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While the telecom industry prepares to deploy its first commercial 5G networks by 2020, the Finnish city of Oulu is looking for services to benefit from this faster and more efficient wireless technology.
In partnership with Nokia, Oulu has launched a global competition to find real-world applications for 5G.
The 5GFWD competition is open to anyone to develop 5G innovations that can improve people’s everyday lives. The entries are submitted in four categories: easy living and working, shopping, health and life security.
“We want to find ideas for 5G-enabled services that can rationalise and make our lives easier,” Aki Korvala, programme manager at Nokia in Oulu, told Computer Weekly.
“I don’t want 5G to become just another technology to improve speeds, but there should be services on top of the technology that really help people.”
5G is expected to bring minimal latency, greater coverage and speeds up to 100 times greater than current 4G technologies. This opens up possibilities for new services and applications, particularly in the data-hungry sectors of video, virtual reality and the internet of things (IoT).
The competition organisers are looking for unique ideas – instead of fully developed technical systems – that can be further advanced in co-operation with their IT partners.
For Nokia, the competition is an opportunity to deepen its understanding of potential 5G usage cases and help consumers understand the potential of next generation mobile technology.
“One of the competition’s cornerstones is that engineers will think in one way and economists in another, while students who have spent all their lives surrounded by technology can have a completely a different perspective [to 5G services],” Korvala explained.
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The main competition is organised online and the winners of the four categories will be chosen in April 2016. They will be awarded with cash prices and flown to Oulu for a final event in June 2016, with a grand prize of €10,000.
The finalists will also have a chance to meet investors and product developers to discuss possible market entry for their ideas.
Other partners of the 5GFWD competition include Ericsson, Bittium, Oulu University Hospital, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finavia and several other Finnish municipalities and companies.
Finland’s 5G ambitions
Oulu is also part of Finland’s wider ambitions to spearhead 5G development. In February 2016, the Nordic country announced an open test ecosystem ‘5G Test Network Finland’ with partners such as Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei. The aim is to offer companies a test bed for products and services.
The project covers four 5G test environments. The first was opened in Oulu in autumn 2015, with both private and public test networks, and is scheduled for expansion with a second 5G test environment at the Oulu University Hospital later in 2016.
Nokia, which has a 5G research unit in Oulu, contributes to both as a hardware and software provider.
Korvala said 5G is a key focus for all major network suppliers and believes the first trial 5G networks will be demonstrated at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea.
“5G will be the theme of the 2018, 2020 and 2022 Olympic events,” said Korvala. “Pre-standards 5G devices will be demonstrated in Korea and the Olympics in Japan  will have the first official commercial standardised 5G networks.”