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Huawei-made 5G antennas to be installed in car parks?

News | Published:

5G antennas manufactured by controversial Chinese technology company Huawei could be installed at Sand Street and Minden Place car parks, subject to planning approval.

Tony Moretta, Digital Jersey

Telecoms company Sure, which has applied to carry out the work, says that the first set of six antennas would be used in a trial of the new technology, which promises faster mobile data speeds that far outstrip what is currently available with 4G technology.

A design statement accompanying the planning application says: ‘As demand for data services increases, it is imperative that Sure continues to develop its data capacity across the network. The 4G network will continue to be maintained and upgraded for some time, but in order to furnish the needs of future digital services and capacity requirements it has become clear that 5G will need to be introduced.

‘As 5G will be a new technology, it is important that Sure tests this new technology and makes sure that any future wide-scale deployment is effective. This proposal is designed to test a 5G solution on an established site with as little impact on the surrounding area as possible.’

The statement adds: ‘As the world moves towards 5G services it is imperative that Jersey follows suit so that the economic, environmental and other benefits to the Island can be realised.’

Huawei has come under fire in recent years and has even been the subject of strict trade controls in the US following concerns that their technology could contain hidden spyware used to obtain information illegally for the benefit of the Chinese government.

The US has placed Huawei on their ‘entity list’, which means that the firm will need to obtain a licence to buy US technology.

According to America’s government, the measure prevents their technology from being used by foreign-owned entities in ways that potentially undermine US national security or foreign-policy interests.

Earlier this month, Senator Sarah Ferguson submitted a proposal asking the States to force JT to take the restrictions into account with regards to 5G networks.

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She has also since raised concerns that the use of Huawei technology could jeopardise plans to increase trade between the Island and the US.

However, Digital Jersey chief executive Tony Moretta moved to allay any fears.

‘The government in Jersey does absolutely the right thing and they take advice from the National Security Council. They speak regularly as part of the cyber-security policy and strategy and if you look in the UK, the advice isn’t to not use Chinese manufacturers,’ he said.

‘There is advice about the way the networks are structured and to use equipment from a variety of manufacturers – there is advice that they and the government follow.

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‘And if you look in the media in recent months, there are telecoms operators in the UK that are rolling out networks with Huawei equipment – so they are not going to ignore government advice.’

Speaking about the benefits of the technology, Mr Moretta added that the Island’s existing 4G network already offered extremely fast speeds and that although the implementation of 5G technology was useful, it was not yet absolutely necessary.

He added: ‘We have very fast mobile speeds already, partly because the operators are using the latest technology, so you can get really high speeds in Jersey.

‘We have three completely separate 4G networks. They are normally built for millions of people and we have just over 100,000, so one of the reasons countries like the UK are interested in 5G is because they are not just interested in speed, but also concurrent usage and we do not have that problem here.

‘I think there are two elements to 5G – do we need it right now? No. But do we want to be seen to be using the latest technology and not resting on our laurels? Yes. Do we want to be able to put Jersey out as a test-bed for using 4G as well as 5G? Yes.’

However, Mr Moretta said he thought it would not be until 2021 that there would be a 5G network in place covering the whole Island.

‘You do not want to go relatively early. It is relatively new technology and quite expensive,’ he explained.

‘As production ramps up it gets cheaper, so there is a disadvantage from a cost perspective in being a pioneer and rolling it out.

‘But anything that helps the development of our telecoms sector is very helpful – anything that will actually attract companies in.’

Concerns over possible health problems caused by 5G have also been raised.

In April, Islander Andrew Hurst set up a petition calling on the government to carry out a full investigation to be carried out before the installation of any network.

The government has since said it is aware of the health concerns and that they will be ensuring all phone operators meet health and safety requirements and guidelines.

Sure yesterday confirmed that they were hoping to launch a non-commercial 5G pilot project to test the technology, but added that this would not be available for public use. The company also added that a full appraisal of all potential equipment vendors was still taking place.

The latest statement said: ‘Sure has applied to upgrade four of our existing antennas and add two new antennas as part of our ongoing investment in our 4G mobile network and to improve the mobile experience of our customers in the area.

‘Sure is currently conducting an extensive 5G tender process, involving a number of suppliers from around the world, to develop a comprehensive, ubiquitous 5G solution for the benefit of our island.

‘Sure is also committed to safety and our current and future mobile network will continue to meet the safety standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation, as well as complying with local regulations.

‘Rolling out 5G will require co-operation with the government and regulators and we’re working with them to bring the most relevant solution to the island.’

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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