Flemish IT giant Cegeka to join battle for 5G licenses
Flemish IT service provider, Cegeka, is joining the battle for the licenses of the ultra-fast internet of the future, 5G. The latter is key for the autonomous car, but also for numerous other applications, like ‘smart cities’, health care to have surgeons operate remotely, for instance, or critical private company networks.
The announcement by Cegeka-CEO, Stijn Bijnens, in an interview with newspaper De Tijd/L’Echo comes as a surprise. Just now that the Belgian government is shelving the important auction because the Regions are squabbling over who is to get the most out of it. This way Belgium is going to miss the boat, industry fears with catastrophic consequences.
Biggest IT service provider
Cegeka is born out of the former data center of the Limbourg coal mines. It became in 25 years the Benelux’s biggest independent IT service provider, with a return of over 1 billion euro and still growing 15 to 20% each year. It employs around 4.000 people in the Benelux, Austria, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
According to its CEO, Cegeka isn’t going to build its own network. It is talking to possible partners to form a consortium to enter the bidding. The network itself will be the core business of that partner.
Cegeka is well at home with the applications in all kind of domains for companies. Think out of the box, like monitoring a vast herd of cattle or tracking containers individually in the logistics world.
Which ‘partners’ Cegeka is talking with to realize the hardware, wasn’t revealed. Whether it is one of the three existing telecom operators (Proximus, Telenet or Orange) or someone from outside is still ‘obscured by clouds’.
Absence of latency
Cegeka sees huge opportunities for companies to be connected. The new 5G standard for mobile networks is 10 to 20 times faster than current fastest version of 4G (4.5G). Think about speeds up to 20 Gbps (gigabits per second) compared to 100 Mbps for 4G.
However, one of the major benefits – especially to control ‘robots’ or autonomous cars – is the quasi absence of latency, the time needed between sender and receiver. This ultra-fast internet could become the major channel for connected cars to communicate with smart city infrastructure (V2x or vehicle-to-everything) and between cars (V2V).
Huge data transfers
The latter will require huge data transfers. According to chip maker Intel, one million autonomous cars equal the data transfer rates of three billion people on their smartphones, but how this will be made operational in the (near) future is still blurry.
According to the Reuters press agency, in October of last year, the European Commission might be in favour to approve ITS-G5 wifi above cellular phone 5G technology for communication with the connected car of the future.
The discussion, which is very technical, has led to two mighty blocs. At the one end Volkswagen, Renault, Dutch chip maker NXP, Israeli 2VX expert, Autotalks, and Austrian intelligent transportation systems provider, Kapsch TrafficCom, want to push wifi to be used.
Merely because – they say – it is a proven and widely used technology that can be implemented quickly. 5G is still to be fully standardized, is only in its infancy and the network is yet to be deployed, which could take years, the wifi camp states.
On the other end, the ‘C-V2X camp’ which favours mobile phone technology, has some major players too. Like Daimler, Ford, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei and chip makers Intel, Samsung and Qualcomm. They claim C-V2X has wider application possibilities and is ‘future-proof’. They say standardization and deployment can be done quicker than the other camp pretends.
Quarreling between Regions
It’s clear management in all kind of industries is looking at the possibilities of 5G eagerly and who is to provide the infrastructure. The Belgian government intended to auction the available band width in the 3,5 Ghz range in spring of this year.
However, it stranded in a quarrel between the federal level and the Regions to divide the yield. With the government falling and elections due on May 26th, this auction could be postponed dramatically, industry fears.
Switzerland just raised 335 million euro this week with the auction of its 5G licenses and is – while not being an actual member of the EU – one of the first countries to administer the 5G spectrum in Europe. The EU wants its member states to do this before the end of June 2020.
One small 5G player already
In Belgium, one small player is already certain of its share in the 3,5 Ghz frequency range, Citymesh from Bruges. It got its small 40 Hz band of the available 400 by coincidence in 2015, by buying those frequencies from Belgian telecom regulator, BIPT, at an unimpeachable time.
It wanted to use these radio frequencies to build wifi networks in cities and for companies. However, end of 2017 the European Commission decided to predestine the band width of which Citymesh already owned part, for the future 5G networks.
Private company networks
5G can play a major role in future private company networks too, as companies will want to have full control at all times over automatic devices that they deploy.
Germany, for instance, is intending to reserve 100 Mhz from the 400 Mhz available in the spectrum for other industrial players than the classic telecom operators. Apparently, companies like BMW, Bosch or Siemens are interested.