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Cyprus prepares to leap into 5G era

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Cyprus is joining the fifth-generation mobile network as its telecom providers go head-to-head at an auction for 5G broadband frequencies launched on Thursday after three postponements in as many months.

The auction conducted by the Department of Electronic Communications, now under the Deputy Ministry of Innovation, has four frequency licenses up for grabs with four networks on high alert.

The four bidders are Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta), Primetel, Epic and Cablenet all bidding for an equal number of platforms.

“All four bidders have accepted the opening price for a platform which is set at €6 mln. From there on, they will be bidding to obtain a higher number of frequencies,” George Komodromos, head of the Department of Electronic Communications has told the Financial Mirror.

“The more frequencies a provider obtains, the more clients they can accommodate, and the more services they will be able to provide.”

There will be four consecutive auctions and the winners announced by the end of the year.

Licences are granted between the frequency spectrum available on the 700 MHz and 3.6 GHz bandwidths and valid for 20 years.

Once the licenses are handed out, authorized providers must set up and operate a fifth-generation broadband electronic communications network to cover 70% of the population by end 2025.

“All major highways will also have to be covered by the network.”

Komodromos said the prospect of such high speeds of data transfer is set to change the world of telecommunications bringing revolutionary innovations in almost the entire breadth of social, professional, and economic activity.

The introduction of 5G is opposed by some with attacks on telecom facilities with communities having doubts over the health effects of the frequency spectrum.

Antennas and telephone masts have been torched in Cyprus while several demonstrations have been organised against 5G over health fears also linking the rollout with COVID-19 conspiracies.

A demonstration in October in Limassol against coronavirus restrictions, corruption, and the rollout of a 5G network turned violent with four police officers and a firefighter injured.

The Ormidia community council in September declared the village a 5G free zone – effectively attempting to ban the technology in its area.

Superpower battleground

Cyprus’ 5G network rollout is also caught up in a tug-of-war between two superpowers, China, and the US, locked in a battle for technological supremacy and geopolitical influence.

China has recently accused the US of openly lobbying Cyprus to join its camp against Chinese vendors, such as tech giant Huawei and other telecom firms, which they consider to be a risk for cybersecurity and democracy.

Cyprus is heavily reliant on Chinese technology in its communications infrastructure like 5G.

It is estimated that more than 90% of consumers in Cyprus are served in one way or another by Huawei products while telecom firms such as Epic and Cyta rely on infrastructure equipment from the Chinese communication giant.

Nicosia denies it has bowed to pressure with Deputy Minister for Research Innovation & Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos telling the Financial Mirror that Cyprus is committed to implementing EU decisions on the issue.

US pressure seems to have gained ground, as, reportedly, Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta), the state-funded telecom company has chosen an intermediate solution.

Cyta’s 5th generation network will use technological equipment from Huawei Technologies and Sweden’s Ericsson.

Radiofrequency licensing for 5G networks is an obligation for all EU member states to reach the ‘Gigabit Society’ goal set by the European Commission.

Meeting this goal will help Europeans and businesses reap the full benefits of digitalization, enhancing EU competitiveness in the global market, accelerating digital transformation, and promoting green growth.

According to the ‘Gigabit Society,’ all European households should have access to 100 Mbps connections by 2025 with the possibility to upgrade networks to reach much higher speeds.