As you’re reading this, take a moment to think about your day.
Have you joined friends or colleagues in a video conference call, did you scan various social media pages? Have you checked for any Black Friday deals to make an online purchase?
There is one denominator here: access to a high-speed and reliable Internet connection.
Just as electricity became a modern necessity in the 1930s, high-speed Internet is a necessity today, and currently half the planet’s population is lacking access to any form of an Internet connection.
The problem was exacerbated by lockdowns imposed in response to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 700 million people in rural areas around the world still cannot make phone calls or access the network, according to GSMA statistics. By the end of 2018, nearly 400,000 villages around the world had no network coverage.
The digital divide between cities and the countryside is widening, especially the gap between remote and urban areas.
Closing or reducing the digital divide requires both coverage and penetration-related initiatives – especially in a world where demand has changed because of the pandemic.
Governments, telcos, and the private sector have taken note of this, and have already started to fight back against this connectivity blackout.
Last year, Indonesia completed the final phase of the Palapa Ring project. The goal was to bridge the geographical divide in digital services and provide high-speed internet across the country, with a focus on some of the country’s most remote regions, particularly those in the east.
The approach was to build a new national infrastructure as a backbone of Indonesia’s telecommunications system by connecting seven of the archipelago’s island groupings: Sumatra, Jawa, Kalimantan, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua, through a public-private partnership.
According to a report by Opensignal, a UK-based Mobile Analytics company, Indonesia’s operators have been taking advantage of the Palapa Ring project to bring mobile connectivity beyond Jawa and to address the inequality in mobile network experience across the archipelago over the past two years.
“Our users saw outstanding improvements in all 12 regions over the last two years, between the third quarter of 2018 and the same quarter in 2020 for mobile Download Speed Experience, Video Experience, and 4G Availability,” a report published by Opensignal said.
According to the report, the gap in mobile network experience between Jawa — Indonesia’s political, population and economic center— and the more remote islands has decreased significantly. In fact, the experience in remote islands has become even better than parts of Jawa in some cases.
“Our Indonesian users also experienced notable growth in 4G Availability — the proportion of time our 4G users spent connected to 4G services — across all regions. In the third quarter of 2018, most of the areas were below the 80 percent 4G Availability mark,” the report highlighted.
But two years later, almost all the regions have broken through or risen significantly closer to the 90 percent 4G availability milestone.
While this demand for connectivity is being slowly met, there is still a lot of work to be done; especially since this growing digital divide is driving economic and social inequity.
In the US, students without broadband are falling behind in schools while counties with the highest unemployment rates also have the lowest broadband access and usage.
U.S. tech titan Microsoft has also stepped in to help bridge the gap by establishing the Airband Initiative.
The initiative aims to close the digital divide and bring high-speed internet connectivity to unconnected communities around the world.
It officially launched in 2017 with the goal of bringing broadband connectivity to 2 million people in the U.S. by July 2022. After early success, that goal grew to 3 million people in the US — and an additional 40 million across the globe — by the same deadline.
In the US the Airband Initiative has ongoing projects in 25 states and territories, with pilots in additional states, and has expanded broadband access to 1.5 million people in rural, previously unserved areas.
The program has also expanded broadband access to more than 14 million people in rural areas internationally.
In Colombia, a small project in the country’s rural, mountainous Meta region has extended Internet access to coffee growers, helping preserve peace in a previously war-torn area.
Zipping across to the South Pacific Ocean, the government of New Zealand have doubled down their efforts to bring fiber optic broadband to its rural areas.
The first stage of the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) brought faster internet connections to several rural hospitals and practices. For example, faster internet connection has improved data linkages between Hokianga Hospital and the central GP clinic in Rawene and nine remote primary health clinics.
Stage of the RBI rollout is still in progress.
“The initiative seeks to provide high speed broadband to the greatest number of under-served rural end users within the funding available, and contribute towards achieving similar rates of access to high-speed broadband by rural end users across all regions of New Zealand,” a statement issued by the country’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment read.
In Latin America, Telefónica/Movistar, Facebook, IDB Invest and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) joined forces to create a company called Internet Para Todos (Internet For All) or IpT.
After a year of the start of operations, IpT has successfully met the challenge of connecting more than 1.5 million Peruvians from remote locations along the coast, in the mountains and in the jungle, providing access to adequate mobile internet.
Peru became a pioneer in implementing IpT, and the experience has been progressively shared with other Latin American countries. The initiative aims to connect more than 30,000 rural communities by 2021.
IpT is an opportunity to integrate all Peruvians to the digital age, which is particularly vital in this context. There must be a coordinated effort between different sectors to connect about 4.5 million Peruvians before the Bicentennial with adequate mobile internet.
This must be a joint task of the public and private sectors, in an effort to achieve more inclusive connectivity, thus fostering development in a society with equality for all.
As time presses on and the rollout of the fifth generation of mobile networks starts hitting the mainstream, connecting rural areas across the world will become much easier, which will allow for more initiatives to keep mushrooming as the world enters its next phase of technological development.
The race for 5G: Ericsson, Huawei close in on separate markets
Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson has partnered with Taiwanese operator Asia-Pacific Telecom (APT) to modernize its current 4G network infrastructure, as well as non-standalone 5G-ready equipment and services.
The agreement, which was announced on Monday, will see Ericsson provide high-performing radio access network (RAN) solutions from its 5G-ready Radio System portfolio as well as 5G NSA licenses to do 5G Multi-Operator Core Networks (MOCN).
“Our enhanced 5G platform provides the technological backbone for the nation’s first Multi-Operator Core Network and we will continue to support both service providers with their successful integration and partnership,” Chafic Nassif, President of Ericsson Taiwan, said in a statement.
With the deployment of Ericsson Network Manager, APT will be able to dynamically operate between 4G and 5G networks, with a set of unified applications to securely manage radio access, transport, and core networks in an end-to-end manner.
The contract also covers Ericsson Network Manager, OSS migration services and upgrade, as well as integration with APT’s rival, Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET) on the 3.5GHz frequency band in Taiwan.
Back in September 2020, FET and APT announced a partnership to provide 5G services on Taiwan’s 3.5GHz frequency band through the nation’s first MOCN – where two or more core networks share the same RAN and bandwidth. The collaboration includes 700MHz shared RAN to be used on both 4G and 5G technologies.
“Ericsson continues to accelerate the overall progress of 5G development in Taiwan, supporting both APT and FET to quickly launch new services to market and provide Taiwanese consumers and enterprises with the highest quality communication services,” Nassif added.
Ericsson now has 124 commercial 5G agreements with communications service providers globally, 74 of which have been publicly announced.
Meanwhile across the Pacific, Chinese telecoms titan Huawei has received the green light by the Brazilian government allowing it to partake in the country’s 5G auction due to be held in June.
According to local media quoting sources close to the decision, the government will not restrict the Chinese vendor from aiding in its 5G deployments. The decision is due to the financial burdens for local operators to replace already installed Huawei equipment, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump’s departure from the West Wing.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is considered to be a massive ally of Trump, whose government has frequently lobbied and pushed for financial programs and initiatives to sway Brazilian operators from buying equipment from Huawei.
However, as inauguration day looms ever closer for President-elect Joe Biden, Bolsonaro is looking to backtrack his view that Huawei shares private data with the Chinese government – a claim made by the Trump administration as the trade war between both world powers escalated.
Brazilian telecom operators were all against the Huawei ban to begin with, as all operators snubbed an invitation from U.S. undersecretary of state for economic growth and the environment Keith Krach, an effort to rally support.
Even the Brazil’s vice president, Hamilton Mourao, also stood against the ban, as he told reporters that any company which is able to prove their credentials in maintaining the country’s national sovereignty and data protection will be allowed to supply 5G equipment and services.
Nokia to help U.S. federal 5G cybersecurity following Huawei ban
Traditionally, companies and banks with high sensitive information install antivirus software to counter any possible security risks that could compromise their operations.
To counter this growing threat, Nokia has been selected to lend its 5G technology and expertise to a US federal project led by the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE).
This development came after Huawei was banned from deploying 5G communications equipment in countries like the U.S., Australia, Taiwan, the U.K., and others.
Nokia claimed the throne to become the main 5G solutions provider in NCCoE’s 5G Cybersecurity Project.
5G’s essential security features will be used for various industry sectors to mitigate risks and meet compliance requirements.
Nokia was selected by NCCoE to participate in the project due to its global success in 5G networks, including hardware and software, and mobile network security and 5G RAN expertise- to help enhance a reference design and build use cases on standards-based solutions.
Details of the project
The 5G Cybersecurity Project will identify several 5G use cases and determine how the elements of the 5G structural design can provide security capabilities to improve identified risks and meet industry sectors’ compliance requirements.
The extent of this project is to leverage the 5G standardized security features which are defined in 3GPP standards to provide enhanced cybersecurity capabilities built into network equipment and end user devices.
In parallel, many experts claim that 5G will bring significant benefits in the fight against cybercrime.
John Marinho, vice president at wireless comms industry body CTIA, says “5G will tailor security updates for every single device, and also boost encryption.”
In addition, leveraging 5G to define method and approaches to achieve: flexible 5G security architecture tailored for a government environment, government-controlled security policy, end-to-end security for the mobile device to the core and approaches to implement interoperable secure unclassified voice across Federal Government departments and agencies.
“5G will touch every aspect of our lives and security must be integrated up front rather than an add-on element of 5G networks,” Kevin Stine, Chief of the Applied Cybersecurity Division at NIST, said. “We’re looking forward to working with our project collaborators such as Nokia to show 5G’s advanced standards based security features as well an architecture that leverages foundational security capabilities available in cloud technologies,” he added.
5G RAN software
Nokia is also deploying their 5G RAN software and core solution along with IP-Backhaul for the project, to improve its 5g security.
The NCCoE has announced that Nokia is their main 5G solutions provider and collaborator. Nokia will partner with NCCoE’s 5G experts and other vendors to ensure a safe and secure transition from 4G to 5G networks.
Moreover, the crisis that happened due to Huawei’s ban came to the advantage of Nokia, as someone’s loss is someone’s gain.
On the road to digitization: Verizon expands 5G mobile and home service
The future holds many interesting facts regarding the fifth-generation technology in terms of its usage and benefits in many aspects in our daily lives leading to the digitization.
As such, Verizon announced the expansion of its 5G Ultra-Wideband (UWB) network to cover a greater number of homes and phones.
The American telecommunication company broadened its network to six more cities which will get Verizon’s home 5G service and three are getting its high-speed mobile 5G service this month, in parallel with its continued hard work of spreading fast millimeter-wave 5G across the country.
Details of expanding 5G
Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, said “We create the networks that move the world forward, and our 5G network brings incredible capabilities that will drive us all.” He added that “We’re committed to providing our customers with access to the newest technologies and experiences that will shape our future.”
While Verizon notes that its nationwide 5G service is available for 230 million people across 2,700 US cities, the network also has greater reach, reuses 4G airwaves and has performance similar to 4G.
In addition, the carrier is offering 12 months of access to the new Discovery+ service which IGN describes as “the ultimate streaming platform for foodies, nature lovers, and home repair aficionados,” in order to encourage more customers to become 5G Home subscribers.
New customers also receive a free smart home bundle of Amazon devices including an Echo Show 5, Ring Stick Up Cam, Echo Dot, and Amazon Smart Plug.
5G in homes during COVID
During the pandemic, Verizon’s $50 home gigabit service is a more captivating concept for many people than its outdoor-focused UWB 5G mobile service, however, it’s hard to know how many people in each city can get the home system.
The carrier asks customers to enter their address into a qualifier form to register the service instead of having a coverage map for the home service. For example, Chicago and Minneapolis fell short of the UWB mobile coverage service back in October 2020.
Nonetheless, some measures would change that fact.
Verizon partner Pivotal Commware, discussed in-home repeaters that, when placed on rooftops or outside windows, can help stretch 5G coverage to more homes. Also, Qualcomm plans on setting better 5G antennas that are too large for mobile devices but can fit into home internet units.
Digitization will grow and increase by having 5G reach homes and phones with smart homeowners being able to better access video and images of their property and receive more data faster than before on their smart phone regarding the occurrences taking place in their home.
“We ended 2020 with 2,700 cities with Nationwide 5G service serving 230 million people, 12 cities with access to our 5G Home service; We’re rolling out new services to more customers continuing the digital transformation Verizon has been driving,” Kyle Malady, Chief Technology Officer for Verizon said.
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