Guernsey is getting ready to implement a series of changes that will aim to put it among the top echelons of the world when it comes to digital connectivity.
The Future of Telecoms strategy is a central component of the Economic Development Strategy published last month, and it lays out how the existing competitive market, regulation, and targeted government support can ensure the island is one of the most digitally connected communities in the world.
The three critical objectives of the strategy are to bring fibre-optic broadband to the business districts of the island, to hit a target of up to 100 Megabits per second to homes and to bring in 5G.
The implementation and monitoring of the strategy will be overseen by the Future Telecoms Oversight Group, comprising political and officer representation from the Committee for Economic Development and the Policy & Resources Committee, as well as expertise from the Development & Planning Authority.
Pictured: Part of the Economic Development Strategy focuses on digital connectivity
As stated in the Economic Development Strategy policy letter, the Committee will provide an update on progress against the telecommunications strategy by the end of 2018.
"When we talk about Guernsey being one of the most digitally connected places in the world, we’re referring to the physical infrastructure we have today and what we need for tomorrow," Colin Vaudin, States Chief Information Officer, said.
"Ensuring we are appropriately digitally connected is an integral part of people’s daily lives. The number of connected devices in households is increasing, combined with higher data usage for things such as video streaming or people choosing to run home offices. Demand is only going to increase and whether it is at work, at home and on our mobile devices we need to ensure we can be connected at anytime and anywhere.
"The requirement for access to high-speed broadband is rapidly moving beyond entertainment only, and into the wider setting as a lifestyle, social and community necessity. This strategy lays out, in detail, how we will ensure all islanders will have super-fast broadband available to their homes and ensure we can, as quickly as possible, have access to the next generation mobile technology."
Guernsey currently has basic broadband supplied to 97% of residential homes, and the target for the super fast broadband will be around 80% of homes. There are also three suppliers of 4G mobile coverage at the moment.
But the strategy identifies the need to develop Guernsey’s future economy saying there is a "pressing need" to enhance connectivity in order to "ensure that Guernsey can maximise the benefits of digital from both a social and business perspective".
The strategy aims to build on the foundation technologies of fibre, mobile and copper to deliver increased capacity and performance to island homes and businesses as technology evolves, ensuring that Guernsey’s connectivity remains world class.
5G will account for as many as 1.4 billion connections worlwide by 2025, and the Channel Islands is having to make moves to prepare for its own switch over.
5G itself is being described as more than a new generation of technologies - for consumers, it will mean super-fast data download speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second, more than ten times faster than the current best available speed in the UK with 4G of 16.51 megabytes per second.
Working closely with the local mobile operators pioneering 5G, the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities are engaging with the States in both Bailiwicks and key stakeholders to develop a framework for the introduction of new licenses and spectrum for 5G. These are necessary to ensure that the local economy and particularly the digital sector can harness the power of 5G for the benefit of us all.
The Competition Authority is working with the schools in both islands to ensure the views of young people are considered. School representatives from both Islands will be asked to share their thoughts and ideas which will be published, with the best being invited to present to government and operators at a 5G Summit being held later in the year.
It has already held discussions with Ofcom (the UK telecoms regulator) to ensure that appropriate spectrum (radio frequencies) will be available locally.
Cliff Mason, Spectrum Policy Manager for Ofcom said: "Ofcom supports the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities by authorising spectrum licences across the Channel Islands. We will continue to work closely with the team to support local operators in making available the spectrum in bands likely to be suitable for 5G technology."
Tim Ringsdore, Director at CICRA added: "The Channel Islands have always been at the forefront of innovation and we are determined to provide the support the industry needs to be successful, working closely with the operators to build a world class network and solutions that will help businesses and residents enjoy the very latest technological developments."
Above: At an IOD meeting earlier this year, CICRA, Sure, the States and other parts of Guernsey's telecoms network gathered to explain how 5G and fibre could change Guernsey fundamentally.
Sure are one of the three local providers currently with 4G available. It has said it is committed to developing 5G capababilities on island, and is working closely with the States and CICRA.
"We want to continue to bring innovative mobile technology to our customers to enhance their digital experiences and meet their changing needs. We expect 5G to completely transform mobile connectivity and act as an economic enabler. It will change how we think about networks and build the associated infrastructure and the way our society connects through the Internet of Things (IoT)," Ian Kelly, CEO of Sure, said.
"5G will facilitate very exciting developments in our communities but as an emerging technology the exact details have yet to be finalised and the potential challenges of introducing it need to be discussed and resolved. The work has already started to ensure that the islands maximise this opportunity and we’re looking forward to working together to see how 5G can be tested and delivered locally for the benefit of the islands and islanders.”
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