Bad weather could rain on Malaysia’s 5G parade

  • Tech News
  • Friday, 19 Apr 2019

Caption: Dr Tharek delivering his speech at the 5G showcase. — QISHIN TARIQ/The Star

Malaysia’s tropical storms poses a challenge to 5G roll out, though it could be solved with high density of transmission towers, says the National 5G Task Force. 

Its advisor Prof Dr Tharek Abd Rahman says a concern for deployment in tropical regions is rain storms decreasing signal efficiency. As signal strength is measured in decibels (dB), elements that block or interrupt it cause noise, thereby lowering the signal strength.

During his talk '5G: Evolution or Revolution’, he pointed out that the high local rain rate of 150mm caused nearly 30db more signal loss than in Europe’s temperate climates. 

He says rain loss rate locally is about 30db/km versus 1db/km in European regions. Though signal loss between 6db-10db loss is considered acceptable, rates exceeding that would cause loss of service, especially since 5G requires latency to be below one milisecond. 

He assures that this issue mostly affects the higher frequency spectrums of 26 and 28Ghz, while the medium 3.5Ghz C-band and 700Mhz spectrum could function well even in rain. 

To note, lower frequency spectrums have less bandwidth, meaning the Internet speeds it is able to deliver is lower.  

Speaking to The Star at the sidelines of the inaugural 5G showcase in Kompleks Perbadanan Putrajaya today, he says high frequency spectrums could have speeds from 1-10Gbps, while medium and low spectrums would have around 500mbps to 50mbps speeds, respectively.  

Tharek, who is also the University Technology Malaysia (UTM) Electrical Engineering Department’s Wireless Communication Centre director, says a solution would be to have high frequency base towers in close proximity to each other – at distances of about 200m or so – so that signal loss over that distance would not exceed 6db.

Asked if it was practical to have many high frequency transmission towers in rural areas, he says one way would be to upgrade existing government-run Pusat Internet centres that are available in most villages, so that it would be able to broadcast 5G signals to 5G-enabled devices within that area.

During the same event, Huawei Australia chief technology officer David Soldani says research indicates that 5G technology costs will plummet in the next few years.

His talk 'Identifying 5G demands and addressing gaps to ensure readiness' reveals that the cost of terminals – devices capable of picking up 5G – should drop from above US$1,000 (RM4,143) to US$200 (RM828) by 2020, as adoption goes up.

He expects 5G subscribers globally to grow from 400,000 users in 2019 to 1.305 million users in 2025.

Soldani adds that beyond 2021, the cost of 5G deliverability per km will be driven down significantly, and believes these cost savings will be passed on to users.

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