5G has the power to transform university campuses and now is the time for curriculum experts, technologists and academics to begin planning for how to best capitalise on the benefits.
This is according to Andy Sutton, visiting professor in the School of Computing, Science and Engineering at the University of Salford. Sutton shared his view at a recent workshop run by JISC, which provides UK universities and colleges with shared digital infrastructure and services, such as the superfast Janet Network.
It’s about things
Sutton noted that while 2G focused on voice, 3G supported data and 4G ushered in video, 5G is all about the Internet of Things (IoT) and is set to enable the fourth industrial revolution.
There are a number of ways in which 5G could benefit higher and further education campuses. Remote learning, for example, could be an area of huge potential because 5G’s low latency will support tactile use cases. Sutton notes this could have implications in areas such as robotics, medical training and creative subjects. Wider access to remote learning could promote more inclusive study as well as opening new revenue opportunities for universities and colleges.
Due to high data rates and low latency, 5G could also support academic applications of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), Sutton says. This could include virtual lectures or even virtual tours of museums across the world. AR and VR learning could enable students to access remote locations and be particularly useful for courses that involve a lot of outdoor study.
Sutton commented: "Nothing beats visiting these places and seeing them, but there’s only so much you can do. If a student wants to spend time outside of a formal visit, or ‘walk around’ that factory or lab and find out more, how can they do that? We could build applications in VR or AR. We’d need a very high data rate and relatively low latency.”
Network slicing also offers benefits for academic researchers and technologists, who may have very specific demands and need assured security, low latency and availability. In future, according to Sutton, universities could deploy private 5G networks for research in licence-exempt spectrum. He likens this to MulteFire in the 4G space, for example.
Universities are central to the UK’s 5G strategy. Last year, three of the biggest universities in the UK - Bristol University, King’s College London and The University of Surrey - were awarded £16 million in government funding to set up a new 5G test network as part of the UK’s 5G Testbeds and Trials programme.
Useful read: What is 5G?