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By Lisa Thibodeau 

As tech leaders and telecom enthusiasts gathered in Kanata to explore the multibillion dollar potential of 5G, several speakers challenged delegates to tackle inequities in broadband access and ensure 5G networks unleash opportunities for all Canadians, regardless of where they live.

Excitement over the new networks stem from the promise of fast connectivity speeds and low latency, which will enable companies to explore new industries such as autonomous vehicles. Speakers at the 2019 CENGN summit – an annual conference hosted by the Kanata- based telecom consortium – spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities that will be created by 5G, but also explored the challenge of providing equal access to these next-generation networks.

CENGN chief executive Jean-Charles Fahmy touched on the immediate need to better connect rural areas in his opening remarks. Fahmy alluded to a current project the organization is working on to bring the internet to a remote area that has no connectivity, despite being only several kilometres away from a town that enjoys
high-speed internet access.

“We hope to do several of these projects so we can create a blueprint that says, ‘In
these types of situations, here are some of the solutions that work,’” he said.

Robert Ghiz, the president and CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, and Tejas Roa, the managing director and global 5G lead at Accenture, echoed Fahmy’s remarks during their presentation on the benefits of 5G in Canada, stating that all Canadians should be able to experience the future of connectivity.

The two telecom executives shared the results of a study they commissioned that explored the positive impact on employment and GDP that’s expected to be sparked by connected cities and rural high-speed access.

“5G could bring as many as 250,000 new jobs and add $40 billion to the country’s GDP. There are unimaginable opportunities,” Ghiz told the audience, adding that Canada is in a great position to adopt 5G as it already has access to some of the fastest LTE internet service in the world.

Fahmy also spoke extensively about CENGN’s partnership with a Sudbury mining company to experiment with smart mines. The team will be installing a testbed – with cellular and Wi-Fi infrastructure inside the mine to prove they are still functional in extreme conditions.

“We’re in the process now of deploying that infrastructure because mining is one of those industries particularly well-suited for a digital transformation,” he said. “There are some very interesting use cases that come from digitizing a mine: inventory tracking, health and safety and of course autonomous vehicles in mines is low-hanging fruit.”

Consisting of telecom heavyweights including Bell, Cisco, Telus and other companies, CENGN is at the forefront of telecom R&D, helping to bridge the gaps between innovation and commercialization.

It currently hosts four testbed locations across Ontario used by tech companies to trial products and accelerate the go-to-market process.

The 2019 summit saw nearly 500 attendees and a diverse lineup of presenters from telecom, academia and government such as Gordon Plunkett, director at Esri Canada, and author Amy Radin.

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