Rogers to test 5G tech in Toronto, Ottawa
The Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays, has become a test hub for 5G wireless technology that promises ultra-fast download speeds and a scaled-up grid of connected devices to ultimately power virtual reality, driverless cars and “smart cities.”
Rogers Communications says it is partnering with Swedish hardware maker Ericsson on 5G tests over the next year in centres including Toronto and Ottawa.
The wireless service provider is in the early stages of rolling out 5G technology even while it deploys advanced gigabit LTE networks as a stepping stone between the fourth- and fifth-generation wireless standards.
Rogers and Ericsson demonstrated examples of 5G applications Monday at the downtown multi-purpose stadium, which Jorge Fernandes, Rogers chief technology officer, called an “ideal, real world testing environment,” since it hosts thousands of connected devices running at peak usage in a concrete environment that can impede wireless signals.
During demonstration, participants wore virtual reality (VR) glasses to toss a baseball back and forth, virtually shopped in a retail store and controlled robots with real-time responsiveness.
Fernandes said 5G will cut the time between sending a request and the network response to “the blink of an eye,” allowing for a massive increase in the number of connected devices and in applications that require quick responsiveness, including driverless cars and VR.
He said the speed, reliability and scalability of 5G will support the connection between physical devices that “will make the mass communication of Internet of Things a reality, changing how we live and work.”
Fernandes said Rogers plans to boost the volume of transmitters in its network that can communicate with external sensors so that self-driving cars, for example, could receive data from outside the automobile.
“Autonomous vehicles today have sensors within the vehicle itself. But the vehicle can only see what it can see,” he said.
A 5G network would be able to enhance the driverless car’s capabilities by warning it of hazards beyond its sensor range, such as a bicycle coming towards it from around a corner.
While Rogers has been using the Rogers Centre stadium to test frequencies and network optimization, Fernandes said there’s no clear timeframe for expanding its 5G testing in the city of Toronto.
“The future of our businesses, our industries and our daily lives will be impacted by 5G,” added Niklas Heuveldop, head of market area North America for Ericsson, which operates an R&D lab in Ottawa.
Fernandes said 5G technology will be “ready for prime time” around 2020 while Heuveldop estimated that there will be one billion 5G subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2023.
Bell and Telus have both teamed with Chinese networking gear maker Huawei in the race to develop 5G, with Telus testing fixed wireless systems using the homes of Vancouver-based employees and Bell testing applications in Ontario, including in rural communities.
Huawei, Samsung, Nokia and ZTE are other leading 5G networking gear makers competing for 5G supply deals, but Rogers says it selected Ericsson because it is the 5G market leader in North America.