Shenzhen demonstrates what 5G can do

March 05, 2021 09:25
Photo: CGTN

In the latest Budget, the government stated that it will continue to promote the fifth generation of mobile network (5G), allowing the installation of base stations in public facilities. However, in terms of network coverage, our neighbour Shenzhen is far ahead of us.

Compared with mobile networks in previous generations, 5G can greatly increase download speed of data and shorten the response time (that is “low latency”). It relies on base stations that are densely distributed for signal transmission. By the end of December 2020, Shenzhen has built more than 46,000 5G base stations, with an average of 23 base stations per square kilometre, the highest density in the country. It is rated as the Best City for 5G Standalone Network by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

5G not only drives the economy of a city, but also enhances its competitiveness. Shenzhen has launched 5G application projects in many areas, including urban management, health care, education and tourism, to realize the value of 5G.

In urban management, for example, it demonstrates how 5G applications can benefit people's living and even the industrial and commercial sectors, from epidemic prevention, detection of criminals to assisting citizens and enterprises to enhance efficiency.

In anti-epidemic, Shenzhen has launched 5G robots equipped with six video cameras that can quickly measure body temperature, recognise facial features and provide early health warning, reducing the risk of infection caused by close personal contact.

In real time detection of illegal parking and unlawful driving on the road, smart police cars can be dispatched. Many of these police cars are equipped with self-driving function, plus artificial intelligence (AI), video cameras and sensors, which can collect information such as facial images and vehicle characteristics. Through 5G network and the central database, real-time matching can quickly identify illegal vehicles.

But among all 5G applications, the most impressive one to citizens is an integrated online platform launched by the government. The one-stop platform will automatically match the relevant information to matters of concern to citizens who intend to apply for and get approval. It only takes a few seconds from submitting the application to receiving the approval.

This platform is actually a cross-departmental and cross-level central information sharing platform. Through technology like AI, big data, and blockchain, it connects data of population, housing, electronic certificate licenses, public credibility, which can be used for processing applications for talent introduction, old age allowance, business registration, e-hailing driver's license, and more. The platform was officially launched in September last year, covering 58 commonly used government functions in nine departments, and another 60 functions in January this year. At the same time, it provides a variety of channels, including web page and mobile applications. The platform provides convenient services and saves people’s time, it also helps companies reduce operating costs.

Besides, some pilot projects using 5G have also been carried out in medical services, such as review of drug prescriptions, remote consultation, mobile monitoring on intensive care unit, and spine surgery using a mix of remote and on-site navigation, improving the quality of medical practices.

As for Hong Kong, the city is still not able to enjoy these services because we are restricted by the number of 5G base stations. To achieve the density of 5G base stations in Shenzhen, the current 4,000 base stations are far from enough. We have to build 2,000 more on 276 square kilometres of "urban or built-up land". To benefit the public and help increase competitiveness of the city, Hong Kong has to speed up its 5G development as soon as possible.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong