What is the status of 5G in Uruguay?

As mobile phone companies launch their 5G-capable phones, the question is how ready Uruguay is.
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As mobile phone companies launch their 5G-capable phones, the question is how 5G-ready Uruguay is today.

5g in uruguay

In the global indices that measure how technologically advanced countries are, one of the variables is the deployment of 5G technology. 5G technology. It is not surprising, then, that the most prepared country in Europe is Finland, which is also the most digital country. However, there is still a long way to go for this technology to reach users in general.

Mauricio González, Product Line Specialist at Isbel and professor of Antennas and Propagation and Multimedia over IP at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of the Republic, explained to El País that there are three main points that support the need for 5G deployment: the first is that it multiplies "by 10 times or more" the speed of data transmission; the second is the latency or response time that one has from the network; "for example, if you send a video or data it arrives more immediately"; and the third difference lies in the number of devices that can be connected at the same time in a radio base.

González said that 5G is designed for "people and things". In this sense, for the former, 5G will respond to "augmented reality applications, real virtuality and applications that demand very low latency", he said. Regarding things, he pointed out that 5G will favour, for example, vehicle tracking or augmented reality and virtuality experiences that exist today but are not available to the general public. "If we take it to another dimension, what we are doing with 5G is like building a road for cars that have not yet started to travel," he remarked.

In Uruguay

The deployment of the networks in Uruguay is in full swing, with between 10 and 12 antennas being used for testing in the departments of Colonia, Maldonado and Montevideo, Guzmán Acosta y Lara, National Director of Telecommunications and Audiovisual Communication Services, explained to El País. "This technology is still in the process of maturing in the world, even though the companies that produce the phones and the different technology companies are talking about advances," he said.

In October, in a coordinated effort with URSEC, Antel and private telephone operators Claro and Movistar, a spectrum testing phase began that will last until March or April 2021. The director of Telecommunications stressed that "the technical tests guarantee an effective and efficient use of the radioelectric space". He remarked that, at the same time, they seek to "attend to what is called technological neutrality through a dialogue between the different companies to improve the ecosystem in that sense and to have clear and predictable rules in operation".

Acosta y Lara said that, at the end of the trials next year, it will be determined whether it is necessary to call for a tender on other spectrum bands.

The interest, according to the chief, is to work in coordination with private companies because a greater number of antennas need to be installed to support the new network.

Private operators

Private operators have a key role to play in the development of this new technology. "At Movistar we are incorporating experience in 5G technology through different tests that our company is carrying out in some of the countries where we operate. But, for the moment, we have not installed 5G antennas in Uruguay," the company told El País.

"Given the characteristics of this new technology in terms of the number of radio bases it requires, we consider it appropriate to evaluate the opportunity to deploy in Uruguay a 'single 5G network' for the country, to be used by all operators in the market (unlike 2G, 3G and 4G deployments, where each company developed its own network). Within the framework of sustainability policies, there are experiences worldwide of infrastructure sharing initiatives that have allowed more efficient deployments, which also make it possible to reach underserved geographic areas, reducing the impact of infrastructure on the environment and achieving an appropriate balance between cooperation and competition," the company said.

Alejandro Quiroga López, Claro 's director of Regulatory and Institutional Affairs for Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, told El País: "5G will undoubtedly be the biggest transformation in connectivity for people and, above all, for machines and industrial processes for the next 20 years, opening a new chapter of wellbeing for society.

Currently, its mass provision is in the process of being defined and each country is making preliminary decisions for its deployment. He added: "Grupo América Móvil is working intensively on the technical preparation to provide this service when conditions permit. In fact, the company is already deploying the new technology in several regions.

Regarding Uruguay, he said Claro is working together with the authorities in all the definition processes to start the first 5G trials in the country. "It is key, and we have conveyed this to the authorities, that in order to carry out a massive deployment, it is necessary to allocate the 5G spectrum bands and enable a procedure to assign them to mobile operators," he concluded.


Technology and 5G cellular

At the beginning of October, Apple unveiled its first 5G-capable phone with great fanfare. That was the big differential of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.

However, questions about this alleged differential began to surface: not even in the entire United States is there a 5G network powerful enough for a phone's 5G capability to make a difference.

However, all companies are moving in this direction, although not necessarily focusing on this point to promote their sales. In the case of the Chinese mobile phone company Huawei already has the P40 series available in Uruguay. which has the capacity to work with 5G.

When asked by El País, the technology company said: "In the Uruguayan market we are launching the P40 series (the P40 Pro and P40 Lite models) in the first half of 2020, which have a processor with an integrated multi-mode modem, making these devices future proof, i.e. they can connect to any 2G, 3G, 4G or in the future 5G network, prolonging their useful life. Even a Huawei P40 series device will be more future proof than many other devices because it is ready for the next generation of connectivity.

The South Korean company's strategy Samsung is different in this regard, as there are still no phones with this technology available at the regional level. When asked by El País, the company explained: "At the moment there are no plans for a model with 5G technology to enter Uruguay. Operators are working hard to bring this technology to Uruguayans and Samsung will be ready to meet the needs of the market when the time comes.

Promote universal internet throughout the country

The director of Telecommunications, Guzmán Acosta y Lara, stressed that Uruguay still has a way to go with the arrival of 4G networks throughout the country, as 15% of the country still lacks access to this technology.

"We are working to ensure that fibre optics reach those places that have asked for it," he said. He also said that one of the differences between the current government and the previous one is that "it is proposed that the interior of the country should not be forgotten in this area".

In this regard, Omar Paganini, Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, told the Senate's Budget Committee, together with the Treasury: "It is true that progress in 4G throughout the country is still a pending matter . 3G has reasonable coverage, but it is no longer useful for what we use it for in mobile phones. 4G is the one we could try to universalise. If you take any road in the country you can see that 4G coverage is quite limited.

And with the inevitable rollout of 5G and low-cost satellite internet there will be few places where we can't connect two network elements. It seems that SD-WAN is perfectly positioned to be the technology that provides the virtual private networks for the next industrial revolution.

Original article published in El País.



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