A decade ends… Shoutout 2010s!

For many reasons, 2010s was the best decade for tech and telecom industry. It was the decade that redefined the consumer tech and pioneered many innovations that will define the future tech industry.

Technological concept men using virtual reality glasses

Many mobility platforms like iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Firefox OS either flourished or vanished during this decade. Mobile data networks like LTE evolved to their peak during this time. Foundation for future tech like 5G was laid during the same time. We saw amazing tech innovations in last 10 years such as iPad, Amazon Alexa, Nexus, Pixel Phones, Oculus VR, iPhone X and the list goes on… Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat gained massive user base as a result of this tech revolution. Many cloud services such as AWS, Azure also got better and it has also paved a way for techs such as AI, AR, VR like never before. Streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Hotstar and YouTube (never forget it!) have witnessed a record number of users in last few years.
This huge progress is commendable in the entire human history. The world has never been this connected and virtually close ever before. It’s indeed the best time to be alive! While it’s hard to predict what tech we will see in 2020s, we can foresee an unparalleled era of AI, cloud computing and IoT and 5G as their enabler.

As already discussed, 5G network evolution will gain its momentum in early 2020s with wider commercial launches by 2024. In a nutshell, 2020s are going to be exciting for tech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. We at Towards5G are here to track and analyse every little progress in this industry (telecom + tech) for 2020 and so on…

At last, we wish you all a very happy new year and stay tuned for more interesting information from Towards5G. Thank you and feel free to drop your feedback in comments. Peace! ✌🏻

FRMCS: Next-Gen Train Radio Enablement with 5G

Train radio has been using GSM-R standard for its communication since 20 years. However, GSM-R systems are based on 2nd generation GSM mobile technology. According to experts, GSM-R equipment will be obsolete after 2030. International Union of Railways (UIC) team has drawn up a plan to develop the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) as a successor to GSM-R. It is intended to have FRMCS demonstrator ready by 2023.

FRMCS will be designed keeping 5G ecosystem in mind and it is seen as a game changer for railway digitisation. GSM-R has been installed on 140,000 km of railway track across Europe and 210,000 km worldwide. It provides seamless 2.5G connectivity between track side and on-board and improves safety through the railway emergency call system. But, the specifications for GSM-R were finalised in 2000 and it is unable to transmit the volumes of data needed today and in the near future.

UIC had started studies to develop GSM-R successor back in 2012. This led to the decision to develop FRMCS as a worldwide standard for railway communications. UIC has brought together stakeholders from railway and telecom communities. FRMCS is designed to support all the applications that will be implemented in a scope of railway digitisation. Some of these applications are – hybridisation between railway and the public transport, driverless autonomous trains, IoT, smart maintenance and traffic monitoring. This is why, FRMCS is an ENABLER.

In order to safeguard this investment, FRMCS has been included in the global telecommunication standards of 3GPP into Release 16 and 17. In this way, FRMCS designed for 5G will remain compatible with the future generations.

FRMCS is designed to work with the complimentary networks like Wi-Fi, public 5G and even satellites. Thus, it offers ‘Bearer Flexibility’. It is based on IP Protocol ensuring optimal flexibility and upgradability of applications. Just like GSM-R , FRMCS will enable full interoperability of railway operations. The user requirement specification for FRMCS is already available. Around 1000 use cases have already been proposed and are in the process of approval by telecom standardisation bodies.

The first FRMCS trials are expected in 2023 and migration from GSM-R between 2025 and 2035. It will be a key driver for railway digitisation. It will open new opportunities for future mobility by breaking barriers between transport mode and usage.

Does 5G have any health effects?

As the carriers around the world are in a race to get their 5G networks up and running, some people and even government officials have cited their fear about the health effects related to the next-get wireless technology.

5G technology will require the installation of hundreds and thousands of ‘small cells’ across all neighborhoods throughout a city. These small cells will emit higher frequency radio waves called ‘millimeter waves’ or ‘mmWaves’. Theses waves are far less reliable for long distance coverage, as explained in previous articles. Thus, to ensure ubiquitous and reliable 5G service, carriers will need to install a number of access points. Some of these access points will be much closer to people’s houses.

This leads to a couple of fears – Due to large number of access points, people will be exposed to more radiation than 4G services and millimeter waves could potentially be more dangerous due to their higher frequencies. Though millimeter waves aren’t the only ones that will be used to deliver the 5G service. T-Mobile has rolled out its nationwide 5G network on 700 MHz band, the same frequency was used for radio and television many years ago.

Image source: Wikipedia

However, there is nothing much to worry about. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet rays, X-rays and gamma rays all are parts of electromagnetic spectrum. The latter ones – UV rays, X-rays and gamma rays are known as ‘ionizing radiation’. These radiations are ‘definitely carcinogenic’ as they can break molecular/cellular bonds. On the other hand, visible light, millimeter waves along with other radio waves are known as ‘non-ionizing radiation’ and hence they are harmless for living cells. Even though the frequency of millimeter waves is higher than traditional frequencies used for GSM, 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi, it still falls far below the visible light and ionizing radiations.

Even though the non-ionizing radiation does not seem have any negative side effects, there is still one concern. Any electromagnetic energy produces heat, including the millimeter waves. However, to protect against these thermal effects, FCC and other governmental regulatory authorities set limits on how much energy a wireless device can emit.

Researchers are yet to find any concrete evidence linking mobile phones to any adverse health effects. World Health Organization has concluded that all current evidences do not confirm any negative health consequence caused due to exposure to the low band electromagnetic waves. Although, some studies need extended research.

Health concern is the most important aspect that needs to be clarified as the next-gen technology emerges. I will be sharing more information on this as it becomes available.