6 min read

5G is no longer a thing of the distant future. It’s here and now. The fifth generation of mobile cellular technology provides faster connection speeds than its 3G and 4G predecessors making it the perfect foundation for adopting new, emerging technologies that require stronger connectivity power. 

While 4G’s latency (or speed by which a piece of data travels between a device and the base station) took between 10 and 100 milliseconds, 5G’s latency is in the mere single digits. This is due to the novel approach of moving the application’s processing to the cloud’s edge and, in doing so, upending conventional notions of on-device rendering. Not only does this allow for faster speeds, it also creates more experiential possibilities.

Between 2020 and 2022, worldwide 5G coverage has doubled. Following the example of South Korea’s 5G exploration, Singapore is carving a unique path of its own becoming the first country to reach nationwide coverage.

So far the healthtech and maritime sector have led the way introducing the Asia Pacific region’s first 5G mobile edge computing for Mixed Reality and Holomedicine and Southeast Asia’s first maritime 5G AR/VR Smart Glasses Solution.

With 6.3M visitors in 2022 and dozens of popular sites, the country’s booming billion-dollar tourism industry stands to gain a lot from 5G, if businesses are ready and willing to experiment with new technologies. 

Here are a few ways tourism businesses can take advantage of the opportunities 5G can bring:

Disruption free streaming 

Along with robotics, 5G is also helping to vastly improve streaming capabilities. 

In the MICE space, event venues like Singapore’s New Media Lab are adopting private 5G networks as an amenity, allowing visitors to use connected devices (without disruption) while attending conferences, streaming events, TV show tapings, and more. These private networks also enable venues to run more efficiently by using machine learning capabilities to automate venue management and operations.

Not only does this mean better quality video, it will also help power emerging AR and VR applications. 

At Changdeok Palace in South Korea a new AR experience was recently introduced to bring the historic site to life for younger, digital generations. Via their mobile device, visitors are guided through the palace by a mythical creature and can participate in 12 interactive activities such as practicing archery with a Prince from the Joseon dynasty. 5G makes this possible by offering a higher resolution that makes ancient artifacts appear more life-like, reducing strain on devices (meaning the program won't eat up visitors’ batteries), and increasing load capacity to support a large number of devices all at once. 

Another recent example of this forward-thinking event innovation is the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix. 5G technology brought a new dimension to the racing competition, which attracted 250,000 attendees. With the power of 5G and the help of network slicing technology, fans were able to stream a high-definition view of the track from anywhere across the venue using the Cast app, even in particularly busy or crowded areas where the signal would traditionally be harder to find. This meant that, even when going to grab a snack or taking a quick bathroom break, die-hard fans would never miss the action. 

Alongside picture perfect streaming, partner Singtel took advantage of the 5G capacity to launch a booth with 3D augmented reality race simulators where attendees could experience what it's like to be in the driver’s seat. The ultra-low latency also allowed for smooth live broadcasts of the Mediacorp roadshow on Orchard Road including DJ sets, artists, games and giveaways. Tourists to the city were able to purchase prepaid 5G sim cards featuring race car images and Singapore landmarks. 

Web3 experiential tech startup and Singapore Tourism Board startup accelerator member, Xctuality, worked with E-Cities Championship (a Grand Prix fringe event) to make this possible.  In collaboration, they powered immersive AR activations and provided seamless 5G connectivity to visitors during the event. 

Stepping into the metaverse

The metaverse has been viewed as a technology of the future, but the low latency, load capacity, and streaming quality of 5G connectivity are helping to catapult this technology into the present. According to a new report by Ericsson ConsumerLab: “Growing access to 5G will support the ongoing development of the metaverse by providing the speed and power that make it possible for digital worlds to function at scale.”

Indeed we’re already seeing the effect in Singapore. Leading tourist attraction Gardens by the Bay has demonstrated some of the possibilities that 5G can offer with its new metaverse experience. The site teamed up with M1 and ESPL to create an exact digital twin of the Gardens, giving it new opportunities to experiment with ‘phygital’ experiences. 

The launch of this new digital attraction included a concert in the metaverse given by an avatar of Singapore-based artist DJ Red. Anyone with a 5G mobile connection was able to access and experience the performance in real-time.

The Future of 5G-Powered Tourism

As 5G technology emerges and becomes mainstream, the use cases and possibilities it presents continue to grow. As it gradually matures, 5G will continue to underpin mixed reality experiences, operational efficiency, and mass infrastructural innovation, providing ubiquitous connection and powering connected devices. 

There is still much more to come from 5G technologies, but Singapore is already thinking beyond, opening its first 6G physical lab to experiment with the next phase of cellular technology. While 6G adoption is much further away into the future, the experiences and innovations built with 5G will inform its development and points to a future where 5G technology will become more embedded for citizens and tourists alike.

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