Article: Introducing 5G in Catalonia

5G and Barcelona

Hanging cubes display 5G logo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Jun. 2, 2020

by Tamara Juburi

While the US and UK consider certain political implications of 5G, Barcelona has taken the plunge to become the world's most forward-thinking player in rolling it out.

Barcelona, the first city in southern Europe to create urban 5G test beds, is becoming a world leader when it comes to 5G technology. Catalonia's Minister for Digital Policy recently signed an MoU with the i2CAT Foundation research group and the University of Bristol in an effort to further propel Barcelona as a blueprint for smart cities around the world. Smart tech like 5G promises Barcelona's residents improvement in their transport, education, and augmented reality, but its biggest real-world impact is already being felt in healthcare.

Researchers at San Raffaele hospital are developing 5G-equipped ambulances that allow doctors to view patients in real-time and offer instructions to paramedics as if present in the vehicle. They plan to take further advantage of 5G's downloading speed—as much as 100 times faster than 4G—to be connected to city infrastructure to ensure clear roads en route to hospitals, as well as potentially providing a platform for videoassisted surgery.

Barcelona's ferrocarril tram service, also known as Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) too, aspires to test 5G between the stations of plaza de Espanya and Europa Fira in the coming months, to demonstrate how it can create higher quality services in the rail system. To do this, a 5G railway test will implement a single communications platform, replacing the multiple independent networks in place today that allow for more seamless communication between stations, trains, operators, and riders.

But 5G doesn't only offer screen-addicted residents better streaming of their favorite Netflix shows while commuting. It can also represent real economic growth in terms of GDP through revolutionizing manufacturing and other automated sectors.
Jordi Puigneró, Catalan Minister for Digital Policy and president of i2CAT, said in his TBY interview, "Smart digital technologies will form the basis of prosperous nations." A key aspect that gives 5G the ability to a play a role in GDP is its ultra low latency, which will measure around 1 ms as compared to 4G's 30 ms.

As latency measures how fast content can be transported from server to user, it plays a huge role in IoT technology. Thus, 5G will allow for more accurate remote object manipulation and industrial automation, two aspects that make its contribution to the GDP huge. Yet, 5G's latency affect doesn't stop there. It can even offer something to the world of sports.

According to research from software specialist Amdocs, most people's debut experience of 5G technology will be at sports stadiums, and Barcelona fans will be amongst the first to reap benefits. Camp Nou plans to roll out internal 5G coverage as part of its Espai Barça project to renovate the club's 61-year old stadium.

Faster speeds at the stadium will not just mean overcoming congested bandwidths that make it almost impossible to send messages during a game, but will also enhance the fan experience. By connecting to video flows from cameras around the stadium, fans will have instant access to action replays and other real-time game information, thanks to upload speeds of up to 200Mbs per second. However, amid all the hype around 5G, 2019 has, to a certain extent, proven to be a year of dissent toward the technology, perhaps most notably in Brussels.

In Spring 2019, the Belgian capital halted the rollout of 5G tech amid concerns over radiation emitted from base stations. Dutch members of parliament are also encouraging their government to investigate these potential health issues, while Switzerland has agreed to carry out tests and regularly inform the public of its findings.

These types of concerns toward new technology are not new, as consumers have for years proven similarly anxious about other non-ionizing radiation emitters like microwaves and mobile phones. Unlike ionizing radiation, which is higher up the spectrum and includes X-rays and nuclear radiation, the non-ionizing variety that is emitted by everyday machines is far less harmful, if at all. One thing we can be sure of is the enormous impact 5G will have on all countries in the future.

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