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U Tennessee Applies AT&T 5G and 5G+ Networks in Research

University of Tennessee Knoxville

The University of Tennessee Knoxville is working with AT&T to build out a 5G+ presence on campus. That project will incorporate a testbed to allow university and company researchers to understand how 5G and 5G+ technology can address unique communications challenges.

5G shows dramatic benefits in regard to latency, capacity and speed. AT&T's 5G+ network, in particular, runs faster than the company's 5G service. However, with speed comes a cost: While 5G uses a low-band wave, making it more reliable and better over distances, 5G+ uses a millimeter wave, more attuned for shorter distances and making it prone to slower speeds when physical objects are in the way. It's expected that mobile devices will eventually accommodate both types of networks, enabling them to shift between the two for optimal coverage and performance.

Among the use cases the university said it would explore are these: military, security and rescue operations; expanding instructional practices; and finding appropriate 5G applications for rural areas.

The ability to use 5G technology to "see" through walls and other barriers holds obvious promise for things like defense and security forces, where knowing the location of others is critical to safety. This experimentation would include creation of a portable communications system to capture and share images through a wall, allowing soldiers, for example, with connected devices to exchange this information with each other in near real time to help protect and defend against potential threats. According to a university article, the new 5G testbeds would "facilitate testing, refining and validating the low latency connectivity vital to these experiments."

"It could be a very critical technology in fields related to securing lives," said Fathy. "That could be everything from finding survivors after earthquakes or building collapses, to monitoring the safety of prisoners," said Professor Aly Fathy, a member of the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The use of 5G could also lead to greater use of immersive learning experiences such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), especially to allow students to access scenarios that would be too costly or risky for them to experience in real life, such as nuclear power plants, plumbing the depths of the ocean or experiencing a rocket launch. The technology could also help the university in collecting more and more granular data during student learning.

The university is especially interested to see how 5G can help rural areas. It's expected to deliver new healthcare and education services, assist farmers by providing real-time analysis and monitoring of crop health and soil conditions, and find use in rural industries such as nuclear energy production that have areas off-limits to humans.

"The technology behind next generation broadband systems, 5G and beyond is expected to impact society perhaps even more than the internet," said Özlem Kilic, associate dean for academic and student affairs in the Tickle College of Engineering, in a statement. "Customized and smart systems will be at our fingertips connecting all devices surrounding us, and instantly processing and optimizing information touching everything we do as an individual, community, society, and more. This collaboration with AT&T provides our research and education community at UT a platform to collaborate across disciplines to address societal needs and improve quality of life at all fronts."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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