Rogers switches on 5G infrastructure at UBC

UBC is the first campus in Canada with fully operational 5G infrastructure, Rogers announced on November 5.

With the launch, the university is one step closer to becoming a 5G smart campus, with new opportunities in different research areas.

“This is a new collaboration between academia and industry with great potential to advance research for local and global growth,” said VP Research and Innovation Dr. Gail Murphy in a statement to The Ubyssey. “We’re pretty excited to see what it brings.”

The launch is the latest development in the telecom company’s multi-million dollar partnership with UBC to research 5G network technology. Rogers has installed new network towers across campus and a 5G data centre.

“Our work with UBC is helping design and test Canada’s 5G blueprint and today’s announcement is a critical milestone as we prepare our national network for commercial deployment in 2020,” said Rogers Chief Technology Officer Jorge Fernandes in a press release.

While UBC established a three-year $3 million research partnership with Huawei in 2017 to work on other 5G projects, Rogers has teamed up with Swedish telecom company Ericsson for its 5G execution.

UBC’s smart campus is part of the lead up to Rogers’ commercial deployment of 5G, which is slated for 2020.

The newest generation of wireless telecom infrastructure, 5G has drawn concern for unclear privacy implications. According to Caitlin Lemiski, director of policy at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC, infrastructure ownership could dictate where data protection responsibilities lie.

“If that was … under the legal control of UBC … then there would be obligations on UBC to protect that information,” she said.

Regardless, she said it may be difficult to protect what passes through the network.

“There’s this ongoing issue about, well, how can we take the … reasonable security measures? How do you reconcile that when you can’t control what people might be messaging each other, emailing each other over the network?”

While the 5G network is not yet intended for consumer use, the infrastructure at UBC will be used for research in digital mining, early earthquake detection and transportation with mobility as a service. Researchers involved with these projects were unavailable for comment.

“The 5G network is being used at Point Grey to allow UBC researchers to look into future uses of 5G,” said Murphy. “They will be focusing on projects that make use of the technology, in order to explore potential uses and boundaries.”

Murphy added that the new technology provided a learning opportunity for students. In October, Rogers hosted a 5G hackathon where students worked on virtual reality gaming projects incorporating the new technology.

“Ultimately, having the 5G network means students will learn skills through the research — equipping them for the job market of tomorrow,” she said.