A report from MIT Technology Review Insights indicates that digital transformation is “heavily underway” in the Philippines. At the rate the country is going, will it truly be ready to embrace 5G technology come 2020?
Mobile internet connectivity is a perpetually relevant concern in the Philippines. In a country that, as of 2016, had an estimated 26.2 million smartphone users — almost a third of the country’s population — this is hardly surprising.
These days, we access the internet through our smartphones to do pretty much everything, from reading the news to paying our bills. Thus, the demand for consistent and reliable connectivity is ever-present.
In line with this, mobile service providers are looking into bringing fifth-generation (5G) technology to the country, just in time for its expected worldwide adoption in 2020. Expected to be about three times faster than 4G, 5G promises wider coverage, better upload and download speeds, and increased network stability.
5G is also expected to play a critical role in accelerating the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart technology. From self-driving cars and “smart cities” to automated sensor networks for environmental monitoring and industrial applications, 5G will lay the groundwork for enhanced interconnectivity across the globe.
Preparing for 5G technology
Companies across the globe are currently hard at work on developing 5G-ready devices and networks. Among the first countries expected to implement 5G are the United States, China, and South Korea, with the United Kingdom and other countries to follow suit.
Meanwhile, the Philippines joins Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand on the list of countries currently investing in massive digital transformation. This is based on findings published by MIT Technology Review Insights in association with global tech brand Huawei, after surveying 191 tech executives and conducting interviews across the region from July to August of 2018.
According to two-thirds of the respondents, there are “active conversations” within their organizations revolving around 5G’s expected impact. However, less than half (46%) affirmed that their companies fully understood the benefits of 5G.
Meanwhile, while 65% believe that 5G will meet its target rollout date, nearly a fifth (18%) believe that 2021 is a more realistic date.
Two of the Philippines’ major telecom players have already revealed details about their respective 5G plans. Globe Telecom is planning to roll out 5G services in the country by mid-2019. Meanwhile, Smart Communications is working on establishing its 5G-ready network by 2020.
Implementing 5G systems in the Philippines isn’t a simple matter of updating networks and rolling out new devices, though.
5G challenges in the Philippines
In a recent article, Corning Optical Communications Marketing Manager Paul Ng explained that 5G will require a denser network of cell towers for handling the resulting mobile traffic.
“Currently, mobile networks rely largely on macrocells to handle all connections within a specific geographic area,” wrote Ng. “Increasingly, network operators are deploying low-powered small cells to areas already covered by macrocells to help increase capacity in locations that see high user demand, while avoiding the expense of procuring larger cell sites.”
While 5G networks will likely standardize this heterogenous network setup, they will also require an advanced fiber support infrastructure.
However, only 35% of the MIT survey respondents believe that the current infrastructure in their countries will suffice. Meanwhile, 82% said that the cost of upgrading infrastructure is the biggest obstacle in full 5G adoption. In the Philippines, the cost of infrastructure deployment is generally high, and relevant policies barely exist.
Furthermore, users will need to replace their smartphones with 5G-compatible devices to enjoy the new technology’s benefits. There’s also the risk of overcrowding the frequency range when 5G pops up on the wireless spectrum.
Only one thing is for certain: The successful adoption of 5G in the Philippines will require massive work. Will a year be enough? That remains to be seen.
Cover photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.