Minister for Communication and Information Technology Hon. Timothy Masiu, through an official media release has announced that the government has requested mobile operator Bemobile and Huawei to halt any progress on a 5G trial, and for his department to administer thorough research on 5G Technology including looking at the potential health risks.
The Minister also officially requested for Bemobile to revisit its original plans on completing roll-out of 4G to the rural masses.
Minister Masiu pointed out that “as Minister for ICT, my primary obligation is to focus on increasing quality connectivity for the rural masses. Prioritising for rural coverage is not only for service delivery but is a long-term investment strategy for profitability and sustainability.”
Read the full statement below.
PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTRY FOR COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
29th December 2019
‘Our Focus Must be on Increasing Reliable Connectivity for the Rural Masses’
As many of you will be aware, I was invited to attend Bemobile’s 5G Prelaunch Event held on the 19th December 2019 at Telikom Rumana, Waigani to which Bemobile signed an MOU with its strategic partner Huawei to study and exploration of 5G in 2020. Since this event, there has been a wide range of discussion and debate within our ICT community on the issues of 5G Technology.
I wish to take this time to clarify the position and priority of the Ministry for ICT. Before I do this, let me first highlight what we know about 5G Technology.
5G and its Associated Benefits.
By now, many of you in the domestic ICT Community are aware that 5G is the next generation of mobile wireless network technology that will augment and may eventually replace 2G/3G and 4G LTE technology.
5G offers drastically faster speeds over 4G LTE — primarily because there will be more spectrum available for 5G and it uses more advanced radio technology. 5G will also deliver much lower latency than 4G, which will spur the growth of new applications like we have never seen before. In theory, top speeds for 5G are between 1 and 10Gbps download speeds and 1 millisecond latency. Realistically minimum average download speeds are expected at 50 Mbps and latency at 10ms, compared to current average 4G speeds around 15Mbps and 50ms.
Implications of 5G Rollout.
While 4G LTE relies upon relatively few large infrastructures that are built miles apart, 5G will consequentially require higher number of small cells much closer together. These mini 5G base stations when installed in urban areas, are expected to be placed on top of streetlights or on the sides of buildings every few hundred feet in urban areas. Estimates indicate that literally tens of thousands of cells will have to be constructed. Considering PNG and its geographical context, building a nationwide network like this will be a challenge. Not only will it be expensive, but it will take time.
Health Concerns of 5G.
Another ongoing concern is the potential health risks of 5G ‘exposure’. Many analysts are claiming that the greater radio frequency (RF) of 5G alone constitutes a risk. 5G Technology uses between 24 to 90 gigahertz frequency to which some critics assert that the RF radiation portion of the electromagnetic spectrum makes it dangerous for living organisms.
On the other hand, other experts claim that the most important criterion on classifying if an RF radiation is dangerous is if it is ionizing or non-ionizing radiation and because 5G is non-ionizing in nature and since non-ionizing radiation doesn’t cause DNA damage or tissue damage, the concern about cell phone RF radiation is misplaced.
Halting of Any 5G Roll Out
As the Minister responsible for the ICT Sector, it is my core duty to continuously explore new technology and harness its applications for the people. As we all know, new technology is always initially expensive, has certain high risks factors, but if comprehensively researched and understood well, it can be harnessed to have excellent applications and benefits for our people.
Being a responsible Government however, the Ministry must explore technology with due diligence and care. It is important that we fully validate and mitigate all associated high risks that may have adverse effects on our people and their land.
On this note, and after being briefed thoroughly on the implications of 5G, I am satisfied and hereby make the following statements.
(1) I request for all operators and particularly Bemobile (and Huawei) to stop any progress on 5G trial.
(2) The Department of Communication and Information Technology is to administer a thorough research on 5G Technology and this is to include potential health risks of 5G. On the matter of health risks, there should be close consultation and validation with the Department of Health.
(3) I request for KTHL to work closely with my Department to undertake comprehensive awareness to key stakeholders and the public on 5G technology for all to understand its proven benefits and risks.
(4) I also request for Bemobile to revisit its original plans on completing roll out of 4G to the rural masses.
I will be immediately writing to my colleague Minister responsible for Public Enterprise to take note of my advice.
Priorities for this Government.
As we all know connectivity is globally recognized as the strategic enabler to economic growth. There are many practical examples cutting across all social and economic sectors proving the importance of connectivity for driving economic growth.
I want to inform the general public that while I am stressing the importance to continuously explore new technology, as Minister for ICT, my primary obligation is to focus on increasing quality connectivity for the rural masses. Prioritizing for rural coverage is not only for service delivery but is a long-term investment strategy for profitability and sustainability.
By 2018, Papua New Guinea’s state owner operator network coverage has a 42 percent mobile population penetration while fixed line internet is at 11 percent. By February of 2020 we will also see the launching of the National Transmission Network (which will by then constitute the Kumul Sea Cable Network and Coral Sea Fibre Cable) which will result in a massive increase in wholesale bandwidth speed, reliability, and cost reduction.
Moving ahead the Ministry for ICT under my leadership will focus on developing and implementing smart strategies particularly under the NICTA’s Universal Access and Service Fund (UAS) to address the ‘last mile’ and effectively increase connectivity of population coverage from 40 to 75 percent within the next 5-7 years while at the same time pushing for introduction of more digital government services. In the coming year, I will be notifying the UAS Board and NICTA in writing on these Governments targets and this should clearly set out the priorities of the Government for utilising the UAS Fund.
With that, I would like to finally take this time to wish all stakeholders and the general public a wonderful holiday and a happy new year. May our good Lord continue to bestow more blessings to our beautiful nation.
Authorized for Release
HON. TIMOTHY MASIU, MP
Minister for Communication and Information Technology