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Gibtelecom announces 5G trial and sets groundwork for ‘Smart Gibraltar’

Gibtelecom is preparing to bring 5G technology to homes and businesses on the Rock by the end of 2020, with a trial on the cutting-edge technology due to start later this year.

The company said the new technology would provide transformative data connectivity that would help shape societies in future, including Gibraltar.

This announcement, in partnership with Swedish multinational Ericsson, was made during a showcase event by the telecommunications company opposite its head offices in John Macintosh Square yesterday.

Led by Gibtelecom CEO Noel Burrows, the launch was also attended by José Antonio López, CEO of Ericsson Iberia, and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, all of whom addressed the audience.

Following their speeches Jansen Reyes, Gibtelecom Director of Technology, gave a presentation on what 5G technology actually is and what it can achieve for both personal and business use.

“The reason we launch 5G in Gibraltar is to ensure we give our customers the best connective data experience as we place super-fast data at the centre of our strategy,” said Mr Burrows.

5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology aimed to provide faster data connectivity.

Mr Burrows believes this will make businesses more efficient and give consumers more access to more information faster than ever before.

He also noted that autonomous cars, immersive education and smart communities will all rely on 5G.

“We are in a period of rapid change, and in the future everything is going to be transformed by 5G,” he said.

“We are going to experience a technological shift that will transform people, businesses and societies,” he added, noting that the technology will assist in the creation “of smart cities like Smart Gibraltar.”

Mr López knows all about the benefits of 5G, having had the system installed in his home and using it also when on the road.

Launched with Vodafone in Spain on June 15, he told the Chronicle: “I have to say I am impressed.”

“I am using it at home and on the move and the thing I am most impressed about is the latency. Suddenly whatever you ask of your device it is there now,” he added.

He noted that his children in particular are delighted with the speed at which their videos are downloading onto their tablets.

“They no longer think about wifi, they want 5G,” he said.

The Ericcson Iberia CEO has been in Gibraltar on other occasions, namely the launch of 4G+, and has been part of Ericsson’s launch of 5G in 10 different countries including the US, Korea and Australia. Sweden, China and Japan will launch later this year, he said.

Addressing the audience, Mr Picardo said the world was going through a revolution and that “it’s not even the end of the beginning” of this revolution.

He noted that he will soon have glasses that will enable him to see his WhatsApp messages without having to look at his phone.

But, for this and other forms of advancements in technology to happen, a person needs to be connected at the right speed.

“We need to know that we have the reliability in the connections to ensure we will have the information that people are trying to get to us,” he said.

“Gibraltar needs to be on the forefront of this revolution, we need to ensure like in the industrial revolution that the luddites don’t win, that they don’t persuade people that we should not be at the forefront of this revolution.”

“Gibraltar has always had the ability to be at the forefront of these developments. If we don’t then we will be digitally poor,” he added.

He also stated that “the ancient world’s Library of Alexandria is like nothing” compared to what is available online, adding that he wanted people in Gibraltar to experience fast speeds and access to information on demand.

“Gibtelecom has my full support in the roll out of 5G, in the experimental work that needs to be done to ensure we get it right from the word go,” he said.

“Gibraltar will always continue to be at the forefront of these developments once we have a company as skilful as Gibtelecom has demonstrated it has been in the roll out of digital in Gibraltar in the past 15 to 20 years and partners as able as Ericsson holding our hands.”

Mr Reyes gave a presentation at the event and said: “5G technology will revolutionise the way we communicate and carry out our business.”

“Other than enhanced speeds, perhaps the biggest advantage of 5G is its extremely high responsiveness, reliability, and consequent ability to allow for devices to talk to each other. In this day and age the “Internet of Things” has become a buzz word for everything that has an internet connection.”

“This includes objects, appliances, sensors, devices and applications. With 5G, this can become a reality. The possibilities are endless. Smart homes and smart cities will become the norm,” he added.

5G ROLLOUT

This year Gibtelecom will trial some use cases.

“This means trialling some of these ideas around phones to work, enabling wireless into the household and some of these ideas will enable us to understand how best to deploy this in Gibraltar,” Mr Burrows told the Chronicle.

He noted that customers not testing the 5G will not notice any difference until the product is launched at the end of 2020.

The length of time between the trial and implementation is down to research being needed as to what is required.

“We don’t understand the technology in the context of Gibraltar. It’s different ways of the wireless, the infrastructure and we want to get all of that right before we launch. That enables us to go through a trial scenario and then plan the launch and that means we can then roll out the network,” he said.

“From an engineering point of view there is a big chunk of work to be done,” he added.

Regarding the potential cost of 5G to the user Mr Burrows said: “We are going to research some scenarios. You have seen different models in different countries such as Verizon in the States are charging $5 or $10 more for access and in some countries they are not charging more.”

“In some countries people are used to paying more for faster speeds which are closer to what you see in landlines and we need to test all of that to see what customers will accept,” he added.

On how 5G may transform various industries such as gaming on the Rock, Mr Burrows said this was a conversation he needs to have with such companies and that he aims to meet with these businesses in the coming months.

Pics by Eyleen Gomez