Life cannot be understood unless we look back and cannot be lived unless we look forward.— Søren Kierkegaard
By Corneliu Pivariu.
5G technology started to literally develop for the common users in 2019 (although its proper development started in April 2008). It is estimated that in 2020 it will spread to many more countries after which, in the next few years, it will generalize worldwide in spite of different researches showing that the 5G radiations will impact negatively on human health (and that has been asserted about 4G and 3G, too,) while organisations such as US Federal Communications Commission and almost all similar organisations declare that the 5G radiations have no significant impact on human health.
Another concern is linked to the security of communications through 5G networks especially those using Chinese equipment. At the beginning of 2019, Australia and Great Britain have taken action to restrict or remove using Chinese made equipment in their 5G networks. In 2019 as well, the US through the FBI and Great Britain through GCHQ and other intelligence agencies begun to get more and more involved in adjusting the surveillance standards.
In December 2019, at NATO’s 70th anniversary in London topics such as security and expanding 5G networks were debated.
Aside from the high velocity of downloading (see table), the 5G network has an airlatency (between phone ans antenna) of 8-12 milliseconds. It will allow as well the development of Internet of Things (IoT), given, too, the possibility of connecting 1 million objects on a square kilometer.
The Evolution of Telecom Networks
|Type||Year||Maximum downloading speed||Downloading a movie (3GB)|
|1G||1979||2Kbps||1movie = almost 6 days|
|2G||1991||100Kbps||1movie = more than 2.5 hours|
|3G||1998||8Mbps||1movie = almost 2 minutes|
|4G||2008||150Mbps||1movie = 20 seconds|
|5G||2018||10GBps||3 movies = 1 second|
|6G||2030 (envisaged)||1Tbps||300 movies = 1 second|
Internet of Things witnessed a spectacular development at the beginning of the 1990s and it is anticipated that in 2020 this industry will cover 50 billions of devices, according to the chart. It is estimated that IoT will be able to encode 50 to 100 trillions objects and to track the movements of those objects.
Presently, people have in urban areas around 1,000 – 5,000 objects that can be tracked. If in 2015 there were around 83 millions of intelligent objects in the households, it is anticipated that their number will reach 193 millions by 2020.
As in the case of any technical breakthrough in history, the 5G development and the 6G prospects found a first application in the military field as it connects navies, aircrafts, tanks, UAVs, robots, soldiers, sensing devices in a pwerful network able to collect information, analyse the situation and reduce the reaction time to different threats.
The Internet of Military Things (IoMT) or the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) was born. The US aircraft carriers speed up moving to 5G network while clusters of UAVs have already showed up (they were tested in 2017) as have miniaturized UAVs (as big as a small insect) or different military robots.
For instance, one of the Russian made military robots is URAN 9. In 2018, after successive tests, it was used in Syria yet it did not achieved the expected results and works on its improvement are under way. It can be controlled from a distance of around 3,000 m, covers a wide range of missions, has a diversified weaponry and a diesel engine allowing a running speed of up to 40 km/hour and an armor plate protecting it from infantry fire except from RPG fire.
The development of 5 and 6G networks and of the IoT will allow advancements that were not long ago science fiction – in day-to-day life, from the complete control of utilities in a household to autonomously car driving, medicine and all fields of economic and social life.
“It is a futuristic world that started to emerge” Lauri Oksanen, vicepresident for dvevelopment and research at Bell Labs said. “The physical and biological worlds which existed next to us will be completed by the digital world. 6G will lead to an integration in real time of the three” he added. Digital simulations of the environment will be done in 6G given the fact that sensing devices will be placed quite everywhere.
Having in mind the strides of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the next 20-30 years will bring in difficult to asses developments in mankind’s socio-economic life, probably similar to use of fire during the primitive time or, more recently, to electricity.
Here there are, very briefly, some of the 5G effects in various fields: production (production operations will be more flexible and efficient, automation will expand); energy and utilities (new solutions for the production, transport, distribution and use of energy will appear); agriculture (IoT will be used for optimising the agricultural processes, water consumption, crops monitoring, animal safety included); sales (new experiences will emerge by using virtual reality, sales of smartphones and other 5G devices will skyrocket); financial services (the digitalisation of the financial institutions and the operations with the customers will speed up as will the latter overseeing); media (new opportunities will emerge in TV, interactive technologies such as virtual reality); health care (setting up a more efficient system of data analysing and monitoring different processes for improving the medical act); transportation (the development of the private fleets, improving communications among vehicles and the increase in the capacity of towns for obtaining more data about the transportation system for its optimizing).
In the military field 5G and AI will bring in major changes in the way of devising and conducting combat actions while the military strategy will witness a distinct evolution.
Aside from the security concerns which, nevertheless, conceal a fierce battle for taking the lead on as many markets as possible (the competition between China and the US is obvious), other problems emerge such as the respect of privacy (an important challenge was the issuance of the credit cards), while the emergence and the expansion of the social media platforms increased the danger that makes a person unable to effectively control different aspects of his/her personal life. There already exist a great number of persons who, for protecting themselves, are not using the latest types of mobile phones bur those produced and sold some 15 or even 20 years ago.
Yet the AI, 5 and 6G developments conceal challenges and threats that cannot be neglected or denied. The development of the said systems will lead to the disappearance of some professions and jobs. The redundant personnel have to be retrained and reformed so that unemployment will not be on the rise. There is also the danger that by amassing huge quantity of data some entities (private ones included) be tempted to use them for other purposes than those for which the respective systems were devised.
The possibility of exacerbating the social discrepancies and the poor and rich division more than we see today with difficult to foresee consequences is obvious. Mankind is developing a technology for which I’m afraid is not yet prepared to use it for the general good and using it for narrow purposes could have nefarious and difficult to predict consequences. As we inherited the pyramids, The Renaissance, The Enlightenment, will our descendants leave behind virtual reality only?
 Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computers, mechanical or digital devices, objects or animals having a unique identification (UIDs) and the possibility of transferring data without human-human or human-computer interaction.
Main picture Mr. Corneliu Pivariu INGEPO Consulting Photographer Ionus Paraschiv.
About the author:
Corneliu Pivariu Military Intelligence and International Relations Senior Expert
A highly decorated retired two-star general of the Romanian army, during two decades he has led one of the most influential magazines on geopolitics and international relations in Eastern Europe, the bilingual journal Geostrategic Pulse.