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DNB and Ericsson enable distance education between Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak over 5G

Malaysia’s 5G single wholesale network provided Digital Nasional Berhad  (DNB) and its network equipment provider Ericsson demonstrated the remote delivery of a high quality, real-time, and interactive lecture involving 3-D avatars of lecturer and students within a custom-built metaverse environment on 18 February 2023.

Wearing augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) goggles, Senior lecturer Dr. Syafiqah Saidin in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Kuala Lumpur used a 3-D digital model of a heart to demonstrate the respective functions of its four chambers – namely the right and left atria, as well as the right and left ventricles, as well as the functions of the one-way valves between them to a group of students some 1,400km away at Curtin University, Miri, Sarawak.

The 5G connectivity enabled Dr. Syafiqah to practically show the students in real time how the right atrium receives oxygen-depleted blood which has circulated through the body, then pumps through the one-way valve into the right ventricle, which then pumps it through the lungs where it is re-oxygenated and returns into the left atrium, which then pumps it into the left ventricle, which then pumps it into the aorta (the main artery) to deliver oxygen to the whole body, then returns through the veins back to the right atrium and the process repeats continuously throughout the persons life.

Dr. Syafiqah also shared digital notes with the students, as well as digital 3-D replicas of the model of the heart with each of the students to inspect in greater details.

Such a system can also be used to deliver a host of next-generation digital business, industrial, and public service applications in areas covered by 5G, including Sarawak.

The technology

The showcase was made possible by utilising the ultrafast, secure and reliable connectivity with extended coverage made possible by 5G standalone, carrier aggregation and network slicing technology.

This maximized the use of available 5G spectrum, with DNB having combined multiple spectrum bands – namely the 700 Mhz low band, the 3.5 Ghz mid band and the 28 Ghz millimetre wave band via carrier aggregation to create a connectivity pipeline with a combined capacity of 7 Gbps between UTM and Curtin University.

A portion of this connectivity pipeline was then subdivided using a technique known as ‘network slicing’, which allowes DNB to carve out and dedicate a portion of the above for the exclusive use for this technology showcase.

Its benefits

Present at the showcase was the guest of honor, Y.B. Datuk Liwan Lagang, Deputy Minister for Utility and Telecommunication Sarawak, a former teacher of over 20 years, who commented on expanding these technologies throughout the state for the benefit of Sarawakians.

“Ultrafast 5G speeds must be made relevant to end users. This demonstration shows how 5G connectivity can negate vast distances between teacher and student to deliver high quality, real-time and interactive distance learning in a metaverse classroom with AR/VR hardware.

“It is my hope that next-gen education applications like the sort we witnessed at Curtin University is soon followed by other groundbreaking use cases in Sarawak. I am intrigued by the prospect of applying these technologies in key Sarawakian industries. Given Miri’s rich history in the energy sector, 5G connectivity could be the catalyst to transform the industry with a host of intelligent, 5G-enabled use cases”, the Deputy Minister added.

 Also present were DNB Chief Operating Officer Nasution Mohamed, Head of Ericsson Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh David Hägerbro and Acting Chief Operating Officer of Curtin University Malaysia, Associate Professor Ir. Pieter Willem Pottas.

Ericsson’s David Hägerbro also commended the demonstration as a strong example of the world-class 5G network that Ericsson is delivering to DNB and the possibilities it opens up in Malaysia.

“Ericsson’s 5G expertise and technology enables DNB to provide connectivity to schools, hospitals and businesses located in historically underserved areas, where it would not have been cost-effective to provide wired connectivity. We believe the technologies demonstrated here today will pave the way for bridging the digital divide, accelerate Malaysia’s digital economy aspirations, as well as equip it with the advantage to leapfrog ahead in the region,”  Hägerbro added

Acting Chief Operating Officer of Curtin University Malaysia, Associate Professor Ir. Pieter Willem Pottas, who was among senior staff of the university attending the event, commended the successful technology demonstration.

“Today’s demonstration is of great interest to us at Curtin University Malaysia as our largest global campus and hub in ASEAN. One of our key research focus areas is digital innovation, and digital technology is extensively used in our teaching and learning. These technologies will help us significantly extend our education and research footprint in the region,” Pottas added.