Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Battle of the 5G Network: Dude, where’s the Philippines?

Photo from FlipScience
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The classic mockery on the state of the Philippines’ internet came when global e-commerce icon Jack Ma, founder of the successful multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba Group, tried and tested himself Asia Pacific’s slowest average internet speed (according to Akamai Technologies Inc.’s State of the Internet Connectivity Report) in October 2017 when he visited Manila.

The wake-up call was shared by chastened Chief Executive Officers of the two leading telecommunications firms in the country (PLDT and Globe), at that time owning 5.5 mbps only, falling short of the global average internet connection speed of 7.2 mbps (Mbps is short for megabits per second – a measure of network transmission or data transfer speed. A megabit is equal to one million bits).

Internet access in the Philippines falls as a “value-added service” giving a leeway to internet providers on their own terms under the 24-year-old Philippine Public Telecommunications Policy Law. But lately consumers are demanding to reclassify it as a “basic telecommunications service” and put teeth to the law by compelling internet providers of quality connection speeds and affordable cost or else suffer stringent fines from government regulators.

The UK-based firm ‘We Are Social’ accounts that the Philippines has 76 million Filipino netizens from a whopping 3.5 billion social media users worldwide. Majority of Filipino social media users are from woke generation spending almost 10 hours average daily of their time using the internet via any device making it highest in the world.

As the world embraces the Industry 4.0 where computers are connected and suavely evolve that it can communicate and make decisions without human intervention, combining the internet of things and internet of systems or enhanced with smart and autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning, it is fit and proper that as the cyberspace (known as the fifth domain) advances, a new cellular generation must occupy the void. 

The 5G (short for 5th Generation) is a commonly used term for certain advanced wireless systems. Defined in late 2018 as any system using "5G NR" (5G New Radio) software as "5G”. It follows 2G, 3G and 4G and their respective associated technologies. The 1st generation introduced mobility. The 2nd generation [or: 2G] brought us into the digital world. The 3rd generation, in turn, introduced mobile data. And the 4th generation created the mobile broadband world in which we live today. Hence, the dawn of the 5G battle for supremacy.

There are only five companies in the world offering 5G radio hardware and 5G systems for carriers: Huawei, ZTE, Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson. Samsung claimed to have supplied the greatest number of 5G base stations to South Korean operators. According to IPlytics (patent analytics firm), companies in China have applied for roughly 34% of the world’s major 5G patents as of March 2019, compared with South Korea’s 25%, and 14% each for the United States and Finland. Sweden stood at nearly 8%, and Japan at almost 5%, while Taiwan, Canada, the U.K., and Italy rounded out the top 10 countries, each with under 1% shares.

Reports are told that today’s cellular and Wi-Fi networks rely on microwaves – a type of electromagnetic radiation utilizing frequencies up to 6 gigahertz (GHz) in order to wirelessly transmit voice and data.  This era of wireless frequency is almost over making room for new 5G applications will require using new spectrum bands in much higher frequency ranges above 6 GHz to 100 GHz and beyond, utilizing submillimeter and millimeter waves.

Digital strategists forecast that 5G wireless technology is a game-changer, transforming every business and every industry, just as the internet once did. Weaponizing the 5G network becomes also a national security issue. A case in point when British prime minister Theresa May abruptly sacked defense secretary Gavin Williamson for divulging state secrets on a plan to give China's Huawei limited access to Britain's next-generation communications network. Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, is under intense scrutiny after the United States told allies not to use the provider for fear it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying.

Dude, where’s the Philippines? 

In December last year, PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) are set to sign more 5G partnership agreements with technology, industry and enterprise partners, and pilot more 5G-powered digital services, and launch more Smart 5G cities across the country in 2019. Given the versatility of the 5G, the telecom giant thinks that its focus for future 5G services is initially for enterprise customers, for whom it will mean completely new use cases, like with drones, internet of things and other specialized services. On the other hand, Globe telecom deems that through the 5G network, it will help to deploy fixed wireless broadband at a fiber speed that boast of higher speeds, lower latency, and better capacity. Globe is currently piloting Narrow Band-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology while enhancing its mobile data services.

Is the Philippines really prepared for the 5G network? What do you think?

No comments: