On August 5th, Myanmar fourth mobile operator Mytel announced the launch of the first 5G network in Myanmar. The pilot was achieved using 3.5GHz frequency and reached 1.6Gbps download speed on a single handset device.
During this event, customers had the opportunity to experience Virtual Reality (VR) as well as Video 4K, both applications taking full advantage of Mytel 5G network.
For Viettel, one of Mytel main shareholder, it is not the first 5G trial. The Vietnamese telecom company also trialed 5G in both Vietnam and Cambodia. In May 2019, the group announced the first successful 5G call in Vietnam.
In September 2018, Ooredoo was the first mobile operator in Myanmar to showcase 5G at Yangon Technological University.
Mytel announcement coincides with the release of a report from UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar exposing “strong and persistent business and familial links between the Tatmadaw, its conglomerates MEHL and MEC, and a number of private Myanmar companies and conglomerates, colloquially known as “crony companies” “.
Note: Mytel is owned by MEC, Viettel and a consortium of Myanmar companies.
But what is 5G?
5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity which replace the current 4G technology currently used by mobile operators in Myanmar. 5G means “fifth generation” and is aimed to deliver faster speeds and lower latency enabling new use cases for mobile data communication.
Currently, 4G speeds in Myanmar are among the fastest in the world. In average, mobile operators can deliver between 30-50mbps consistently but it is not rare to observe peaks up to 100Mbps.
One of 5G prerequisites is to achieve gigabit speed. Mytel demonstrated it during the trials with download speed up to 1.6gbps.
5G also provides low latency
Latency is very important for real time applications such as video conferencing, real-time streaming or gaming.
With 4G, the latency between a customer handset and the mobile operator core network is around 40-50ms.
In 5G, theoretical latency to the mobile core is 1ms which is similar to metropolitan fiber latency. On the field, customers should realistically expect ~10ms latency which is a big improvement compared to 4G.
5G enable new applications
By offering higher speed and lower latency, 5G will be a driver for a wide range of new digital services that aim to transform our lifestyle once again.
5G is often called wireless fiber. With low latency and gigabit speed, the technology is a great fit for home broadband.
To give an example, watching Netflix in 4K quality requires between 15 and 25mbps of bandwidth. Achievable in 4G but what if you need to share the same 4G connection with your entire family?
5G gives you the capability to stream up to fifty 4K videos simultaneously! That is a lot but with the proliferation of connected devices into Myanmar households, 5G may become soon a much-needed commodity.
Connected cars & autonomous driving
5G provides super fast connectivity with very low latency which makes it a perfect fit for real time applications. Autonomous driving is one of these.
Nowadays, driverless vehicles are already a reality. Yet, the problem is that there still needs to be a real person behind the wheel just in case.
5G ultra low latency means that the responsiveness will be much more immediate. Autonomous cars need to have such reaction in order to understand sudden changes in road conditions and also where hazards arise.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Having a reliable 5G network will help VR and AR applications progress to the next level. We can even say that the future of these applications are completely dependent on 5G.
The main reason behind this is that both VR and AR require a cost effective network with lower latency and more consistency to really be immersive.
As we can see once again, the biggest advantage of 5G is low latency not speed. This is something really important to keep in mind about 5G. Low latency means responsiveness which is crucial for a good VR experience.
According to studies, the bare minimum to enjoy non-VR games is 50 ms latency. In VR, users will start experience nausea when latency is over 20 ms.
With 5G’s latency being in real world around 10ms, user experience will be amazing as long as the servers are hosted in Myanmar. The user experience will be smooth and natural. As VR is all about immersion – feeling like you are in the virtual environment – this is incredibly important.
Industry 4.0– industrial IoT & Smart Cities
Another very popular use case for 5G is what is called “Internet of Things”. Internet of Things is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. According to a recent study, the Global Industrial Internet Of Things Market is expected to exceed more than US$ 205.0 billion by 2024. There are hundreds of different applications for IoT.
In Yangon for instance, the city expressed recently its plan to roll out smart meters to control the supply and monitor the usage of the customers. That is a typical IoT application. Source
In December 2018, Telenor Myanmar worked with Ericsson to conduct IoT trials on its LTE network in the city of Mandalay. The tests involved IoT applications such as connected vehicles and ambient sensors
Connected Healthcare – robotics, wearable telemetry, transmission of HD images
5G is also a promising technology to drive the development of connected healthcare applications. In a country like Myanmar where 69% of the population is rural, access to healthcare is a real challenge. 5G can improve both access and quality of care.
One of the real life examples would be the transfer of medical files. PET scans usually generate extremely large files. In the case of a remote consultation, it can be difficult to send over gigabytes of data quickly.
Another example linked to IoT is the development of wearable devices that track the patient state and notify physician if the values vary from nominal range. For elders, such devices can also be used to detect falls and heart attacks.A surgical robot
Beyond the simple remote physician consultation, 5G will ultimately enable remote surgery. Through a connected network with such low latency, a doctor will be able to perform surgery with the local support of a surgical robot. Today these robots are heavy and request great computational power but as technology improve, these robots can become mobile and be deployed as portable devices in rural areas.
Smart Home Ecosystems
A growing number of us already live in a smart home environment. Your household, besides possessing laptops, tablets and smartphones, also contains IoT (Internet of Things) gadgets, from smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, game consoles like Nintendo Switch to smart light bulbs and smart locks. This is not yet the norm in Myanmar but it is a growing economy driven by the development of e-commerce websites such as shop.com.mm or physical stores like Mi Store who specialize in connected devices.
Nowadays, these gadgets connected to your home wireless network which is probably good enough for most of these applications.
But 5G can provide a more consistent form of service, consolidating setup and ensuring that things are really plug and play. Fifth generation network can make smart home technology more accessible and more intelligently designed, thereby encouraging more users to embrace IoT.
Low latency is once again a major reason for choosing 5G for your connected home. For security cameras for instance, gaining a few milliseconds improve the user experience tremendously.
As we can see, 5G is much more than just “a faster Internet”. There is a huge number of already-existing use cases that will greatly benefit from 5G connectivity.
The fifth generation is all about ultra low latency. By reducing latency, we reduce the distance between machines and humans. This unveils a huge area of possibilities and capabilities that can change our life.
We talked about latency before and for Myanmar specifically, the latency reduction will also go through the development of local cloud capabilities. If we take the example of VR for example, 5G will not be sufficient to enable the use case as the nearest data hub (Singapore) is 50ms away from Myanmar. And as of today, there is no way to reduce speed of light. The only solution is to bring computing capabilities closer to the user hence developing Internet Exchange Points (IXP), Data centers and Cloud infrastructure in Myanmar.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.