The 5G network, a new fracture of territories?

The technological sophistication of the 5G compares with the simplicity of our almost abandoned interior

For its extraordinary relevance, I ask permission to the readers of Sul Informação to transcribe a part of the Resolution of the Council of Ministers (RCM, nº7-A/2020) of 7 February on the introduction in Portugal of the 5th generation of mobile communications.

"The new networking technology that is now emerging is the 'gigabit generation', which is estimated to allow for the faster transmission of a much larger volume of data (a hundred times more), practically instantaneously (latency fifty times less), as well. like connecting many more devices (one million devices per km2).

In addition to communication between people, it is now the communication between things (the «Internet of things») that finds a technological environment to significantly change our daily lives and our way of life, making it possible to collect and treat, in real time, volumes of information that are unthinkable with currently available technologies, allowing not only to optimize and improve existing processes, but, above all, to enhance the development of different approaches, whether in terms of business models, service provision and social organization , namely in transport, health, industry, logistics, energy, entertainment and agriculture.

The 5G network makes it possible to create synergies with other technologies, namely artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things and the integration of satellite networks. Therefore, the country needs to have 5G networks in the sectors that contribute most to changes in competitiveness and quality of life, whether in universities and public schools, research centers, industrial zones, ports and airports, in all modes of transport, in hospitals and health centers, or in the management of cities. And it must do so in such a way that the opportunity is granted to the entire territory and the entire population, so that 5G does not accentuate regional asymmetries and, on the contrary, contributes to combating them, leveraging a digital transformation of society.

In the European Union, it was defined that, in each Member State, at least one major city would be prepared for 5G by the end of 2020 and that all urban areas and main land transport routes would have uninterrupted 5G coverage by 2025, It is the understanding of this Government to extend the extension of 5G coverage to the entire national territory by 2030. As it is not possible to guarantee this level of coverage immediately, this opportunity should, in any case, take advantage of this opportunity to seek to expand the coverage of the territory through the current 4G networks, creating incentives for this purpose.

Thus, under the terms of paragraph g) of article 199 of the Constitution, the Council of Ministers resolves to ensure the following goals of a strategic nature for the country:

i) By the end of 2020, at least one city located in low-density territories, according to the delimitation adopted by the Interministerial Coordination Commission in the determination of March 26, 2015, and one coastal city, with more than 50 thousand inhabitants must be covered with the 5G network, through individual networks of each operator, shared networks or wholesale networks;

ii) By the end of 2023, they must have 5G networks:
I) Municipalities with more than 75 thousand inhabitants;
II) All public hospitals, 50% of public health centers located in low-density territories and 50% of public health centers on the coast, which are not already covered by a high-speed fixed network;
III) All universities and polytechnic institutes;
IV) 50% of business location areas or industrial parks in coastal municipalities and 50% of business location areas or parks located in low-density territories;
V) International airports;
VI) Priority military installations, as defined by the member of Government responsible for the area of ​​national defence;

iii) By the end of 2024, they must have 5G networks:
I) Municipalities with more than 50 thousand inhabitants;
II) 95% of the layout of national highways with traffic exceeding 7,3 million vehicles/year;
III) AA 22, A 23, A 24 and A 25; National Roads No. 1 and No. 2;
IV) 95% of the Braga to Lisbon rail line and the Atlantic rail corridor;
V) 98% of the suburban train lines in the Lisbon and Porto metropolitan areas;
VI) 98% of the Lisbon, Porto and Margem Sul do Tejo subway networks;
VII) The Port of Sines, the Port of Setúbal, the Port of Lisbon, the Port of Leixões and the Port of Aveiro;

iv) By the end of 2025, they must have 5G networks:
I) Tendentially 90% of the population, having access to mobile broadband services with a typical usage experience of a speed of not less than 100 Mbps;
II) The remaining national commercial ports;
III) Highways with traffic exceeding 863 thousand vehicles/year;
IV) The Lisbon/Faro; and,
V) The remaining military installations.

To request ANACOM to study the introduction of mechanisms that benefit operators who undertake to ensure, within a period to be determined, individually or in conjunction with others, 4G coverage of all public schools at all levels of education and the railway line of the North.

Determine that the revenue from the procedure for allocating the radio spectrum to the 5G network is used to create measures to support projects to stimulate digital transition and inclusion, namely in the area of ​​education, research, production of digital content, the training or promotion of digital literacy, as well as the digital transformation of companies and the Public Administration, under the terms to be defined by the Government. Also recommend that ANACOM award an award for the best applications related to education, production and availability of digital content, city management, tourism, work and inclusion, safety, industry, health, energy and environmental protection and sustainability.

Determine that, in execution of this resolution, the Government must:

a) Identify the financing instruments for 5G projects, which can serve as a basis for the development of 5G projects and technological tests, taking into account the regions and sectors of the national economy;

b) Identify and adopt public interest needs relating to security, national defense and civil protection related to 5G networks, namely with regard to the future of emergency networks;

c) Develop and publicize studies on the possible impact of 5G on public health in order to provide the population with accurate information on the subject;

d) Promote scientific, research and pro-entrepreneurship initiatives that create the conditions to foster the endogenous capacity to design technologies, produce digital content, design business models, discuss technical standards and strengthen the population's critical capacity in co-definition and absorption future connectivity solutions;

e) Support the development of use-case tests in the areas of maritime platform management and rural territory management using 5G systems;

f) Encourage the creation of "technological free zones" where experimental projects can be developed;

g) Develop initiatives with a view to promoting energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in the installation of 5G systems».

Having arrived here, I can't resist comparing this RCM of February 7th on the 5G network with another RCM of March 27th (RCM nº18/2020) relating to the revision of the interior development program. The comparison is eloquent.

The technological sophistication of the 5G compares with the simplicity of our almost abandoned interior. I confess that I do not know what to think about the future of territorial cohesion, such is the number of good intentions and professions of faith that are formulated in both cases.

One thing is certain and can be taken for granted: we will have the 5G network in some parts of the territory and we will also have a 5V country, a country with many speeds and very different and uncertain futures.

Final Notes

However, what remains unclear is much more than what is exposed in the two RCM. Otherwise let's see:

– It is said that the 5G network is very energy efficient and that it helps to reduce our ecological footprint, but there are still many doubts and a lot to be clarified regarding the impact on the environment and public health;

– It is said that, when territorial coverage is too costly for operators, the State should make the investment in cooperation with the operators (the PN of Peneda Gerês), however, the relations between the operators, the State and the regulator already knew better days,

– It is said that the proceeds from the sale of electromagnetic spectrum licenses will be allocated to a 5G Financing Fund, however, there are still doubts about the financial incentives to improve network coverage through the current 4G network,

– It is said that public health and cyber security are assured and under constant monitoring, however, we do not see convincing clarifications on the subject,

– It is said that the 5G network makes us enter the era of hyper connectivity, however, it is unclear how to reconcile the level of use, the quality of the service provided and the price to the customer and, in this way, equity and territorial cohesion.

For me, the 5G network will have a double accumulation effect: it increases the agglomeration effects where they already exist (the coast) and it increases the dispersion effects where they already exist (the interior).

Thus, the most remote interior will be in the hands of platforms for local accommodation, nature tourism, extreme sports, fauna and flora observation, home support, among others, that is, they will be territories on an outpatient basis.

And the procession still only goes in the forecourt. I will return to the subject.

Happy holidays, until September.