Ottawa, Ontario, Quebec Getting Ready To Usher In 5G Future

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Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains sits with Dominique Anglade, Quebec Deputy Premier and Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation; and Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, third from left, during an announcement on investments in 5G technology by the Ontario, Quebec and federal governments, in Ottawa on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA:  The governments of Canada, Ontario and Quebec are partnering with some of the world’s digital heavyweights to usher in the next generation of wireless technology.

A $400-million public-private investment will create a corridor of 5G wireless test beds through Canada’s two largest provinces, aimed at giving companies a chance to experiment with new ideas and products that are only now becoming possible thanks to recent breakthroughs in telecommunication technology.

While many estimate it will take years before 5G is widely rolled out to the Canadian mass market, it’s being billed as the wireless backbone to futuristic technologies including driverless cars, remotely controlled complex surgeries, and download speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G networks.

“5G is the gateway to the future and we are just on the brink of this technological revolution,’’ Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said Monday at a funding announcement in Ottawa.

The new project is called ENCQOR _ Evolution of Networked Services through a Corridor in Quebec and Ontario for Research and Innovation _ and will allow an estimated 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses to plug into an early 5G platform for research and development.

Ontario, Quebec and the federal government have each pledged about $67 million, while the remaining $200 million will come from five private-sector partners. Ericsson, Ciena Canada, Thales Canada, IBM Canada and CGI will lead the public-private partnership, which is expected to “secure’’ more than 4,000 jobs, 1,800 of which will be specialized in 5G.

Karl Sasseville, a spokesman for Bains, clarified that those jobs are made up of existing positions within the five private-sector partners that will be repurposed for the project.

Borje Ekholm, CEO of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson, said Canada is “leapfrogging’’ to the front of 5G technology with its commitment to wireless innovation. When people think of national infrastructure they often think of roads and streets, Ekholm said.

“We believe the future highways will all be digital,’’ he said.

Ekholm said he expects the test-bed technology to be deployed later this year and become operational by early 2019.

The government estimates information and communications technology contributed $76 billion to the country’s gross domestic product in 2017.

One of the first looks at the potential of 5G technology came at the recent Pyeongchang Winter Games, where a test network powered self-driving vehicles, virtual reality content, and an app that allowed viewers to access multiple camera angles of events.

But these experiences weren’t open to just anyone with a smartphone or tablet. Accessing the next generation wireless networks will require consumers to upgrade to a new device with updated hardware.– CP