Updated: May 27, 2021
2020 is an epoch-making year of 5G technology for many countries, and Taiwan has also shown great enthusiasm for participating in this game. For instance, in a recent announcement made in July, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication R.O.C. claimed to budget more than NT$ 4.2B (circa $150M in USD) for intelligent transportation system (ITS) using 5G technology. And that’s not the whole story. In fact, according to Kung Ming-hsin, the minister of National Development Council, the 5G-related budget that Taiwanese government approved has exceeded NT$ 70B (circa $2.4B in USD) in total.
However, how much money the government is willing to spend is certainly not the most important factor for succeeding in 5G development. One will need coherent, reasonable and pragmatic tactics to thrive. In this article, we’ll discuss the 5G strategies of Taiwan, and introducing some applications that have already happened (or about to happen) in real life. But before that, let’s talk about why 5G is getting so much attention.
5G Is an Enabling Technology
As personal computers, the Internet and artificial intelligence, 5G is a type of enabling technology, which means that it can significantly strengthen or support other technologies, and thus inducing great change to our lives and the market. This is due to the three defining characteristics of 5G. The first one is enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) that allows faster data transmission (the speed ranges from 50 Mbps to over 1Gbps). According to a report released by Opensignal (based on data collected during May 16th to August 14th, 2020), the countries with top 3 average 5G download speed are Saudi Arabia (144.5 Mbps), Canada (90.4 Mbps) and South Korea (75.6 Mbps). Taiwan, honorably, took fourth place (71.5 Mbps) on the list (FYI, the speed of 4G network in Taiwan ranges from about 16 to 40 Mbps).
The second is ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC). In theory, 5G latency can be less than 1 millisecond (or 0.001 second), and that’s significantly smaller than the latency of 4G, which is circa 15 to 25 milliseconds. One can easily imagine that how the two features said can be helpful. With faster data rate and ignorable lag, 5G opens wider possibilities in remote working, online events, telemedicine, self-driving, and so forth (i.e., practically anywhere requires high-speed data transmission, communication, and remote interactions).
Last but not least, 5G can provide massive machine type communications (mMTC). Simply put, it means 5G can connect more devices (> 1 million) than 4G, and that’s very crucial for the implementation of internet of things (IoT) because, by definition, IoT involves building a network over multiple devices.
The 5G Strategies of Taiwan
Since 5G has such enormous potentials, no wonder it has been perceived as part of the national infrastructure by many countries. In the “5 plus 2” industrial innovation plan of Taiwan, 5G is settled at the bottom as a cornerstone, bolstering the industries including smart machinery, national defense, civil IoT, new agriculture, biomedicine, green energy technology and circular economy.
But how can a small island such as Taiwan, with limited budget and resources, win a place in the global 5G competition? The answer is to focus less on the technical advancement and aim mainly at exploring its potential applications; this strategy is especially reasonable since Taiwan is a land full of creativity, culture, and touristy values.
In order to achieve the goal, the government has built several 5G testing bases, each on a slightly different subject. The following are a few examples:
Taipei Smart City IoT Innovation Lab: This is the first open 5G testing beds in Taiwan, which provides indoor 5G network (supported bandwidth: 3-6 GHz) for all companies, startups, platforms and other organizations.
Taipei Far Eastern Telecom Park: The area provides both indoor and outdoor 3.5 GHz 5G network for testing. It enables the verifications for the applications such as 5G-backed exhibitions, live events and internet of vehicles.
5G Intelligent Transport Testing Field at Dan-Hai New Town: The new field will be located in Tamsui, New Taipei City, focusing on transport-relevant techniques such as internet of vehicles and self-driving cars. There is another testing field on the similar subjects, which is known as Hutoushan Innovation Hub, located in Taoyuan.
Besides, Asia Pacific Telecom (APT, 亞太電信) and Chunghwa Telecom (CHT, 中華電信), two of the biggest telecommunication operators in Taiwan, have founded seed accelerators (known as APT 5G Accelerator and Chunghwa Telecom 5G Theme International Creation Accelerator, respectively) for supporting 5G-related startups. With these efforts, many practical 5G applications have been implemented in real life, and we’ll be introducing them in the next section.
Another important strategy is to make 5G network a software-based architecture. The software-defined feature can not only increase the agility of 5G, allowing it to quickly adapt to different hardware and applications, but also shortening the time required to progress to 6G in the future once it’s ready (FYI, MediaTek(聯發科技), the fabless semiconductor company from Taiwan, has started to develop 6G technology based on satellites communication).
Finally, as mentioned before, 5G plays a crucial role in national infrastructure and defense, and therefore its security is of primary concern. This is the topic for the last section, “5G & Security”, of this article.
Realizing the 5G Future
5G has been influencing our daily lives, and its impact will certainly go beyond smartphones. But how will our lives be like exactly with such tech? The following applications (many have been taking practical effects in Taiwan) can give us some ideas:
Working with Chunghwa Telecom, Taipei City Government had held a trial run of 5G-supported bus in Xinyi Special District from June 11 to July 2, 2020. Through its 5G CPE (customer-premises equipment), the bus could play 8K / 4K streaming videos smoothly while moving. It was also equipped with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), which took advantage of the low latency of 5G. The system could alert the driver when obstacles were detected, accordingly protecting the safety of both the passengers on the bus and pedestrians.
In addition, KingwayTek Technology Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Chunghwa Telecom, has been working on building and testing 5G driverless bus. The base of these buses is at Hutoushan Innovation Hub (虎頭山創新園區) currently.
Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium located in New Taipei City is the first 5G baseball stadium in Taiwan. The 5G technology in it is provided by Taiwan Mobile Co. Ltd. (TWM, 台灣大哥大), and it allows people to watch baseball games remotely through VR / AR helmets.
Similarly, Taipei Music Center (台北流行音樂中心) located in Nangang District, where a lot of popular music events were held, also incorporates 5G features. The 5G network in the center is built by CHT, and it enables multi-angle live streaming with near zero latency.
5G Warehouse & AGV:
Since Wi-Fi has many drawbacks (e.g., signals are easily interrupted, does not support massive device connection and network slicing, etc.), the application of Wi-Fi in factories and warehouses, where IoT shines, is seriously limited. Therefore, many businesses choose to established their own network based on 5G.
Take Momo.com Inc., a Taiwanese online shopping platform, as an example. It has been utilized 5G technology in their warehouse to back their automated guided vehicles (AGVs). This allows the company to manage the goods more efficiently.
Assisted by Yilan County Government, Tano Secure Inc. (天龍安全科技) and Compal Electronics Inc. (仁寶電腦) have been demonstrated how to improve agriculture through 5G in Xinnan Smart Melon Farm located in Zhuangwei, Yilan. The 5G technology helps collecting and transmitting instant data such as temperature, rainfall, sunlight and so forth. These data will then be processed by the TIAGA AI system created by Tano Secure, so that the people or robots in charge can know how to respond properly.
5G & Security
The key phrase of 5G security is security by design, which means that the security issues must be taken into consideration at the beginning of 5G network construction. To achieve this, National Communications Commission (NCC) of Taiwan has implemented the following policies to regulate the operators.
All 5G bandwidth bidders are asked to submitted a 5G Network Protection Plan. Only those whose plan is approved by NCC are qualified to join the bid.
The operators must form a team specialized in 5G network security.
The operators must have the ability to perform quality control over the software they designed and secure the update process.
The hardware supply chain must be carefully managed. This includes minimizing opportunities for unauthorized changes, keeping the supply chain visible, and banning hardware from untrustworthy sources.
One should be extra careful while developing on the basis of open-source software.
Before a third-party service provider (e.g., VR / AR providers) can run their equipment, systems or software in operators’ data center, their security must be checked.
Of course, when facing new technology such as 5G, it’s really hard to predict what are the threats and where will they appear. Thus, instead of working alone, it’s important to join forces internationally so that one has a better chance to spot and prevent dangers from happening. The “US-Taiwan Joint Declaration on 5G security” signed by American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) recently is one of the examples for implementing such policy.
[Appendix] The 5G providers in Taiwan and their frequency bands
Finally, we list all 5G providers in Taiwan and their frequency bands (3.5 GHz and 28 GHz, respectively) in case anyone is interested in such information (source: NCC).
T Star – Taiwan Star Telecom Co. Ltd. (台灣之星)
FET – Far Eas Tone Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (遠傳電信)
CHT – Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (中華電信)
TWM – Taiwan Mobile Co. Ltd. (台灣大哥大)
APT – Asia Pacific Telecom Co. Ltd. (亞太電信)
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