The National Post and Telecom Agency has invited operators to an auction about the 5G frequencies. FPX had the opportunity to chat with Andres Suazo, network expert at Telenor about expansion, opportunities and speed within the 5G network.
Andres, you work with networks at Telenor. How has Covid-19 affected your line of business?
– Most of us at Telenor work from home, for example. We mainly use Teams for meetings and conferences as it is considered more secure than other platforms. We can see in our networks that many swedes work from home and that uploaded data is increasing more than anything else. Uploaded data increases most during working hours between 9-16, pointing at video calls being what is increasing the most. We have also seen a significant increase in voice calls throughout Sweden. There are about 20 percent more calls, and 25% longer calls. You simply manage much more of your life over the phone than before. A functioning network is a prerequisite for everyone to be able to work from home, plug in remotely and keep closer contact with loved ones to a greater extent. The capacity in our networks is still very good and there is plenty of capacity left, we have a margin of hundreds of percent.
Auctioning of the block permits
In November, the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency will hold an auction of 5G frequencies in Sweden. The auction has been postponed several times since it was first advertised in 2019. Uncertainty about what has been related to security has contributed to the delays, Andres says.
– The delay has been due in part to the fact that PTS will consult with Säpo and the Swedish Armed Forces regarding those participating in the auction.
23 block permits within two frequency bands are to be announced and there are currently four major operators in Sweden, but this can change and more will be added. Up to four stakeholders are guaranteed 80MHz each. Swedish stakeholders have until last June to sign up for the auction and outline a number of criteria, including which suppliers they intend to choose.
– This time we will at least know which players are participating, previously it has been anonymous. In general we welcome the change that contributes to increased transparency and predictability. However, there is much more to be desired in terms of predictability and legal certainty linked to the consideration of those who apply to participate in the auction.
Are there any lessons learned from other countries’ auctions?
– In the past, it was more of a “beauty contest”, where the participants promised investments like increased coverage, or to set up a certain number of base stations, etc.Now the state has changed its mind and instead wants a predetermined remuneration as compensation.
– There is a lot to learn from previous auctions. I think PTS has done a good job developing the process for the better with small adjustments, such as guaranteeing at least four stakeholders 80MHz each in this auction. In Italy and Germany for example the price went down quite a lot after hundreds of bidding rounds lasting several days. You want to avoid that. However, the best in the class is Finland, which basically divides the spectrum into three equal parts to the market’s three players, so that they can instead invest rapidly in expanding their networks.
Today we measured the 3G net with an iPhone in central Stockholm and reached 15,2 mb/s, a pretty normal speed. Have you done any tests on 5G yet?
– We have done some tests in our test environment at the office in Råsunda where we reached up to 1850 mb/s on a telephone. We can say that there is extremely good capacity on the 5G network and that these high speeds really can be achieved. However, it must be remembered that the conditions will look completely different for the end user in a commercial network.
What major challenges do you see with the upcoming 5G rollout?
– Today’s iPhone does not support 5G, but newer models that are adapted to our frequencies in Sweden will be available this fall. This is something that obviously affects both individuals and companies that wants to take advantage of 5G. You will not need to change your SIM card right now, though. However, eventually there will be a transition to e-SIM cards in the long run.
We at Telenor are going to build the 5G network in Sweden, but to expand and modernize the entire mobile network will take several years and it is the largest expansion we have ever made on Telenor. We will expand the mobile network by more than 50 percent, an effort that is necessary in order to provide our customers with an even faster and more stable connection.
What will 5G mean for users?
– First of all higher speed, faster download and shorter response times on your cell phone. But the question remains: What kind of applications will we use in the future? I find it hard to say that, but a good tip is to look at South Korea. What happens there, and especially among young people, often comes to Europe and the States a few months later. Tik-tok, for example, became popular there a long time ago. When it started here it took over a large proportion of traffic in a short time. If we look further back we can also note that 4G revolutionized several industries and gave birth to new ones. Just like 4G enabled services such as Netflix, Spotify, Youtube and Uber, I think 5G will create new industries and services that we do not currently think we need.
How do you think transport, communications and infrastructure can be improved thanks to 5G?
– I absolutely believe that 5G can contribute to a better, more sustainable society where much more becomes connected. We can see how sensors and measuring points in society on cars, road networks, water systems, etc. can contribute to interesting analyzes that can be converted into services, from the best way to drive, to how we minimize emissions. With all this data you will understand more about how people live in society and in the city.
Data is undeniably valuable, but today it is often fragmented and owned by many different players. In order to exploit the full potential of data and create increased sustainability and quality of life in society, we need to be able to share data. How do we do it according to you?
– It is a huge challenge. Today, we at Telenor are only transporters of the data and supply the ones and zeros, so our space for acting is limited. I believe that community-supporting functions, such as government agencies as well as municipalities and county councils will open up and apply different APIs to their data without it costing a lot. In the private sector, I think it will be harder to get companies to share data without paying for it. But hopefully companies and authorities can find business models to share the data so that everyone can contribute to a better society.
Finally, we have to ask – does the new Corona virus come from 5G?
– No, that’s not true. It’s total nonsense!