research on artificial intelligence (AI) and development of smart devices. “It will be beneficial to research, the academe, and the industry if we’re going to collect this data to train those [AI] models. Using this big data will make [modern systems] even faster,” he concludes.

Ramon Castañeda

By Ramon Castañeda

Kent Regalado

By Kent Regalado

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