FLOW takes cautious approach to 5G technology

Stephen Price, FLOW Jamaica Country Manager addresses participants during the MSBM 5G Public Forum at the University of the West Indies, Mona last Wednesday.

Amid talk and concerns about the impending introduction of 5G, telecommunications firm, FLOW Jamaica is taking a cautious approach to the evolving disruptive technology.

The development described as an expensive proposition, by Stephen Price, the company’s Country Manager, is expected to revolutionise data usage and increase integration and reliance on mobile across the consumer and business markets, transforming lifestyles and industries. However, there are some challenges that come with the introduction of 5G technology.

Among these are the affordability of the spectrum and the need for significantly more towers to facilitate signal transmission.

Price was among the presenters at a public forum titled: “For Better or Worse? The Pros and Cons of 5G” hosted by the Mona School of Business and Management last Wednesday, February 5.

“We’ll need to have several public and private stakeholder engagements around 5G technology to understand the benefits, the pros and the cons as well as the general direction we [Jamaica] should take.  The fact is that the cost is too high for a country of our size and 5G will require at least three to four times the number of towers,” he shared.

Within the telecommunications industry, the transition to 5G is expected to generate a windfall for network, infrastructure, and equipment vendors. In fact, global research and advisory firm Gartner predicts that worldwide, 5G network infrastructure revenues will reach US$4.2 billion this year, recording year-over-year growth of 89 percent.

While FLOW is focused on continued investment in building out its network to bring more persons into the digital space as well as shore up speed and capacity, Price is also careful to note that consumer needs will be a key factor in rolling out 5G.

There are already multiple deployments of 5G technology in countries such as South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.

It will, however, take some time before the technology is in operation in Jamaica.

According to Price, “As a telecommunications provider, we have an obligation to manage the expectations of our consumers, clear up the myths and increase the awareness of the technology.”

Additionally, he noted that in order to satisfy the consumer need for internet access, capacity and speed as well as affordability and reliability, telecommunication providers will need to focus on the required capital investment, market structure, spectrum availability and regulations.

Dr. Maria Myers-Hamilton, Managing Director at Spectrum Management Authority, is of the view that continued dialogue, as well as partnerships could address some of the health and environment concerns raised about 5G. She further highlighted the need for Jamaica to conduct its own research into the technology.

Dr David McBean (right), Executive Director, Mona School of Business & Management makes a point to panellists at the MSBM 5G Public Forum on February 5. From left are: Dr. Maria Myers-Hamilton, Managing Director, Spectrum Management Authority; Rohan Pottinger, Chief Technical Officer, Digicel Jamaica and Stephen Price, Country Manager, FLOW Jamaica.

“We have the capacity to serve the Caribbean.  We need to take ownership. We were once on the cutting edge of technology; we were the leaders in ICT. Let us partner together, build our own lab, do our testing here, then we’ll have our facts,” she declared, noting that studies done in first world countries may not be applicable to Jamaica. 

Other presenters at the forum chaired by Dr. David McBean, Executive Director, Mona School of Business and Management were: Dr. Paul Aitken, Senior Lecturer & General Manager- Mona Tech Engineering Services Limited; Rohan Pottinger, Chief Technology Officer, Digicel Jamaica, and Lyndel McDonald, Manager, Telecommunications Systems, Spectrum Management Authority.