The tech world is slowly entering a sort of revolution, and as part of that process, one of the key announcements is the transit to the 5th generation of mobile networks, shortened to 5G. There have been various speculations around 5G, but first, can you tell us what 5G is, what are the benefits of introducing a new generation to citizens and the economy. When comparing this to, for example, 3G and 4G systems, what are the key differences?
AM: The fifth generation of mobile networks, or 5G, is undoubtedly a revolution, as the architecture of the system itself is changing. We can see that most irregular periods have introduced revolutionary innovations if we follow the processes so far in the evolution of mobile network systems. In contrast, the steam ones were mainly significant upgrades to existing performance, such as Internet access speeds, call quality and more. For illustration, 3G networks enabled us to packet communication and access to the Internet via mobile networks, so conventional call and instant messaging services were slowly dropping. 4G has further enhanced this, increasing speed and announcing some new trends, planned for 5G, that appear in a transitional iteration called 4G + or 4.5G.
The main difference that 5G introduces is new applications and applications, where services are not human-centric from the design point of view; that is, the main clients are no longer people with their needs, but machines that connect to the Internet. Machine communications, introduced through the concept of the Internet of Things, allow us to put sensors in each device that monitor the set parameters. This data is then collected into data centers for further analysis and to establish predictions about human and machine behavior, which further allows us to plan the resources available optimally. For example, it may be best to take the applications in the Smart Cities sphere that is closest to readers. If you have public transit counters, you can track when people are moving from residential areas to business areas, or when they go to work, or vice versa when returning, you can track what happens between and after returning home. This approach allows you to precisely determine when to increase or decrease the number of vehicles and possibly change the bus route if the team needs to carry the maximum number of passengers in the shortest time. Similar applications are related to waste management, public lighting, power grid management, and the connection of renewable energy sources, smart automatic meters for the consumption of electricity, water, gas, and more.
All this brings us into the world of circular and green economics, furthermore into a sustainable economy, and finally aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals, 17 in total, defined in the United Nations Agenda 2030. The Agenda stands for a new, more responsible, prosperous, and better world, where the overall quality of life significantly increases and is worthy of a 21st-century man.
What are the technical assumptions for using a 5G network? I mean, the general infrastructure on the one hand and the end-users on the other? Are we going to need brand new cell phones, televisions, computers, or are we just going to need some extras to customize existing devices that we have?
AM: Unquestionably, with the expansion of 5G infrastructure and increasing availability globally, there will be a growing number of devices that are compatible with the new network. The development will undoubtedly include new handsets (already available on the market, for example, the latest generations of Samsung and Huawei smartphones, for example, come in two options with and without 5G support and vary to some extent, while Apple announced support for 5G from with the release of new iPhones). Moreover, soon we expect a variety of 5G compatible systems on the market, ranging from apartment alarm systems to kitchen and other household appliances, cars, and more, to obtain and send data relevant to those applications. The main goal of all of the above is to improve the level of customer experience satisfaction.
There is a concern in the global public about the effects of the 5G network on human health. What are the recommendations in this area, and has Bosnia and Herzegovina – BiH has done enough to protect its citizens in this regard?
AM: For the most part, the latest recommendations and standards relating to 5G systems, adopted by the international body 3GPP, retain the spine and frequency spectrum, which is still used today for 3G and 4G networks. The macrocells, which continue to provide existing services, are remaining virtually unchanged and operate on the 700/800/900/1800/2100/2600 MHz band, possibly expanding to the 3.4-3.8 GHz band. All of these bands are below the 6 GHz level, and their physical behavior is well known, and there are no disputes. The novelty of the 5G system is the introduction of microcells, which can operate on the microwave part of the spectrum above 6 GHz, using frequency bands around 30 GHz and 60 GHz. It is important to emphasize that the EU is the most conservative and very cautious in terms of human health risks, so the EU envisages the use of only a 24.5-27.5 GHz band, with significant transmitter restrictions. The fact is that microcells will work similarly to the principle of WiFi networks, there will be many and cover narrow areas between 100-300 meters, which means the increased density of their placement. It’s important to know that high-frequency deployment is associated with the creation of 1 GHz wide bandwidths and wireless transmission rates in the range of existing 1-10 Gbps optical networks, with very low latency and delay variation. These parameters are crucial for applications that are sensitive to self-driving cars or transmission of HD multimedia content wirelessly.
Objectively speaking, micro-cellular infrastructure is not 5G in itself, and we expect its introduction to take a long and gradual time, due to the costly investment in the construction of such infrastructure and the limited need for it. At the same time, many studies were examining the possibilities of a negative impact on human health. Generally, the results are not showing that the measured impact exists in a measurable form.
Recently, the international body issued a new standard for protection against non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, including telecommunication radiation, ICINIRP (2020), which further decreased the values of the allowed parameters, although the previous standard was restrictive. The motive is to cater to a broader audience, which has expressed concern and fear globally about the 5G system so that the margin that protects us is now several dozen times lower in intensity than the limit of adverse effects on human health.
As for BiH, there is a set of legal regulations and regulatory rules that address the issue of protecting health from the effects of non-ionizing radiation. First of all, there are entity laws in the field of health, but also the rules of the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CRA BH), which are all based on valid international recommendations such as ICINIRP (2020), ITU K.83 and IEEE C.95-1 and regulation practices. CRA BH is preparing a campaign to check the technical parameters of license holders in terms of protecting the general population from potential adverse effects. The CRA plans to provide transparent public awareness of current electromagnetic pollution, so I am optimistic that this service will be available in 2020.
When can we expect the introduction of the 5G network in BiH?
AM: As Bosnia and Herzegovina are late in introducing 4G systems, telecom operators will focus on upgrading 4G services in the next period by the license’s obligations to provide commercial 4G. For some time, telecoms will concentrate on a return on their investment in the 4G system. What is essential is that telecoms have not only received a 4G license but an authorization to use spectrum. Hence, it is now only their commercial decision to switch their existing radio spectrum from 3G or 4G to 5G in this part up to 6 GHz required permissions. When the story of micro-cellular infrastructure starts at frequencies above 6 GHz, we need to initiate additional activities. The real estimate is that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the first 5G systems will appear in larger urban centers in about 3-5 years. We expect a full transition to 5G for at least a decade, but this is still my assessment. The decision is, of course, on the telecoms themselves.
How realistic are some speculations regarding Chinese manufacturer Huawei’s 5G equipment that the equipment violates user privacy and security? Are those claims valid?
AM: Indeed, I did not participate in the cybersecurity testing of equipment from any of the world’s manufacturers, not even Huawei. It is, more or less, known to the public that there has been a dispute between the US Government and Huawei over the issue of privacy violations. As for BiH, the official commitment is that BiH is approaching the EU following the Stabilization and Association Agreement. Part of this is the alignment of our legal and other regulations with existing EU regulations. As with all others, BiH follows the EU position on this issue. So far, the EU has not made any allegations of the privacy breach, and Huawei is unrestrained in the EU market.
For this reason, BiH has not made any obstacles in this regard either. How these processes evolve likely depends on the global political-trade relations of the world’s largest technology players. Small countries like BiH undoubtedly rely on acceptable practices because, objectively, we cannot do much ourselves. We can say that we believe in EU judgments on this issue.
Image 1: Electromagnetic Spectrum, source: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/
Image 2: 5G Global Spectrum Allocations, source: https://www.itu.int/