«He really looks like he’s actually standing there!» shouts Ayleen. All eyes are on Leandro, who is waving at the other children from something that looks like a phone booth. But their eyes deceive them. The real Leandro is in the photo studio at the back of the room. «This is a digital twin,» explains Oscar Rechou, who is in charge of the «Holoportation» display. It forms part of a learning circuit set up at the «5G Joint Innovation Center» at the Sunrise head office to mark National Future Day.
The circuit lets 140 school children from fifth to seventh grade escape to the future – into an exciting time in which the real world merges with the virtual and new possibilities are constantly emerging. The 5G Joint Innovation Center, which Sunrise set up together with Huawei, some start-ups and other partner companies, has some of these possibilities on display and allows visitors to experience them – holoportation, for example. Oscar Rechou tells the children that physical spaces won’t be as important in the near future. It will be possible to project a digital twin into the room using a small device. People will be able to talk to the twin and see them from a 360-degree angle – lifelike, but virtual. «That would have been a great option during the COVID-19 lockdown,» says Oscar, just as the whistle blows and the group moves on to the next station.
Something’s wrong under the floorboards
Now Ayleen and Leandro face the challenge of finding a broken valve in the underfloor heating system. Augmented reality makes this possible. Ayleen is given a pair of AR glasses. These show her the cables beneath the floor panels and lead her to the defective valve, made visible by a red glow. Leandro lends a hand and they lift up the floor panel – and they’re amazed when they actually discover the defective valve underneath it. «Now the heating engineer could join you virtually to guide you through the repair process,» says Uta Engelmann, who is overseeing this display. The advantage? «5G transmits high-resolution 3D models in real time and enables live streams with experts. This eliminates the need for any travel and complicated troubleshooting processes. On top of this, repairs can be completed faster and more precisely.»
Smart building and virtual travel
Uta is also the one who organized the whole learning circuit. It’s important to her that the children get to know the wide range of applications offered by the latest generation of mobile communications. That’s why she explains the most important terms to the children before they start the circuit: 5G, the latest generation of mobile communications, which is giving the Internet of Things, or IoT, a significant boost. It refers to smart devices that are connected to the Internet. This is why we often hear the word «smart» in the context of IoT: smart farming, smart work, smart building. Smart traveling? Of course! At the «5G for Tourism» display, Ayleen and Leandro take a quick trip to the Grison Alps; they simply put on their VR glasses and are suddenly transported to Laax, where the weather is pretty cloudy today. This is made possible by a 360-degree video camera and the Sunrise 5G antenna – the very first of its kind to be used in Switzerland back in 2019.
After about an hour in the world of the smart future, Ayleen’s stomach starts to rumble. A final question from the display’s supervisor: Which old and which new jobs do we need here? «Computer scientist,» suggests Leandro. He has heard about AR content designers, robotics engineers, marketing storytellers, digital consultants, IoT developers and start-up founders for the first time today. After taking in all of this information and many new experiences, heads are full and stomachs empty. Fortunately, the staff restaurant is right next door – the real thing, not a virtual version.
What’s the state of 5G today?
5G is the latest mobile communications technology. It’s more powerful than its predecessor technologies in all respects. In addition to higher data rates, 5G uses less power, generates less radiation and can connect more end devices at the same time. Only with 5G can existing applications remain available with the same high quality despite strong growth in data volumes.
The first 5G networks were put into operation in Switzerland in 2019. More than 97% of the Swiss population now lives in an area that receives basic 5G coverage (up to 1 Gbit/s). Sunrise currently provides high-speed 5G coverage (up to 2 Gbit/s) for 1,132 towns and cities. According to an independent study by Opensignal, Sunrise ranks first in terms of 5G availability. In May 2022, users with a 5G-capable smartphone were connected to a Sunrise 5G network for 18.9% of the time measured. However, to achieve full 5G coverage, thousands of new systems still need to be built. In addition, the expansion of the mobile network goes hand in hand with the expansion of the fiber-optic and copper networks, as these are required to connect antenna locations to the network.