KT, Nokia and Intel team up to test 5G, showing how next generation wireless networks open new opportunities for remote areas of the world.
Connecting the next billion people to the internet is a serious ambition, but for that to happen 5G leaders must show how faster, more robust wireless networks can bring economic sustainability or even growth to small towns threatened by population decline and lack of investment.
“We see 5G as a connectivity fabric that improves the lives of rural as much as urban citizens,” said Rob Topol, general manager of Intel’s 5G Business and Technology.
He said 5G technology will unleash a mesh of different wireless spectrums, which will benefit people by powering new services and bringing artificial intelligence (AI) to internet devices.
A recent 5G pilot program set up in a remote village in South Korea demonstrated how farmers can use an automated system to deter wild pigs from ravaging valuable crops. Built by Intel, KT and Nokia, the 5G network also connects local marketplace vendors with customers across South Korea and even around the world in real-time, augmented with product data, prices, shipping logistics and online shopping. The 5G pilot even used Wi-Fi and AI-powered internet services so locals could watch entertainment beyond the village.
Where 4G was about moving more data like video faster than previous wireless networks, 5G is a more ubiquitous technology that supports enhanced broadband, extremely low latency applications as well as connected devices and autonomous machines. It also supports advanced uses of edge and cloud computing services, according to Topol.
Topol and other 5G leaders believe the new network technology can connect the unconnected, bring resource efficiencies to business and government agencies, and even spark economic growth.
Topol’s team worked with KT, South Korea’s national telecom company, and Finnish-based communications technology company Nokia to bring 5G to Uiyaji Baram Maeul, known as Uiyaji Wind Village, a remote mountain town in South Korea. The future wireless network technology was also installed at Daekwon Ryung Highway Service Center, Bokwang Youth Hostel and Jinbu Station.
While South Korea is one of the most connected countries in the world with one of the highest connections per user of any other country, Topol said these pilots show how 5G technology has the potential to revitalize rural areas.
“They are a blueprint of how 5G can be deployed,” he said.
Keeping Culture Alive by Empowering Locals and Attracting Visitors
An easy stop for people traveling from Seoul to PyeongChang, Uiyaji Wind Village poses challenges that 5G may solve, said Andrew Cope, head of Nokia Networks for Korea.
Cope, who oversees sales, operations, and research and development, worked with KT on early implementations of 5G since 2015. The two companies created a pre-commercial standard called the KT SIG (special interest group) that was used in and around PyeongChang in early 2018.
South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety expressed concern about population decline and asked how technology could keep culture, tourism and a healthy economy alive in Uiyaji. KT turned to Nokia and Intel to bring 5G to the remote village.
“Step one was to build the technology, even before the industry specification was released,” said Cope. The 5G New Radio (NR) specification was approved in mid-December 2017.
“Step two is to understand how we can apply it, how we can deliver value that people are willing to pay for and to create a sustainable business environment where everyone wins.”
Uiyaji Wind Village is situated on top of Daegwallyeong, a mountain pass some 800 meters (2,625 feet) above sea level in the Taebaek Mountains, nestled in Gangwon Province. It is among South Korea’s choice places to ski and sled every winter.
“It’s quite a famous, scenic spot,” said Cope. “If you go up to the top of the mountain, you can look over the valley at PyeongChang.”
It’s known for traditional hand-crafted ice cream and cheeses, often made with milk only available in Korea. Visitors stop for the memil-mandu (buckwheat dumpling), ongsimi-kalguksu (handmade knife-cut noodles with sweet rice dough soup) and gamja-jeon (potato pancakes). More recent landmarks include giant windmills that spin against relentless gusts of wind, creating energy used by locals and the surrounding area.
It’s home to Daegwallyeong Sky Ranch, where about 400 Holstein and 100 hanu Korean cows produce more than 1,400 tons of high quality milk and beef each year. The nearby Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm lets visitors hand-feed the roaming flock.
However, the bucolic environment is not enough to keep the local population of Uiyaji from leaving to find new opportunities in urban areas.
All of this made Uiyaji an ideal place to test the economic viability of 5G, said Cope.
“It was set up as a proof point for how these technologies can help natural resource management or farming, and improve efficiency and productivity,” said Cope.
Consumer, IoT and Marketplace Services Powered by 5G
At a kiosk in Uiyaji’s main village cafe, 5G brings Wi-Fi and KT’s Genie, an AI-powered service. Visitors speak requests to the kiosk and the information appears almost instantly on the large screen. They also can use the kiosk to connect with entertainment and life outside the village.
“The voice command goes back through KT’s cloud service using the low latency 5G connection,” explained Topol.
5G also brings Internet of Things (IoT) services to farmers, including an AI-powered surveillance system that deters wild pigs from destroying value crops. Cope said the system uses radar and cameras to detect unwelcomed animals then triggers repellent.
“The system identifies the animals and then it flashes lights and sprays a scent that drives them away from the crop area,” he said. “Deterrent devices are set up, and when there’s an alert, it registers on the landowner’s phone where they can see a video feed and see that the pig’s been deterred, or move to the area and take actions immediately.”
One pig can ruin many crops in a night, so the IoT system could save farmers time and money. Cope said variations of the system could also benefit water, power and other natural resource management needs.
“Once you start to think about this, you come up with more and new ideas for what 5G and IoT can deliver.”
5G also powers a virtual marketplace where online shoppers can see fruits, vegetables, meats and other items at the local market. Cope said this service requires high levels of data and reliable connectivity.
“You can hold up a tablet and use it to view the marketplace in a 360-degree manner. You can find the goods you’re after and talk directly to the person selling it, learn more about the item and even haggle the price.”
He said augmented reality (AR) can be layered on top of the live video feed, showing details and prices for products as well as shipping logistics. Purchases are made with a click of a button.
“Today we have to process a credit card or bank account transfer, but new technologies like blockchain could create a trust cycle through the whole chain, allowing you to directly interact with the farmer and delivery service to have your purchase arrive within hours,” said Cope.
“Geographically, Korea’s not that large, so it’s actually quite possible.”
Facing Challenges Before 5G is Ready
Cope, like a growing number of industry leaders, believes 5G will be ready before the second half of 2019, ahead of the original 2020 date. He said the internet era may not have done a lot for productivity compared to earlier industrial revolutions, but 5G could initiate real improvement in productivity.
“The change that 5G can bring might take a while, but it will drive a new level of productivity,” he said. “That means hopefully more free time and better, longer lives for all of us.”
5G uses very different radio frequencies than today’s 4G networks, so Cope expects to encounter unforeseen challenges in the year ahead. It happened in Uiyaji, where a 5G signal was beamed into the village cafe, which was enclosed by thermal vacuum-sealed glass.
“We couldn’t get the signal through, so we had to change one of the vacuum-sealed panes to a different type of glass pane in order for it to work.”
Like with most new technologies, even simple things can confound experts.
“All the theory in the world means nothing until you suddenly realize you can’t get through windows due to a particular type of glass,” he said.