How can 5G help combat pandemics like COVID-19?

So far, the Novel Coronavirus Disease has more than 800,000 cases globally and has claimed nearly 39,000 lives. The pandemic has a major impact on the global economy and the whole world is at a standstill right now. While many countries are having prevention measures in practice by imposing lockdowns, the number of tests being conducted is still inadequate in many countries.

Chinese tech giant Huawei has recently published a whitepaper titled ‘Combating COVID-19 with 5G – Opportunities to help improve public health system‘. The paper highlights features of 5G such as high bandwidth, low latency, a large number of connections per area, cloud-native features, and AI. The report states that these technologies can together enhance the effectiveness of pandemic prevention and treatment and drive the digital transformation of healthcare systems in response to major health emergencies. This new study highlights the role of 5G in epidemic control and how 5G thermal imaging can support contagion monitoring.

Image source: NYTimes

5G Thermal Imaging

As per the report, 5G thermal imaging at a terminal can accurately monitor a moving object’s temperature in real-time without any contact and issues abnormal image alerts, if any. Data collected by these terminals can be shared with central monitoring systems and synced with the cloud with zero-lag. This will enable not only public temperature monitoring and imaging, but also travel and contact history tracking whenever needed. The system will be ‘always-online’

These 5G thermal imaging systems are currently widely deployed across China since the outbreak. Especially when it comes to crowded public places like airports and transport hubs, these systems have significantly improved the efficiency of temperature monitoring and thermal imaging across the moving crowd to reduce the risk of exposure. This can help drive the digitization of the outbreak control.

Apart from this, 5G can also enable remote monitoring and diagnosis of the patient during transfer in a Smart Ambulance. Thanks to the gigabit-class speeds of 5G, these Smart Ambulances can transmit videos and medical data to the hospital staff flawlessly in real-time. The whitepaper also describes the 5G remote consultation and 5G smart medical robots. 5G remote consultation has already had clinical trials in select locations in China during the outbreak with patients being able to remotely connect to medical experts across the country. 5G smart medical robots can be used for quarantine patients. These robots in the 5G environment can take care of routine tasks like sanitary conditions, floor checkups, medicine delivery to improve safety in quarantine areas. The robots can free-up human resources from repetitive tasks, and they can then be deployed for complex tasks in critical care units.

The healthcare systems all over the world are presently under tremendous pressure to get this situation under control. Digital transformation of healthcare harnessing the power of 5G is the best-suited solution to efficiently combat epidemics like this in the future.

5G Network Slicing: Part 4 – Service Continuity for a Slice in International Roaming

We are back with the topic of 5G Network Slicing. After discussing about applications, use cases and challenges for network slicing in first three parts of this series, let’s discuss in brief about how a 5G network will offer service continuity for a certain slice when roaming across networks. A 5G network should ensure seamless experience for all its services for devices that roam outside home network.

From a technical perspective, there are three approaches to ensure the availability of the slice in case of international roaming scenario:

  1. Standardized slice: A standardized and mutually agreed slice type is allocated to the roaming device. It is instantiated when in the visited network when the device is instantiated. As any 5G device roams into the network, the visited network instantiates the same standardized slice.
  2. Slice blueprint export: The home network provides the slice blueprint (template) to the roaming network. The visited network instantiates the template for the roaming device. The instantiated slice is identical to the one used in the home network.
  3. Virtual home slice: In this approach, as the device roams, the home network takes permission from the visited network to take control of its network resources. Once the control is granted, home network allocates the agreed resources for the device and instantiates the slice. This slice will be same as the one used in home network.

Securing availability of the slice resources in roaming scenario is one of the most important challenges for network slicing. Out of these three, slice blueprint export seems like the most practical and viable approach for service continuity.

We will be posting more interesting articles in this series. Stay tuned!

3GPP to delay 5G standard updates amid COVID-19 outbreak

As per the latest update on 3GPP, the association is delaying its work on two critical updates to the 5G/NR standard due to COVID-19 outbreak. 3GPP had pushed up the initial 5G standard release to start the mmWave/sub-6 5G hardware deployments across the world. But many important details were left unresolved pending future standardization meetings. So, it’s currently unclear how this decision will actually impact 5G rollouts.

Current 5G deployments are based on Release 15, the initial 5G standard that still relies on legacy 4G network as backbone (NSA – Non-Standalone 5G service). Release 16 covers phase-2 of 5G systems, which is supposed to focus on SA – Standlone 5G service for overall speed improvements. It also includes standards for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and industrial massive IoT deployments. Also, the future Release-17 is supposed to specifications for 5G wearables and much faster network performance.

End-users have been able to experience early speeds of 5G on smartphones. However, it’s Release-16 which is supposed to kick off their actual 5G deployments. 3GPP is continuing its work on the remote basis with online meetings being conducted in coming weeks. A report says, the upcoming release has been delayed by three months.