Building connections to enable disruption

30/07/2019 - 09:32

Western Australia in 2029 will be dramatically different from today. Some cars might be autonomous, drones will be buzzing through the sky, visits to the doctor will be possible online, and household objects will be connected to the web.

Western Australia in 2029 will be dramatically different from today.

Some cars might be autonomous, drones will be buzzing through the sky, visits to the doctor will be possible online, and household objects will be connected to the web.

But there’s something that needs to underpin all of this – internet infrastructure.

There is already work under way on this front.

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Read more: Are we witnessing the death of driving?

Probably the best known is the National Broadband Network, a $50 billion project to deliver broadband across the country with speeds of at least 25 megabits per second.

The alternatives are wireless, either fixed or mobile.

Telstra is already rolling out 5G mobile telecommunications in Western Australia, with access in a zone around Perth CBD.

That connectivity will slowly spread across the metropolitan area in the year ahead.

5G uses shorter wavelengths than earlier cell phone generations and is more powerful.

Telstra network engineering executive Channa Seneviratne said 5G technology would be a major enabler for transport, industrial uses, and at home.

“In five to seven years’ time, 5G will be as ubiquitous as electricity, in my view,” Mr Seneviratne told Business News.

“You’ll see different types of it controlling every aspect of our lives; at home, the way we work, the automation that’ll be possible, entertainment experiences, smart grids.”

Mr Seneviratne said 5G and the NBN would be complementary, with NBN to be used for bigger downloads, while 5G had lower latency.

“To control a vehicle autonomously, you need to send a command, you don’t need to send  a lot of data, but it needs to get to that vehicle quickly,” he said.

“That’s where the low latency of 5G comes into play.

“When you want a vehicle to stop, you need to stop immediately.

“A delay of up to a second, at high speed, not a good thing, you need really low millisecond delays.”

For businesses, 5G could mean high-tech equipment connected to the internet without massive cabling requirements, while for customers, 5G will have virtual reality applications, aiding streaming of sports matches, he said. 

Local internet provider Pentanet is rolling out its own fixed wireless network, a different technology, in Perth.

Pentanet managing director Stephen Cornish said cloud computing was becoming more prevalent. 

That meant data centres would store information, with processing power centralised, so a good link from a home computer or mobile phone was vital, Mr Cornish said.

Mr Cornish said both fixed wireless and 5G could hit speeds faster than fibre optic cables used in the NBN.

But fixed wireless requires line-of-sight to a tower, while 5G can not send signals over very long distances.

Mr Cornish has an ambitious plan for Pentanet.

“I want to bring gigabyte per second internet into the suburbs,” he said.

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