British Columbia

5G-powered 'smart campus' launched at UBC to boost research into uses for ultra-high-speed wireless

Rogers Communications and the University of British Columbia have fired up what is believed to be Canada's first 5G-powered smart campus.

Researchers can now test applications in real time, ahead of Rogers' national network rollout next year

A UBC sign at the university's Point Grey campus, which now includes several 5G towers. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Rogers Communications and the University of British Columbia (UBC) have fired up what is believed to be Canada's first 5G-powered smart campus.

A company statement said the launch allows university researchers to test real-time 5G applications as Rogers prepares to unveil a national network of the ultra high-speed 5G mobile wireless system next year.

The system is the fifth generation of mobile wireless, offering speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second — making it about 100 times faster than current 4G technology.

It also has the potential for nearly instantaneous links between devices and cellphone towers.

The university's Point Grey smart campus includes several 5G towers and a computing and data storage facility similar to the cloud, but it saves time and bandwidth because it's closer to where it's required.

Earthquake, tsunami detection

The smart campus initiative is part of a multimillion-dollar partnership with Rogers aimed at funding academic research in 5G applications and applied sciences.

The statement Tuesday said several research projects are underway using the campus's 5G network, including development of earthquake and tsunami detection technology that takes advantage of the one- to two-millisecond connection time between transmitters and devices.

Bruce Ralston, B.C.'s minister of jobs, trade and technology, said the launch of the smart campus demonstrates the government's commitment to strengthening the tech and innovation sector and supporting training needs.

"5G brings enormous opportunity for our province and the students who experience this hands-on training," he said in the statement.

"We are excited to see what applications they develop during their time at UBC."

What is 5G?

In the simplest terms, 5G stands for the fifth generation of wireless technology. According to the government's Communications Research Centre (CRC), the first generation — 1G — was introduced in the 1980s with wireless phones that had almost no ability to transmit data.

The CRC says 5G "will be a game changer in wireless telecommunications, ushering in a network for future generations with more devices, faster communication, and higher speeds."

Visitors walk past a sign advertising 5G services at the Huawei pavilion at the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai in June 2019. (Chinatopix/The Associated Press)

While many wireless carriers will be part of Canada's 5G network, the infrastructure itself will likely be built by a small handful of global players. Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei are the leading firms in the field.

The Rogers statement said the company has partnered with Ericsson.

Rogers said it's continuing to test 5G in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, while also upgrading its national 4.5G network with 5G-ready technology.

Huawei, the world's biggest maker of telecom network gear, has been at the centre of a furious geopolitical battle between the U.S. and China. The U.S. government has been lobbying allies in Europe and elsewhere to shun Huawei over concerns its equipment might aid Chinese electronic spying, claims that the company has consistently denied.

Earlier this month, the European Union warned that 5G networks face a range of cyber threats, including from hostile countries.

With files from Jason Proctor