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COVID-19 and 5G development
May 19, 2020 News


In our final part of our interview with Gooi Soon Chai, President of Electronic Industrial Solutions Group, Keysight Technologies, he explains to us how the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the 5G industry in Malaysia.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic has to some extent imposed a ‘new normal’ with increased remote working and most people at home, it has also driven mass digital adoption, increasing demand for fast broadband services.”

Taking Malaysia as an example, Gooi said fixed broadband traffic spiked to 807.5 Terabytes – up 79%, just during the period from March 9 – 29 – which covers the country’s first partial-lockdown period, according to the industry regulator, the Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

Telecommunications and internet services are deemed to be essential services and are exempted from Malaysia’s partial lockdown. The country’s main telecommunications operators have reportedly put in additional investments on top of original plans to upgrade network capacity, which include upgrading older equipment and installing new communications equipment on towers.

Gooi pointed out that operators in Malaysia are collectively performing network optimisation and radio capacity upgrades in areas with high utilisation. They are performing traffic re-adjustment to cater to rising bandwidth demand in residential premises and upgrading the wireless backhaul to fibre optic connections.

The industry regulator also said that it expects all projects currently on the ground in Malaysia to be implemented as planned with no significant delays.

Given 5G’s complex ecosystem supply chain, it is possible that 5G implementation will be slowed down to different degrees in different countries, although this depends on the duration of the pandemic and the necessary measures taken. In this scenario, more time may be available for test and measurement in areas as diverse as virtual design simulation & validation, conformance testing, new equipment manufacturing test, and pre-deployment network lab testing.

“For our part, we are committed to helping customers maintain their engineering productivity no matter where they are working, worldwide. Keysight is offering the company’s popular software products free of charge for 90 days, so that engineers working on design and simulation or managing multiple instruments and test stations remotely, can leverage Keysight’s PC-based software to remain productive. This is being done through our Innovate Anywhere program, which spans multiple areas: 90-day software trials, remote learning, and scalable live network testing, device virtual drive testing, etc.”


5G Use Cases

According to Gooi, 5G has everyone excited about the possibilities such as high-bandwidth, low-latency wireless standard will bring. There are three main use cases: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) that delivers a faster and more enjoyable connected experience, massive machine-type communications (mMTC) for IoT cellular communications supporting massive numbers of devices with dramatic improvements in power efficiency, and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC) that enable critical applications like autonomous driving, smart manufacturing, and remote surgery.

The most compelling use cases are in manufacturing automation, transport, and application monetisation, which have implications for data centre infrastructure and design-for-test. Customer traceability through the network for application monetisation will be the main driver to adopt the latest standards.

“5G also promises to change the way we live, work and play in dramatic ways. New high-bandwidth, low-latency applications—particularly IIoT, autonomous driving, and immersive experience applications—will enable uses that we haven’t even imagined yet. After all, who could have imagined 10 years ago that 4G would have led to ridesharing apps like Grab or augmented reality games such as Ingress and Pokémon Go?”


Demand and Adoption of 5G

“As a test & measurement leader, we are not in the business of measuring demand for end-user services, but we know that more than 350 operators worldwide have invested in 5G network tests, trials, pilots, or actual deployments, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA).”

To set the stage, government and regulatory bodies have acted to foster cooperation and collaboration between telcos, ISPs, vendors and other participants in the ecosystem, and made concerted efforts to accelerate 5G testing and deployment.

Investment in broadband correlates directly to country economic growth. The World Bank estimates that a 10% increase in fixed broadband penetration contributes 1.38% to a country’s gross domestic products (GDP).

Taking Malaysia as an example again, Gooi said 5G technology is seen as an economic imperative with the ability to rejuvenate industries that are critical to the country’s economy. According to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), 5G implementation could generate RM12.7 billion (nearly US$3 billion) between 2021 and 2025 for the nation’s economy, and create more than 40,000 new job opportunities.

As Gooi puts it, “While digital transformation was once seen as a smart strategy, many businesses now see it as a means of survival in the ASEAN region as work-from-home and e-commerce surge during the COVID-19 pandemic.”