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Driving digital transformation in China with 5G-connected solutions

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We have recently announced an exciting new deal with China Unicom to provide core 5G services in one of the world’s largest digital economies. This is a deal that will help unlock transformative technologies and economic progress at a time when they are most needed.

As the thoughts of the world turn towards how to drive the first stage of economic recovery in an environment that is still uncertain, there is a growing global consensus that digital technology and connectivity is going to underpin and drive this recovery.

This is nowhere more embraced than in China, where President Xi Jinping has put 5G networks and data centres at the top of the country’s recovery plans, which are based on building digital infrastructure to cushion the impact of the outbreak and unlock the recovery.

The potential applications that will be unlocked by Nokia’s new 5G deal with Unicom illustrate why this kind of digital infrastructure is so important globally – even more so as we grapple with the economic fallout of the virus.

The core technology – which acts as the ‘engine’ of the network, powering the safe transmission and management of data - will enable China Unicom to eventually partition its network into many channels through network slicing. This will support critical 5G communications, like those required in autonomous transport, connected ambulances, industrial automation and e-health.

Network slicing is a key component of 5G architecture and will be crucial to enable Chinese citizens and businesses to reap the benefits of its investment in digital infrastructure.

Powering autonomous transport

One key application of 5G network slicing, and an area of development already well underway in China, is autonomous transport. In major economic hubs like Beijing and Shanghai, supporting 19 million and 23 million inhabitants respectively, autonomous driving is a critical pillar of the future smart city and will act to make roads safer, reduce pressure on the transport network and improve quality of life for citizens.

During the pandemic, as demand for automation and non-contact operations has increased, the development of autonomous transport has accelerated, and vehicles are already being used in cities and hospitals across the country.

One such example is the 5G trial network with FAW in China last year. Nokia and the FAW Group, China's oldest and largest automobile company, have been working together to carry out joint research in smart connected cars to support R&D in autonomous driving and connected car applications.

Nokia Shanghai Bell ran some trials at FAW’s Campus in Changchun, in the Jilin province, providing a series of transportation solutions and accelerating the digital transformation of FAW. During the trial, FAW’s all-electric SUV was connected via 5G, allowing remote driving from the operation center. The overall cooperation with FAW included 5G slicing technology as well as commercial 5G solutions, with the aim of eventually making smart transportation a reality.

The network slices reserved for autonomous driving will enable cars to make independent decisions without external interventions while ensuring the safety of passengers and drivers thanks to a faster and more reliable interconnection between systems.

A vital tool for emergency services

Nokia’s deal with China Unicom will lay the groundwork for critical healthcare communications supported by 5G – driving more efficient and reliable communication between hospitals and staff and improved results for patients. Now more than ever, healthcare infrastructures around the world need fast and secure technologies to support patients, whether they are in urban or remote areas, while using remote diagnosis and remote monitoring.

Emergency care is one area ripe for transformation. Using 5G connected ambulances, doctors will be able to remotely triage a patient, view their vital signs and prepare for their arrival at hospital while the patient is in transit. This can save vital time and help save lives.

In 2017, we worked with China Mobile Communications Corporation (CMCC) to demonstrate how 5G-connected ambulances can enable remote support and diagnosis before emergency patients arrive at hospital. We used the Nokia 5G FIRST solution, to replicate communications between ambulance and hospital staff as an emergency patient is being transported, making use of 5G slicing technology to transfer images, such as patient X-rays and video, to the hospital in real-time.

It is particularly easy to understand the importance of critical communications when we talk about healthcare, where each application could be a life or death scenario. The high-reliability, stability, low latency, high throughput and high speed enabled by 5G networks offers a significant step change, fundamentally different to what can be provided by 4G.

The road to digital transformation

The Covid-19 outbreak will fundamentally change peoples’ future lifestyles, with consumers across the world increasingly relying on technology in their personal and professional lives, from online entertainment to working from home.

But digital transformation goes far beyond home connectivity. It will revolutionize the productivity of every business and every country in the world, powering recovery and progress towards an even more connected future.

China is chronologically ahead of the rest of the world in dealing with the pandemic and its fallout. As other countries plot their roadmap to recovery, we should look to the East for learnings and opportunities. The country will offer clear examples of how 5G can serve as a core pillar of economic recovery, enabling smart cities to connect their people and infrastructures in a deeper, more reliable and more efficient way.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia or @nokianetworks using #5G

Markus Borchert

About Markus Borchert

Markus is Senior Vice President Market Europe, Nokia and President of DIGITALEUROPE. With 20+ years of international experience in the telecommunications, IT and IT Services industries, Markus is passionate about driving change, innovation, customer satisfaction, strategic breakthroughs and business turnarounds. He has 3 kids and loves golf, mountain biking and skiing.

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