MAJORITY State-owned telecommunications provider TSTT yesterday became the first company in T&T to launch a 5G network.
But what TSTT launched at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain yesterday was not the 5G mobile network that is eagerly anticipated by millions of cellular phone and device users around the world, but a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), which can provide download speeds in excess of 1 gigabyte per second to homes and businesses as an alternative to ultra-high-speed broadband from fibre.
Speaking at yesterday’s launch, TSTT chief executive officer, Ronald Walcot, said 5G through Fixed Wireless Access will provide three characteristics to homeowners and businesses that are fundamentally different to 4G LTE, which was rolled out by TSTT throughout T&T in 2016.
Walcot said: “One is speed; the speed that you can download data is comparable to fibre with speeds in excess of 1 gigabyte.
“Secondly, there is the ability of 5G to have multiple connections, exponentially more. For example, if you are in a one-kilometre range with a 4G solution, you may be able to 4,000 simultaneous users. With that same one kilometre range with 5G, you may be able to connect 400,000 users.
“And then the whole notion of low latency, which is the speed at which you get a response from the network. Generally on 4G, latency is around 10 to 30 milliseconds, but with 5G it is about one to three milliseconds. That allows for real time, which is extremely important, especially if you are going to use robot for surgery, for example.”
Walcot said 5G will further disrupt online shopping, social media engagements and entertainment.
He noted that the rollout of 5G, which is due to begin early next year, was made possible by the network infrastructure of the 4G network. What was missing, he said, was the software necessary to upgrade the network, which was developed by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei this year.
Asked after the function what would it take for TSTT to launch a 5G mobile network, Walcot said: “We would have to agree decide if we want to do it. But we would have agree on spectrum with the regulator. This is a spectrum issue more than anything else. If we had the right spectrum and the right amount of spectrum, this is something that we can be talking about rolling out next year.
“Let’s assume that we had access to spectrum, I still don’t think I would have done mobile 5G immediately. Mobile 5G is still in its infancy. The first 5G standard was written for Fixed Wireless Access. I would still have waited maybe until I am done with this Fixed Wireless; maybe like the middle of next year we would have started on mobile 5G, which is still our intention. I still plan to rollout mobile 5G but we need the right spectrum.”
Questioned on if he is confident that the Telecommunications Authority of T&T can treat with spectrum for 5G when it has been unable to award 4G spectrum for five years, “I am making it known that I have a concern with the way in which TATT regulates its business. We are always challenging some of the decision making around spectrum and that is one of our concerns. I have said so publicly so I have no qualms with that being repeated.”
Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte said TSTT’s launch of its 5G fixed wireless service “will support our e-government platform and in so doing facilitate the delivery of a wider range of government-related services to the public. This will save both time and money for the average citizen as more services become accessible online due to the advances in the network’s capacity.”
He said 5G technology, Government will bring Government much closer to the people of this country, and that many of the services that would have required a visit to Port of Spain or San Fernando will soon be accessed by the click of a mouse.