Work on 5G tech at GE Research may benefit community as well

NISKAYUNA – There is a lot of talk these days about 5G, the next-generation, super-fast wireless network that the cellphone industry has been promoting for years now as a game-changer for its customers.

Mobile carriers have been rolling out the new technology – which uses wider bandwidth than previous networks, allowing for faster speeds and the movement of larger amounts of data – as fast as they can, targeting larger cities across the country first for the most part.

So when GE Research in Niskayuna, the corporate research arm of General Electric Co., recently revealed plans to turn its campus into a testing site for 5G, it was a big deal. 

Not only for GE, but also for its neighbors, “giving high-speed wireless access to more Niskayuna residents and visitors,” according to the two companies.

The 5G test bed at GE Research will also bring what’s known as “Band 14” wireless spectrum to Niskayuna, which the federal government uses for what’s known as FirstNet, a wireless network specifically created for first responders by Congress in 2012. The network was built by AT&T.

The main reason why AT&T and GE are partnering on the 5G test bed is to demonstrate how well 5G networks can improve on GE’s newest technologies, especially health care.

There are actually two types of 5G that AT&T and other companies are rolling out. The garden variety type is what’s known as “sub-6” 5G that is standard for now but is slower than the so-called mmWave 5G that is much faster but requires more equipment to get it across longer distances. AT&T calls this its 5G+ network.

This faster 5G, which all cellphone companies are working on, means a videoconference with your doctor on your cellphone will be in HD and won’t be as glitchy as it is today. And you will be able to download 4K movies in a matter of seconds while playing online video games wherever you are.

While consumers will gain many benefits from ultra 5G, the biggest impact may be on the commercial sector, which will be able to invent all-new mobile technologies that will impact the lives of people across the globe.

Scientists at GE Research say the 5G test bed they are using from AT&T (they are also working with Verizon on a 5G test bed) is helping them envision technology that can do more with the faster network.

For instance, it won’t matter where a patient is for doctors to be able to access their vital signs or medical records – speeding up care and making it more robust instead of relying on slow computers in the office.

“The power of reliable, robust sub-6 and 5G+ networks will transform health care by bringing care more directly to the patient,” says Eric Tucker, a senior director of technical products at GE. “We’re already seeing how doctors have become more connected to their patients through the power of telemedicine or teleconsulting. Just imagine what will be possible when millions of medical devices and diagnostics tools can be reliably connected to help doctors deliver faster, more effective patient care.”

Tucker says that under today’s model, a patient calls the doctor with an ailment – but the doctor doesn’t really know what’s going on with the patient until they come into the office. The faster 5G will enable wearable devices connected to the doctor’s network that are impractical under standard wireless networks.

“With the development of wearable sensors and other medical monitoring devices that GE and others are innovating, a future scenario could well be that the doctor calls the patient to tell them something is wrong first,” Tucker said. “This is possible in a very limited way today. The power of 5G networks could make it pervasive.”




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