Ed’s note: Corona, 5G and F.O.G


Everywhere you turn, the impact of the COVID-19 virus is visible. Supermarkets are reporting a run on all manner of goods, including toilet paper and especially hand sanitiser, colleges and school are closing to reduce the chances of infection and the event industry, in particular, has been heavily hit.

Last week we considered some of the impacts of the virus on the power sector in the long term, and this week, I’d like to consider some additional news related to the outbreak.

Forbes reported that while much of the Chinese economy has been impacted by the coronavirus, the one sector that is still going ‘full steam ahead’ is that of telecommunications infrastructure such as 5G and LPWA  networks.

This would appear to be in efforts to spur the economy on and as is often the case, large infrastructure projects are often a cornerstone of such efforts.

At the end of February, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom jointly release the 5GDN Industry White paper, along with the Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) and leading equipment supplier Huawei

The white paper focuses on 5G deterministic networking “a process focused on industry digitalization with numerous potential capabilities, including “full convergence” of microservice-based 2-G, 3-G, 4-G and 5-G.”

While the technology can only be deployed later in the deployment of 5G, it is claimed it provides a framework for immense productivity gains across numerous sectors, including smart grids. The deployment of IoT applications are likely to cut costs and boost efficiency through predictive maintenance and, importantly in light of recent events, limit the risk of labour shortages.

Bloomberg Intelligence further predicts that China will triple the number of IoT industrial machines to more than 300 million units by 2024. 

LPWA is currently favoured in terms of 5G due to its lower infrastructure costs, with narrowband IoT LPWA technology favoured by the big three telecoms in China. It is predicted that by the end of 2020, more than 1.5 million based stations will be in place to power the LPWA network.

At the end of February, China Unicom and China Telecom announced an acceleration of the rollout of infrastructure, including 250,000 base stations by the end of Q3. They’ve set an intermediate target of 100,000 by June 30, with 64,000 already in operation. 

The three telecom companies remain positive about 5G prospects, despite concerns from industry analysts that the actual demand of 5G phone will be lower than predicted. China Unicom and China Telecom—who have joined forces to share networks—announced they’re accelerating their rollout of infrastructure. China Mobile has reported that it signed 6.7 million users in Q4 2019 and has ‘reaccelerated’ the installation of 5G base stations. 

Homeland Security today, in a thought-provoking article on the impacts of epidemics on critical infrastructure reveals predicts: “Electrical outages will likely not occur but if so, they will be minor and sparse. The flow of natural gas will see little to no impact based on the built-in lag. Worldwide refinery of petroleum will be impacted and logistics of moving fuel oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, and lubricants will be affected, which is likely to further exacerbate critical manufacturing and the defence industrial base.”

Finally, an article which was published in IEEE Spectrum, the publication for the IEEE, the professional organization devoted to engineering and the applied sciences, speaks of the newest acronym for the industry – FOG or Fear of Going to Work. Reporting on a recent survey, it seems that fear of going to work is increasing and productivity is going down. While the article is largely focused on US companies, it is likely that this trend is being replicated across the world.  According to the survey, 70.1% of the 6,000 respondent are hesitant to go to work due to the coronavirus outbreak. 76.1% of respondents have also said that they are working from home, particularly those based in Seattle.  Interestingly, 45% claimed that their productivity has also gone down, although the reasons therefore are not clarified.  You can read the full article here.

Are you being affected by the Coronavirus in your day-to-day work environment? Share your thoughts and stories with us here: editorial@smart-energy.com

Until next week – keep well


PS: We are hosting a webinar tomorrow on an important consideration for any utility embarking on a smart grid journey – namely – Getting to grips with smart grid (and smart metering) communication. 

Join us as we talk through issues such as:

  • What communication technology is the best for your utility’s needs?
  • What about privacy and security of the information you are transmitting? 
  • What are the pros and cons of the various technologies out there? 
  • What standards and communication protocols do you need to know about?
  • What type of communication works best in noisy environments? Or rural settings? 
  • How important is interoperability and how hard is it to achieve?