Mobile telecommunications networks are constantly evolving, due to innovations that integrate existing infrastructure to improve performance. Thus, given that the world’s first commercial LTE service (officially launched in Sweden and Norway in December 2009) offered peak speeds of 12 Mbps. It should be remembered that, ten years later, the speed is contrasting, since those currently offered LTE-A (LTE Advanced) in Latin America generally exhibit peak speeds above 300 Mbps.
However, the process of bringing these new services to end customers involves a series of review and validation procedures that allow carriers to see that technological innovation really works and that their performance is desired. Not only is the performance of network or software infrastructure innovation considered, it is also considered the impact that changes made by the upgrade can lead to services accessed by customers, depending on the cell they have.
For example, if the penetration of the phones that can access the new service is 2%, the operator has very low incentive to invest in improving the service offered (in addition to the advantages of advertising as an innovative positioning entity). Your task will surely focus through changes in your device offering and new promotions to encourage the increase in the number of customers who can access the most advanced services. Once a critical mass of users is obtained, the investment in the improvement of network performance is justified.
When technological change involves the deployment of a new telecommunications network, the processes are similar. The operator, in collaboration with all its manufacturers of interest, establishes limited testing of the new technology in a controlled environment of real customers. In this way, you can get detailed information about the performance of the technology as well as the demand peaks of the new technology, and how it can change under different scenarios. Thus, various tests of the new technology are made in different field conditions.
Once again, the launch of the new technology will take into account factors ranging from regulatory issues to brand positioning. Regardless of the strategy, you want to implement with the new technology, an extremely important element is to establish internal guidelines to promote device replacement to increase the number of devices on the market that can be connected to the new network and thus start accelerating your return from an investment.
As you can imagine, at this time the mobile technology being “tested” throughout Latin America is commonly known as 5G. Many of these tests are focused on seeing your performance indoors, where you have to access the mobile connection through radio frequencies in millimeter bands. It’s not the same as trying to connect to mobile broadband from a hotel room in Cancun where the hotel walls are designed to withstand a hurricane attack, with service in the 800 MHz band to make a combination of 3 , 5 GHz and 28 GHz.
The bands to be used for testing are very important to the performance of any new mobile network and have a direct impact on the investment needed to deploy the new technology. When choosing which bands can use an operator to make a test, there are two alternatives, the first is to use a band that has already been allocated. The second would be to request a temporary license for regulatory authorities to allow a test to be run on a specific frequency that has not yet been allocated to the market or is not for operator access.
In addition, the field tests also serve to begin to see how the new mobile devices work in their interaction with the new network. In this way, important data can be obtained that will be used later in the advertising and marketing campaigns of the new services. To achieve this goal, it is very common for operators to conduct more than one test under different geographic conditions, and demand for a better understanding of the capabilities of the new technology. Generally these tests are done with different suppliers simultaneously, which allows a better contrast and comparison of the products offered to the operator.
Obviously, at this time, the networks that are being “tested” throughout Latin America and the Caribbean are called 5G. What has not been heard in the press? Any telecommunications expert with basic knowledge of how the industry works can easily answer this question: it is the carrier’s responsibility to publicly announce whether or not it is performing a test in 5G or any other technology. There are those who decide to do so, as they have been seen in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile or Puerto Rico, while there are others that in early 2018, without disclosure to the media, coordinate five different tests with several providers of infrastructure, with the intention of launching its services commercially in 2019.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to clarify that the trend inclines in favor of not divulging what is being proved, that it is a new technology. It is also important to know that when conducting a test, does not necessarily imply that the technology will be launched immediately. Any specialist with basic telecommunications knowledge knows that the time to launch a new technology responds to the business strategy of each operator.
The good news for Latin America is that there are already several countries that have a radio spectrum allocation schedule set for 5G launches, which may not be significantly delayed, with 2019 being the first year of development of this technology in the region. Countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico have identified spectrum in millimeter bands that will eventually be allocated to enable 5G growth in the region.
The question will be whether the countries of the region decide to tilt the shared use of the 28 GHz band as it does in the United States, where both satellite and 5G commercial services are already being offered at this frequency. This is the big unknown.