TECHNOLOGY: Cyprus laying the groundwork for 5G future

16 December, 2018

Cyprus telecom companies are preparing the ground for the next generation of faster 5G connectivity while battling it out for a bigger share of the lucrative mobile phone pie.

With 5G networks seen as the future in telecommunications, local telecom firms have applied and obtained licenses from the Ministry of Communications to go ahead with pilot 5G programs, understanding that the mobile internet data will be the driving force of the industry.

Already mobile Internet is a game-changer with companies gaining momentum in the market are those whose mobile data packages are most preferred by consumers. According to 2017 data from the OCECPR, 50% of all mobile subscribers opt to add a data package to their subscription.

While CyTA has 54.77% of the market share, it’s seeing the gap narrow as MTN is closing in with 32.83%, with Primetel coming in third at 9.96%.

One of the reasons for MTN closing in on CyTA is that mobile users with a data package are showing a preference for MTN which has a 48.9% share of the above pool. PrimeTel has a 12.5% share of the specific market.

PrimeTel has announced its participation in the first 5G test platform in the European Union, which will also actively contribute to the digital reconfiguration of the telecom landscape in Cyprus.

The “5Genesis” project is a pilot platform to test out the bloc’s readiness to implement 5G technology in the European Union. The programme is to be carried out in five areas, Athens, Malaga, Berlin, Surrey and Limassol.

The programme, with the participation of leading telecom operators, such as Telefonica (Spain), Airbus (France), Cosmote (Greece), Franhaufer (Germany), Intel (Germany) and L.M. Ericsson (Ireland), is to be completed in three stages in order to provide a platform for experimenting with innovative mobile and satellite technologies in telephony.

The pilot platform is part of the “Horizon 2020” project, the EU’s Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation.

This 5G technology is to be made available worldwide by the end of 2019 and Europe is set to roam with speeds tenfold of that provided by the current 4G technology as of 2020.

“Exact speeds will vary based on which technology ends up being implemented. Latest reports claim that 5G speeds of up to 7.5Gbps have already been achieved in the lab,” PrimeTel told the Financial Mirror.

Meanwhile, the semi-state Cyprus Telecommunications Authority has received the go-ahead from the Communications Ministry for a similar pilot scheme in the first three months of 2019.

“The 5G pilot network will be launched in the first quarter of 2019 that will enable Cyta to acquire the required specialised knowledge and experience for the next major challenge: The installation and commercial exploitation of the 5G network,” said CyTA in a statement.

Essentially 5G is the next generation of mobile internet connectivity promising much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections.

 “With 5G technology, we will be entering a time when ultra-high internet access speeds through mobile and connected devices, as well as the ability to use advanced next-generation services,” said a Frederick University’s Computer Science professor Chrysostomos Chrysostomou.

He said the introduction of 5G technology is to radically change all aspects of our life, from the way we work to the way we live with the development of smart cities.

Higher speeds and lower latency will not only make new experiences possible in augmented and virtual reality but will also revolutionise the way we live.

“Applications based on 5G networks can be used in the healthcare with doctors even being able to examine and perform operations remotely as communication between devices will be facilitated,” said Chrysostomou.

“It will offer us much more than just smart homes, with our home appliances being controlled by our mobile phones,” he added.

Internet of Things

The Frederick professor argues that the latest development and near future implementation of 5G networks has whetted the appetite of car manufacturers to develop drone vehicles and other means of transport. This is based on what is called the Internet of Things.

The Internet of things (IoT) is the network of devices, vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data.

“Already big car manufacturers around the world are developing cars which can be remotely driven or put on automatic pilot which will be fed real-time data from surrounding devices,” Chrysostomou said.

He explained that because of high speeds offered, in some cases 100 times faster, coupled with the close to zero latency in receiving real-time data, it will allow devices to make faster calculations and quicker ‘decisions’ increasing safety on the roads.

Chrysostomou is encouraged to see Cypriot telecom companies paving the way for the implementation of 5G networks, noting that the local firms are investing heavily in building up their fibre optic networks which are to function as the network’s backhaul.

“The stringent requirements for 5G heavily relies upon the interconnected backbone in the short term. Intensive 5G fibre-optic backhaul is necessary to seamlessly stream bandwidth-intensive applications.”

Cyprus telecom companies are currently carrying out projects to build up their fibre optic networks in efforts to bring fast internet to Cypriot homes and to build the backhaul for their 5G networks.

The Frederick professor does not see network benefits reaching people before 2022.

Giorgos Komodromos, head of the Electronic Communications Department at the Ministry of Transport, said that the goal is to have EU roaming with 5G speeds as of 2020.

According to the European Commission, the rollout will begin in 2020 with 700MHz band assigned in most of the EU, with 5G in one city per member state at a first stage.

Komodromos stressed that the issue of band frequencies is still being discussed as two out of the three frequencies on the table are the same as those used by a number of satellites.

“The European Union is still out on the matter, while also discussing harmonizing legislation for its member states,” said Komodromos.

He also noted that 5G technology is a work in progress as many mobile companies are still developing products such as mobile phones and tablets, and applications which will run with 5G technologies.