Sri Lanka is by far one of the cheapest countries for Internet usage. Though, having the cheapest internet data usage rates doesn’t always guarantee that you’re getting fast internet. With the ITU releasing the specifications for the 5th Generation mobile network, 5G has certainly been the talk of the town. We even had Gobinath S. Govindasamy, the Chief Technical Officer at Ericsson Sri Lanka giving us his thoughts on 5G at this year’s Google I/O Extended Sri Lanka organized by Mobitel.
SLT:The first telco to test Pre-5G Technology in South Asia
Recently, SLT (Sri Lanka Telecom), along with Huawei Technologies successfully carried out South Asia’s first comprehensive field trial of Pre-5G LTE Advanced Pro technology, laying the groundwork for the next generation of broadband technologies. They used a technology called Advanced Carrier Aggregation Technology where multiple LTE carriers can be used in tandem, thus increasing the overall data throughput. Using this technology, SLT successfully reached a downlink speed of 855.9 Mbps in TD-LTE 2500MHz band. In addition, they also achieved a latency of 5.5 milliseconds, thus beating the record of 15 milliseconds latency, which is the current latency for existing LTE Advanced networks.
Furthermore, the folks over at SLT also tested upcoming related 5G technologies such as inter-eNodeB carrier aggregation, multi-user MIMO, soft sector splitting and Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP). These tests also proved to be successful in field conditions.
What does all this mean?
Basically, all these tests are to ensure that once 5G is officially launched, we would have carrier/s who can successfully implement them. This also essentially multiplies the capacity that can be delivered over a wireless channel, allowing a carrier such as SLT to ensure higher downlink data rates for more customers using the same frequency resources and existing LTE cell sites, and any commercial LTE device. The higher the downlink speeds, the faster consumers can view content such as HD and 4K videos. It also means a much lower latency than currently available meaning that you no longer have to blame the lag for a failed grenade toss or a mistimed use of an ultimate ability. On a larger scale, 5G has a much better efficiency in terms of spectrum which is beneficial to Sri Lanka as frequency spectrum is a valuable national resource.
This field trial was conducted as part of an ongoing trial of Pre-5G LTE Advanced Pro technology undertaken by SLT and its technological partners. The aim of the test was to improve the fixed wireless broadband services offered to the customers in Sri Lanka. The Pre-5G LTE Advanced Pro network is expected to be commercially launched by the end of 2017 with further developments being carried out for successful launch of 5G by the year 2020 which is the year in which 5G standardization is expected to be completed.
It’s not all hunky dory, though
While all this is well and good, it would also benefit the majority of users if Telcos took the relevant steps needed to ensure that while providing fast internet, they also provide stable internet. For example, if you have a FTTH connection, you would have discovered that in the event of a power failure, you are unable to use your landline as that also goes through the FTTH router. While not a major issue to some people, it can be a major annoyance to some, especially if you’re at home and your mobile phone is dead and you need to take or answer a call. In addition, despite claims by Telcos that Sri Lanka is covered in terms of 3G and 4G coverage, there are blind spots even around Colombo where 3G and 4G access is hard to come by.
So, while 5G is going to be really really fast internet, it would also be very helpful if the existing 3G and 4G coverage of Telcos was bolstered in order to provide access to all citizens of Sri Lanka.