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5G – Welcoming the future

Aurecon highlights the need to balance compliance with the ability to maximise potentialities.

When we think of a futuristic city – a smart city – our imaginations easily go into overload, technology is on such an exponential growth curve, with interconnection the key to the next generation of innovation.

That future is closer than you would think. Mobility through wireless connection is the key to creating future smart cities. The move to the next generation of wireless technologies will see a quantum shift in speed, response time (latency) and the volume of data able to be transmitted in real time. Already known as “5G” (fifth generation) mobile networks have the potential to provide the wireless networks that will bring devices and the human element closer together than ever before.

When Kevin Ashton, from MIT’s AutoID lab, coined the term "the Internet of Things" (IoT) as the last century closed1, could he have imagined the wireless ecosystems that now enable businesses and governments to connect to their IoT devices, including remotes, dashboards, networks, gateways, analytics, data storage, and security to redefine supply chains, open up new medical advances and see vast global informal citizen communities replacing mainstream media?

Now, as we move well into the digital age, connectivity is at the forefront of how we want to move within, work in and between, and connect to, our towns, our cities, and even our countries.

The mobile phone, wearable wireless devices, our houses and buildings, cars, and even infrastructure, such as traffic control, will all connect and interact.

At the personal level, whether working around a base station, or wearing a connected device, we expect things to not only work seamlessly, but also to be safe. But in order for this to occur, we have to understand what the synergies are between our environment and the technologies we deploy.

This means regulatory controls must understand the new technology of 5G, interconnectivity, and the gist of how it works, and keep ahead of the evolution of wireless technology.

Australia has always been among the early adopters of technology and has constantly taken a proactive approach to integrating new technologies with the regulatory environment that protects its communities, while enabling innovation and prosperity.

To be responsibly future-ready there are a few key questions to ponder:

How do you we ensure and verify compliance with electromagnetic emissions (EME) safety limits?

The first step in the solution is to put in place standards and guidelines that are traceable and enforceable. Currently, this is managed on an international basis through various agencies, such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and managed locally in Australia by Standards Australia.

In terms of health, the radio frequencies planned for 5G (including millimetre Waves) have been used for decades by other radio frequency applications, such as microwave communication, satellite and radar and the latest advice from the World Health Organization is that “despite extensive research, to date there is no evidence to conclude that exposure to low level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health”2.

This is certainly reassuring for the new 5G systems and using this extensive research, exposure guidelines have been established by independent scientific organizations, such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and include substantial margins of safety to protect all people.

How do we design and integrate a purely wireless network that meets our demands for coverage and protects health?

A specialist field of engineering, EME is a critical component in radio-frequency (RF) engineering and design of mobile radio networks. Coverage is only one element in designing networks. We also need to consider what impact a design may have on its immediate surrounding area, including the impact on the facility and local community with respect to health, for which we turn to regulatory compliance in regard to standards and coverage.

Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon, in association with Standards Australia, is hosting the October 2017 International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) TC 106 Plenary Meeting in regard to methods for the assessment of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields associated with human exposure. The international chairman of the IEC TC 106 Committee is Australian EME specialist, Mike Wood. He sees a global approach is essential in providing harmonised standards for communities, governments, industry and stakeholders.

The IEC TC 106 Committee is responsible for developing assessment standards for devices and networks to 100GHz. As part of the meeting agenda, the new 5G compliance strategy for networks and devices will be presented at the Aurecon Melbourne office.

This initiative builds on a history of local and general global compliance vigilance, addressing community concerns and the hazards of working with wireless transmission and is part of the programme to take the existing compliance assessment standards, which only go to 6GHz, to the next level. In 2018 there will be 5G testing and demonstration networks. Data from these will aid the 2019 finalisation of 5G technology standards for the introduction of 5G commercial systems in 2020.

At this pivotal time preparing for 5G, Standards Australia CEO, Dr Bronwyn Evans, believes “Australia’s commitment to international leadership in EME safety standards is underpinned by the significant investment Australia makes on safety standards.”

The industry itself recognises the importance in this phase of wireless communications. Chris Althaus, CEO of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), values this international collaboration as it ensures our Australian EME compliance systems continue to be world leading and are among those updated for 5G.

Aurecon is an experienced accredited National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) company and global player in the EME compliance field. With our existing wireless services for different carriers we find the solution to their compliance design requirements. Whether that’s antenna positioning or height changes, control measures, worker safety education or something else, it’s our job to understand the field and provide the solution with the best outcomes in every way. That’s our job and as one of the world’s leading engineering companies in telecommunications and digital innovation and a recognised leader in this field, Aurecon is taking a future-ready stance on design and compliance to equip building and infrastructure owners with the knowledge they need for informed decisions that will keep step with connectedness, innovation and safety.

How do you design a purpose-built environment that is conducive to wireless technologies?

In creating smart buildings for a smart city, architects need to consider both energy efficiency and communications equally in the design phase. They must take into consideration aspects such as construction methods, building materials and floor layouts to ‘integrate’ communications, minimise disruption and promote seamless connection and transfer of wireless data.

These elements, together with clutter in the environment, will become major factors in any wireless design solution as we transition to a 5G network operating at higher frequencies and variable power levels. Electromagnetic emissions (EME) must be considered in all design solutions to integrate more wireless access points for better, or optimum, coverage.

The higher frequency and capacity of 5G allows for a higher density of mobile broadband users, and supports device-to-device, consistent, and massive machine communications. Coverage using narrow beam transmission methods will result in improved coverage efficiency, faster data rates and less battery consumption, which will allow for more possibilities from the Internet of Things. But 5G has a shorter signal reach, which means more access points (called ‘small cells’) are needed for better signal delivery. A benefit of 5G is its increased efficiency, which means that it can carry significantly more data while still maintaining low transmit power and low EME levels.

How do we integrate our EME activities into a virtual world?

The challenge for mobile carriers in introducing a 5G wireless network into the community is that with this technology we need to remember the way we are doing things is changing. It’s the next leap from what we know now to the virtual world, a world of high speed and live results. The quantum leap now is virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) that are set to become a future reality. We will see 5G technologies launch us into the VR and AR worlds, and it will be important to understand the new environment, and the potential need for dedicated areas within work or home spaces.

Australian experts are at the cutting edge of new wireless technology. At Aurecon we are moving to drone and VR systems and we are looking at ways to introduce AR and VR technologies into managing a site. We want to be able to explore a structure and look at its life-cycle – built in an AR world. Imagine putting on a mask, or HoloLens glasses, and actually seeing how big a structure will be. This will be a real boon to designers, and those constructing their vision.

At the moment, we are asking a lot of questions and investigating how we can use this technology safely and make it meaningful for EME applications.

The interconnection of wireless high speed virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and personal, wearable Wi-Fi devices are fast becoming the must-haves of now, and we cannot imagine the future. We can lay the foundations for a safe future by understanding compliance issues, while creating the environment needed to maximise the potentialities. The future is ours to imagine – its safety is ours to ensure.

1In a 1999 paper for Proctor & Gamble about improving its business by linking RFID (radio frequency identification) information to the Internet
2See http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/index1.html

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