Governments and high-technology companies have made substantial progress in the advancement of the fifth-generation cellular network technology (5G), and considering its potential advantages to economies and systems that fully embrace it, it’s not too hard to see why.
Telecommunications industry trade group, the GSM Association (GSMA) on Tuesday, July 30 said the availability of 5G technology would increase the gross domestic product (GDP) of sub-Saharan Africa by USD 5.6 billion.
In its latest forecast on the global impact of 5G, the GSMA predicted a huge impact on the GDP of developing regions if mmWave spectrum is made available. By 2034, in the developing economies of South East Asia, it expects the figure to be USD 45 billion, with the effect on Latin America valued at USD 20.8 billion.
GSMA upheld the use of mmWave for 5G services to fuel global economic growth of USD 565 billion by 2034, but warned that projected figures could be jeopardised by attempts to block use of some frequencies by the space industry. The 5G mmWave spectrum will be allocated at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) from 28 October to 22 November. The association said 3,000 delegates from over 190 nations will meet in Egypt to agree on how radio waves capacity will be used.
5G provides the ultimate opportunity for the satellite industry to break out of its niche and for satellite service providers to offer a much wider range of services, while enabling mobile and fiber operators to leverage satellite connectivity to expand their coverage areas and offload their networks through critical functionalities like multicasting, backhauling, and mobility access where satellite is a better access technology.
According to the African Space Industry Annual Report, 2019 Edition, communication services via FSS and MSS currently bring in USD 1 billion to the industry and is projected to rise to USD 1.04 billion by 2024. Leading communication satellite companies in Africa include ALCOMSAT, NIGCOMSAT, NILESAT and RASCOM which all bring over USD 350 million of yearly revenue.
In a statement released as preparations for the event are being made, the GSMA slammed “protectionist attitudes” from some in the space industry, adding that these unnamed stakeholders threatened to derail the expected 5G economic growth. Among the critics of the blanket use of mmWave frequencies for 5G are NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in the U.S, which claim the technology would interfere with the collection of data related to climate and weather forecasting.
The “space industry” agrees that societal impacts are at stake, but sees the priorities differently. Meteorologists are pushing to protect the frequencies which are critical for Earth observation from space and say that lives could potentially be at risk otherwise. Scientists have warned that 5G systems could harm weather forecasting. One concern that has been raised, for example, is around the 23.8 GHz frequency. Water vapour emits a faint signal at this wavelength, and that data is monitored and measured by weather satellites for forecasts.
Some weather experts say 5G phone networks may transmit near a frequency similar to that emitted by water vapour, and so could skew readings or make them invalid.
The GSMA’s head of spectrum, Brett Tarnutzer, said, “We can’t let misinformation and the overly protectionist attitudes of the space industry derail the 5G revolution. Over-stringent protection will limit the spectrum needed for 5G and have huge consequences for society. This could put the economic and innovation bonanza accompanying ultra-fast networks on hold for a generation.”
The GSMA report says that releasing 5G mmWave could benefit energy production, transportation, professional services, mining and medical treatment. It says that without adequate support at WRC-19, the deployment of these essential 5G services could be delayed for up to a decade.
Click here to read the full GSMA report.
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.