Russian official: 5G will boost personalized medical services globally (interview)

In the summer of 2019, Russia launched its first 5G pilot zone in Moscow.

On the back of the launch, FTI had Eduard Lysenko, Head of the Department of Information Technologies of Moscow, share his thoughts on 5G rollout across Russia and the globe.

We are talking about the opportunities the technology offers, the potential pitfalls and hazards, and Russia’s ambitions to dominate the field.

Q: Congratulations on the first 5G pilot on Russia. What are your first impressions? Did it justify expectations in terms of speed, latency, etc? What average download speeds have you seen across the network?

A: We are delighted with the results following the launch of the first pilot zones in Moscow. Based on tests conducted in the VDNKH pilot zone, the maximum speed obtained in real conditions on the street was 1.2 Gbit /s. The download speed was 1.2 Gbit /s, the loading speed 105 Mbit /s.

Q: What is next in terms of 5G rollout in Moscow and Russia? What does the program of the major networks envisage in the mid-term?

A: We have created a free knowledge base called ICT.Moscow which people can use [to] track the deployment of the networks. Their success will see the creation of Europe’s first 5G networks in the millimeter-wave band, enabling testing and commercial operation of a wide variety of modern IT infrastructure models. The benefits will include improved broadband and mobile wireless access suitable for business solutions.

Moscow will also soon begin testing white box network switches. These enable network operating systems to function without connecting to the network hardware, meeting the requirements of 5G speed and data transmission standards with no significant outlay on network modernization.

Q: Do you have any dates for an “official” launch? What are the plans for 2020 and the following years as far as 5G is concerned?

A: First of all, we have plans underway to open a demo center. Based on this, a specialized scientific institute will conduct R&D on 5G, including the impact of wireless technologies on the health of citizens and the urban environment.

The launch of the 5G demo center is planned for the first quarter of 2020. The final decision on its location is yet to be made, but possible areas include VDNKH, Moscow State University and Skolkovo. The project will be implemented in partnership with key project participants.

Q: Can you give any examples about the wider context related to 5G in Russia, eg. infrastructure, data center projects? What are some initiatives in those areas?

A: 5G is set to play a significant role in business development. The demo center pilot for testing perspective 5G technologies and city services will be established in Moscow. The center will be available for Russian as well as for foreign companies. 

The new lab will simplify access to 5G for entrepreneurs, provide a center for best practices and will help companies find and retain specialists. The demo center will be open to larger companies, as well to startups and research institutes. Access will be provided to companies from different sectors, not only telecommunications. The center will work based on the principles of supplier neutrality, openness, information security and compatibility, as well as patent and technological integrity concerning equipment.

With the application of 5G technology, there is significant potential for developments in the field of medicine. The first laparoscopic operation using 5G equipment and remote concilium was recently conducted in the Skolkovo innovation center. By connecting medical equipment to wireless networks, operation rooms will become mobile and more convenient. 5G will allow calling remote consiliums in complex emergency cases.

Q: What kind of technological and product innovations do you expect thanks to 5G? Both in Russia and globally?

A: Project 5G NR mmWave (band n257), launched this year in Moscow, will allow us to test and commercialize a wide range of new apps, and improve fixed broadband and mobile wireless access for users across Russia, enabling the development of unique business solutions. 

From our point of view, we see 5G encouraging the development of next-generation apps that lead to job creation across the country, and see Moscow becoming a world-leading center of technology and innovation.

Globally, we see the development of 5G technology leading to a growth in personalized medical services. These will be supported by AR, VR and MR solutions, alongside autonomous transport.

In the case of simple household processes, 5G opens opportunities for remote data collecting from different metering devices, for example, water meters.

Q: When do you expect 5G to hit mainstream globally?

A: For now, it’s hard to make any predictions about the rollout of 5G networks globally. It depends on the organizations and commercial participants involved in each respective region. Aside from Russia, other countries are also facing the challenge of defining the most suitable frequencies for the implementation of the network. That being said, we imagine that by 2024 there is a significant chance of 5G being available universally.

Q: Do you envisage some sort of a divide between networks, areas and users running 5G and those using older standards if 5G adoption takes longer? Any potential implications?

A: Before launching a network, we thoroughly study all the possibilities and possible risks. Everything we do guarantees the most convenient usage of our products and services for every user. 5G is no exception. However, if, by the time of the all-around launch of the network, there are still some patches in the service, individuals will still be capable of accessing the wireless network. So, 5G by no means implies a rejection of other standards.

Q: Some users are concerned about potential risks of increased radiation when it comes to 5G. What is your take? Have there been any measurements in the pilot area?

A: When launching 5G, security is a priority. Recently, there has been a lot of conversations regarding the risks that 5G may entail. Today, international security standards apply to the new generation of mobile communication. They are based on thorough and long-duration tests of radio signals used by mobile communication technologies. According to government health organizations, 5G usage is not associated with health risks. In their opinion, the electromagnetic from 5G remains weak and does not exceed permissible values.

Before fifth-generation technology fully becomes a part of our lives, medical institutes will conduct fundamental scientific research on the effect of 5G radiation on human health upon the directives of the Moscow Government. Based upon the results of this scientific research, data will be sent to the relevant state organizations for further analysis related to the effects of 5G on the life and health of citizens. —