What have we learned from 130 years of telecommunications? Quite a bit.
When it comes to Australia’s national identity, few things define the culture of this vast continent better than how its people have persistently overcome the challenges of communicating over huge distances and diverse climates and conditions.
Whether it’s the iconic Royal Flying Doctor Service or the thousands of kilometres of early telegraph poles still standing by the route of the Indian Pacific railway, Australians have always looked for better ways to communicate.
Today we take smartphones, mobile data, digital transactions and pervasive internet access for granted – but in reality, our love of a good chinwag and fast data stretches back to before Federation.
What’s less known is that Ericsson has now been in Australia for each leg of that journey, this year celebrating 130 years down under as a trusted communications technology partner.
It’s a great point in time to reflect on how we got here, what comes next, and how we get there.
Here for the long haul
It might seem like an eternity ago, but as Australia prepared to formally become a nation in 1900, local sales of telephones were already soaring, with purchases of Swedish Ericsson units here greater than in Sweden itself.
Two short decades after Australia became a nation, the Ericsson Telephone Manufacturing Company started locally building the iconic black, Bakelite rotary dial phones that had such a build quality they lasted in homes for decades.
Their ‘old phone’ bell ring is so distinctive it’s still a staple ringtone of choice for polyphonic mobile handsets today.
By the 1980s, Ericsson’s pursuit of better wireless communications systems, backed by its commitment to quality and security, helped the company win key contracts for Australia’s early AMPs mobile telephone system, followed by the 1990s GSM networks.
Australian’s flocked to mobile phones in their millions, untethering a wave of newfound productivity that ranged from tradespeople on the job, to sales reps out in the field, and shift workers like nurses and train drivers now able to be contacted on the go.
5G: the next wave in job-creating productivity and automation
Today, Australia is rapidly approaching a future powered by a new 5G innovation platform that will not only allow existing industries to pivot, transform and regenerate, but also encourage new ventures to put down roots and thrive.
The rollout of 5G is continuing at pace. Telstra was the first Australian carrier to switch on 5G in conjunction with Ericsson Australia and is slated to have 75 percent coverage of the Australian population with 5G by mid-2021.
Other local carriers are following closely, with Optus already having more than 900 sites in major Australian cities and TPG Telecom forecasting 85 percent coverage by the end of 2021.
Importantly, the 5G rollout comes at a time when the global economy is facing unprecedented disruption. Australia is looking to trusted partners to rollout secure critical infrastructure to enable a ‘digitally led’ COVID-19 recovery and help the nation foster and augment key industries from mining, transport and logistics and advanced manufacturing to support future prosperity.
Securing jobs, securing the nation
COVID has accelerated the digital transition of the global economy and an opportunity for Australia to leverage its growing 5G enabling capabilities to create new competitive advantages.
Aside from fostering new industries to create jobs, the strong policy focus is a firm recognition of a need to build secure sovereign capability in nationally critical sectors like the medical industry, defence, energy and transport. 5G as an innovation platform can support this transition.
5G networks are fast, responsive and reliable. 5G will enable billions of ultrafast digital connections from machine-to-machine communications and constant rich and high-speed data flows to enable everything from automated vehicles, to robotic manufacturing and remote surgery. It will increase capacity, improve latency, reliability and importantly security.
And with cybersecurity now an essential consideration for critical infrastructure, the need for trusted, enduring and persistently innovative and collaborative relationships between government, industry and suppliers has never been more crucial.
5G has security built in from the start. 5G has a higher security focus at every part of the eco system – from the development of standards, to product development and network deployments and network management.
The deployment of secure 5G networks requires trusted partners at a time when digital transformations are accelerating as to support the economic recovery from COVID. Such capabilities can be harnessed to create new skills, jobs and position Australia as a world leader in enabling and exporting serious industrial smarts.
Pivot to prosperity
The advantages of 5G applied to industry are immense and immediate.
Industrial game changers now in play include automated mining and resource management that improve safety and productivity. Continuous remote monitoring and real-time adjustment of plant and equipment to reduce maintenance costs and help decrease fuel burn and thus carbon emissions.
Ericsson is collaborating with several partners to deliver industrialised connectivity and automation mining solutions via 5G, including miner Boliden, to create the ‘mine of the future’ at Aitik the largest open pit mine in Europe in the north of Sweden.
For Australia, the 5G enabled mine of the future will support improved safety, better environmental outcomes, productivity and potentially access to deposits once deemed inviable or unsafe by using robotics and process automation.
On the manufacturing front production lines, processes, safety and output can all be improved by liberating factories from cumbersome and costly cabling and creating a data rich holistic view of activity in a modular and flexible setting.
The 5G opportunities in primary healthcare are literally lifesaving. In Britain, Connected Ambulance trials – a collaboration between Ericsson, Kings College and British Telecom – not only include vital transmission of sensory data but the ability to use a remotely-controlled haptic glove operated by a doctor at the hospital for scans such as ultrasound that operate in real time. By the time the patient arrives at the hospital the diagnosis is complete and next steps for treatment are clear. This use case relies on security and privacy features of 5G since the devices capture sensitive visual, audio and haptic information.
Move fast and make things
The good news for Australia is that the government is not sitting still on the 5G development front, investing $22.1 million “to trial 5G use across different industry sectors” – from agriculture, mining, logistics and advanced manufacturing – as part of the 5G Innovation Initiative.
The program aims to support real-life 5G use cases to define ‘what difference will 5G make?’ This is a vital step in fostering both comprehension of 5G’s capabilities and encouraging new investment by businesses at a time when stimulating productive economic activity is worth its weight in gold.
It will also provide an opportunity to assess whether legacy telco or sector specific regulations are enabling and promoting 5G enterprise adoption.
As Australia transforms to leverage a COVID accelerated digital transition with growing 5G enabling capabilities supporting new competitive advantages, one constant will remain, Ericsson’s commitment to fostering locally led innovation that remains secure and productive for at least another century.