The future of 5G in Guernsey remains unclear, as local providers invest in fibre broadband while we wait for a policy letter detailing the island's future telecoms strategy.
2020 was set to be the year of 5G - unbelievable speed, massive bandwidth and the end of buffering. However, Chinese spies, regulatory splits and the onset of the corona virus pandemic has culminated in a 5G-lite island.
The bidding process for licences and spectrum allowance for 5G was opened by CICRA in January of last year. The regulator – prior to its split – was withholding some spectrum in the first instance, but allowed the phase-in of 5G through trials.
“The leap from today’s fixed and mobile technology is significant; 5G is 20-40 times faster than the broadband most people currently use at home and work," the telecoms firms said of its trial. "The additional capacity available with 5G will enable the connection of the rapidly increasing number of digital devices used in the home, on the move and at work.”
JT continued to prepare for the rollout and was looking forward to commercial licences being available to local providers.
“JT are working with the regulator in Guernsey to explore 5G within the terms of the trial licences awarded. That work is ahead of the anticipated release of commercial licences to operate 5G networks in the Channel Islands,” said a spokesperson for JT.
A 5G future for Guernsey was met with some scepticism, with some in the community concerned about the impact on human health by having 5G masts dotted across the Bailiwick. The States of Guernsey looked to mitigate this concern with clarification from Public Health Services.
These worries didn’t slow down the impending 5G rollout, however, concerns about 5G technology giant Huawei did.
Pictured: Huawei suffered various sanctions from the United States due to suspicions of facilitating spying.
Huawei has been instrumental in developing and supplying 5G technology to telecoms providers across the UK. Concerns raised in the US that the Chinese firm could allow for back door access to products in the West and facilitate surveillance and espionage eventually led to all Huawei technology being banned in the States.
The UK and the Channel Islands followed suit, with all new Huawei equipment banned as of 31 December 2020. Ironically this has paved the way for an American company to be the next provider of 5G technology.
Elsewhere, to add to the confusion, the Channel Islands Regulatory Authority split. This delayed the 5G rollout even further, as the Guernsey and Jersey governing bodies would have to develop a new relationship.
“Critically this will also bring additional complexity to regulation of the telecommunications sector, including not least the 5G roll out and spectrum allocation,” said Interim Chair, Paul Masterton, at the time.
Sprinkle in a bit of Guernsey’s first Island Wide Election, a global pandemic and the chaos of Brexit, it’s perhaps no surprise that the policy letter we were supposed to get as a core segment of the Revive and Thrive campaign last year hasn’t been seen yet.
However, the future of our Telecoms infrastructure becomes more important by the day. With more people working from home intermittently or full time, the demand for faster broadband is constant. JT has been investing in fibre optic broadband, with works taking place last week to hook up the Market Building.
“The work in Market Hill and Church Square is part of our plans to provide high speed fibre to the businesses in that area and to connect that service to the Market Building,” said Paul Taylor, the company's Managing Director.
“Throughout 2021 we are planning further work to extend our fibre service to more business premises in other parts of the island. JT is the only operator offering full-fibre broadband in Guernsey and as such we will continue to extend the network, where and when possible, to meet the growing demand for this service.”
The commercial tender process will not start until a policy letter has been brought to the States by the Committee for Economic Development.
The States of Guernsey has suggested this should be at some point during the beginning of 2021. During a recent IOD breakfast Deputy Neil Inder highlighted it as one of the core elements of Guernsey’s Revive and Thrive campaign. Something which has been heavily publicised by local providers, including Airtel Vodafone.
"With connectivity as one of the key pillars of the States of Guernsey’s Revive and Thrive strategy," said Head of Airtel Technical, Rohit Khullar. "Our global reach and partnerships with Airtel and Vodafone means we are able to leverage those relationships to deliver a telecoms infrastructure that meets with commercial, security and network resilience requirements as defined by the Government of Guernsey and the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK."
"We look forward to working with all stakeholders to support and finalise The States of Guernsey’s Telecoms Strategy Policy letter."
For now, fibre optic broadband seems to be the preferred route – as to when and how we’ll get a full 5G rollout, it’s still buffering.
Pictured top: 5G could deliver up to 20 gigabits-per-second if rolled out completely.
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