Colombia is on the verge of making a big leap in connectivity. This Wednesday, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies announced that the decision has already been passed, giving operators the freedom to use the entire 6GHz band without requiring a license.
In other words, the government has given these companies an open letter to innovate in the implementation of technologies powered by these frequencies, allowing for improved user connectivity. The best example of this is that it will be possible to browse with Wi Fi 6E technology (a feature that will start to become widespread on devices such as computers and mobile phones, as it provides higher browsing speeds compared to previous technologies). One of the essential foundations for the deployment of a 5G network).
Another advantage of Wi Fi 6E is that it provides a more stable connection, allowing several devices to be connected to the same network at the same time. This is crucial, according to predictions made by experts in the field, who predict that homes will become increasingly “smart” with the inclusion of devices such as home assistants and other devices related to IoT (Internet of Things) technology. So in a home not only mobile televisions and computers, but also speakers, light bulbs, blinds, vacuum cleaners, security cameras and others expanding this list will be connected to Wi-Fi.
“With the free use of the 6 GHz band, it is hoped that innovation will be encouraged. Capacities and speeds will be higher, and with them, it will be possible to reach the remote parts of the country with quality solutions for rural areas, as well as meeting the increasing demand for data, content and applications from users. In this way, the government is moving forward in closing the digital divide and a true democratization of ICTs,” Minister Urrutia explained.
5G launch is approaching
Telecommunications has passed through five generations in the last 40 years. The first generation (1G), which exploded in the 1980s, allowed phone calls between mobile devices. By the 90s, the second generation (2G) facilitated the exchange of messages as well as signal coverage on these devices (when every letter was valuable in text messages).
The third generation (3G) revolutionized the industry around 2000 by offering broadband and facilitating data transfer (it was already possible to surf the Internet and laid the foundations for instant messaging apps and smartphones). The fourth generation (4G), around 2010, increased browsing speed, allowed communication with IoT devices, and made it possible to consume content we are used to seeing on our smartphones today, such as videos on YouTube and series on Netflix. Fifth generation (5G) is the newest already being implemented in countries like the United States, promising higher scanning speeds and lower latency between devices, which facilitates the development of technologies such as autonomous driving.
This adds to the latest statements made by the Ministry of ICT, the fact that in 2023 the tender that will allow the deployment of 5G in Colombia will begin.
Before getting into this topic, it is useful to remember what the promised benefits of 5G are. For the average user, the advent of 5G means you can download content faster, web pages load faster, and experience streaming videos playing in high definition almost instantly.
However, the greatest potential will be seen in the industry as 5G will be one of the technologies that will leverage the digital transformation in the country (in the midst of the aforementioned fourth industrial revolution). An example of this is that higher scanning speeds give companies (who already have new technologies) the tools to process larger amounts of data, increase their competitiveness and speed up many of their production processes.
IoT devices have a state. For example, a company dedicated to agriculture will be able to put sensors in crop fields to know the moisture conditions of the soil as well as nutrients (in near real time due to low latency times). In this way, you will be able to better manage irrigation and fertilization, as well as detect possible pests in a shorter time. In short, it increases its competitiveness thanks to new technologies.
There is also the case of autonomous driving with 5G, which will drastically reduce the likelihood of self-driving vehicles colliding, as low latency will allow sensors to communicate with control centers faster, making decisions within a thousandth of a second. .
In Colombia, 5G has advanced in the pilot phase. Companies such as Claro, Movistar, Tigo and ETB have tested this technology to identify its potential applied to commercial use (for mobile Internet and home) and special cases (such as telemedicine). in an interview with audienceMinister Urrutia explained that after passing this stage and licenses for the use of the electromagnetic spectrum in Colombia expire (paid by operators), Colombia is ready to renew these licenses, including the deployment of 5G (of course). .
“We need to define these renewal terms. The National Spectrum Agency (ANE) makes a lot of sense in assessing how much spectrum will be worth considering in 5G. We are designing this great conditions strategy for the renovation and we hope it will happen in the second half of 2023 as we will be focusing on the renovations in addition to the fact that we are building a development in the first half. “The plan we hope will be ready in May,” he said.
Thus, the first tenders for the commercial use of 5G in Colombia will be announced in 2023. This is the starting point for major operators to begin deployment.
Although the time is shortened, the wait continues
The beginning of the 5G tender is only the starting point for its deployment, as Mario de la Cruz (Cisco’s executive director of public policy and government in Latin America) explains, after that there are a number of procedures involving additional contracts and acquisition. infrastructure.
While the industry is ready, he assures that all these processes may take the country one to two years before the mass and commercial deployment of 5G begins. In addition, Colombia will have to have a plethora of devices compatible with it to enjoy this technology because although it exists, a mobile phone that only connects to a 4G network would not be able to experience it. The benefits of 5G.
The same is true for Wi-Fi 6E. Of course, operators must use home routers (famous modems) as well as receiving devices (televisions, computers, tabletsmobile phones…).
Beyond that, the reality is that Colombia is moving forward in the development of its connectivity (becoming more competitive), which translates into better conditions for the development of its economy. However, the challenge of bridging the digital divide remains, as the country is currently 60% connected and only 28.9% connected in rural areas, according to information managed by the ICT Ministry.
“One of the government’s priorities is to improve the connectivity of Colombians. To reach the 85% target, we need to have the 5G band, among other technologies. “The government and private sector will work hand in hand to make this a reality in the first months of 2023.”
This translates into serious disadvantages for a company or student established in a rural area compared to those who do so in urban areas. Reducing these gaps is a mission committed by various governments (including Iván Duque’s with the Digital Centers program). Gustavo Petro tells the government to use all available technology (including satellite link) to enable the internet to reach the farthest places, a task that private operators hope to take advantage of. The importance of being connected in the 21st century is undeniable.
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