TSTT House, Port-of-Spain.

Majority State-owned TSTT is the only telecommunications provider in T&T that has 5G technology and will only be available in the Phoenix Park Industrial Park that is at present under construction.

This has been confirmed by the Secretary General of CANTO Teresa Wankin who said the Trade organisation is encouraging its members to adopt 5G because of its benefits to the economy.

She said in the region there are only two providers that have the technology.

“So right now we have two operators in the region that carry 5G, one more so than the other. So Telesur in Suriname, they’ve launched 5G last year and they are the most advanced I would say right now in terms of making inroads into 5G.”

Wankin added, “5G is revitalising the economy in Suriname, not just in the Telecom sector, but any other industry as well. And then to a lesser extent we, right here in Trinidad, you might be aware that TSTT would have launched 5G some time ago and they launched it for mostly businesses. Right now they are focusing mostly on Phoenix Park with 5G. So they’re doing something, more like a prototype testing and they are still focusing on their 4G networks, but it’s not like in Suriname where they have launched 5G on a larger scale, and getting a lot of traction from it, but I think it’s just a matter of the strategy that TSTT has a different strategy than Telesur in Suriname.”

The CANTO Secretary General said there are several reasons why a company may decide not to go full-fledged 5G. One of those is that the company may have an already existing 4G network that it would have spent money on.

“Now I’m not speaking from experience and I am not speaking of any one service provider, but their strategic objective would lie within where they want that company to go in a particular time frame. Now 5G, we all know the benefits of 5G. So after GSMA, we had GSMA come down to the region and did several talks and conversations with operators, with regulators and also with governments on the importance of 5G and the potential for economic development and spurring digitalisation across the region and stuff like that. So different companies might have different levels of what they want, when they want to implement 5G. But having said that, at CANTO we all know the potential of 5G, but our role as an industry association is to really educate the members and to show them the business case for it,” explained Wankin.

5G is the fifth generation network. It will allow you to have access to multiple devices at the same time. Further, it will offer stable data connections, improved bandwidth for accessing and sharing big data. All in all, 5G will minimise the lag times and improve the ability to compile data quickly. It means with 5G you can download the high-definition film in a fraction of seconds, which takes about an hour with the current 4G networks.

5G technology can deploy many new applications that will improve the quality of life including the development of smart homes, smart cities and even things like self driving vehicles.

Wankin said CANTO cannot say which company will switch over or when because there are many other issues to take into consideration and a company business plan is what would guide where they want to go with it.

“Having said that there are quite a few service providers in the region. When I say in the region, not residing in the region but service the region, who has 5G platform and who are also encouraging different businesses to go into that area, to take that slant and invest in that 5G network. From a security perspective we are also pushing it and making a case,” revealed Wankin.

She predicted that 5G will first be rolled out in industrial areas first but noted that pandemic has been an accelerator for digital transformation and has forced the world to look at digital transformation and a digitalisation agenda.

“Right here in Trinidad you’re seeing the inroads we’re making with the government, the establishing a ministry of digital transformation and that says, a lot about where the country is going as far as digitalisation,” CANTO Secretary General told Guardian Media.

Wankin added that many Caribbean countries and governments are seeing the importance of paying attention to the digital transformation as a means of economic development and expects more governments to establish ministries with similar portfolios.

Wankin said the International Telecommunications Union ITU had done several studies on digitalisation and digital implementation as a means of economic growth and development, not just in urban areas, but in rural areas for the empowerment of women and children and underserved communities.

She said all countries in the Caribbean will be increasing its use of technology to improve its economic performance and pointed to a recent announcement to grow berries in Tobago as an example of how technology could be a game changer in the region.

Wankin said 5G will also benefit the heavily reliant tourism countries in the Caribbean.

“Look for Barbados, look for Jamaica of course, Trinidad and Tobago is always there, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos as well. Turks and Caicos recently established a ministry that deals with digital transformation as well. They were the first to implement it to deal with COVID testing.”

She said smart homes, smart cities and security will benefit from 5G. “The internet is something that is to be reckoned with because it’s there to be used even for preventing cyber crime, for the securing of properties, the potential is so much Curtis I don’t want to sound like I’m just talking. There is a potential for every industry from agricultural, so in St Vincent they are doing some very short, small projects on Smart agriculture, right? And just recently, they started to talk in Tobago about doing a strawberry farm so there is a lot of potential,” Wankin ended.

CANTO and the Office of Utilities Regulation in Jamaica are hosting a seminar on 5G in which they look at whether the region is ready for the technology.