5G: Operators in Romania gearing up for commercial launch in 2020

Aurel Dragan 16/09/2019 | 08:36

5G is just around the corner. In Romania, the super-fast broadband technology has already been launched by some mobile communication operators on frequencies in use today, but the auction for new frequency spectrum, which will support 5G connections, will take place in the coming months. In the run-up to that, BR surveys the latest developments in 5G, including phones with 5G capabilities.

5G networks are in use today, on all continents. The commercial launch will take place in 2020 in most countries, but some are ahead of the game. In Germany, trial installations began in 2018 and while commercial launch is expected in 2020, with rollout until 2025, Deutsche Telekom has already launched 5G in more than five major cities. According to the mobile operator’s plans, by 2020 over 20 cities will have 5G coverage. Vodafone Germany opened 20 base stations in July and expects to have 50 by autumn. 

The UK saw the first 5G connection in May, 2019, in five cities at first and more and more places since. The first 5G was launched by the largest mobile operator in the country, EE, and Vodafone UK was not far behind, joining the party in July. This year, operator O2 is expected to launch 5G coverage, and CityFibre and Arqiva are holding trials in London. 

UK users have official access to many 5G phones. Apart from the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, EE was the first in the world to offer the OnePlus 7 Pro5G. British consumers can also use the OPPO Reno 5g, LG V50 ThinQ 5G, HTC 5g Hub, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G.

The first 5G in Switzerland was launched in April by Swisscom, while the second-largest operator Sunrise has already reached over 200 cities. Sunrise ran an ultrafast connection test in late 2017, at 3.28 Gbps and launched the first standardized 5G network at a ski resort in 2018. Vodafone Spain was the first operator to launch 5G in the country on June 15, and it is now available in several cities. The connection speed at launch was up to 1 Gbps, which can be reached on a 4.5+ connection, but it will increase to 2 Gbps by the end of this year. 

Finland claimed to have the first 5G commercial network in the world after operator Elisa Oyi launched it in June 2018. Telia, another Finnish mobile operator, launched 5G in December, 2018, while DNA followed suit at the beginning of this year. However, as DNA officials said, even with the introduction of 5G, the 4G network will remain the primary network used by most people. 

All over the world 5G is being launched, mostly in tests, but the real start will come in 2020. Ericsson predicts that 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9 billion in 2024, when coverage should extend to 65 percent of world’s population. 

COMMERCIAL LAUNCH IN ROMANIA

All three local operators – Vodafone, Digi and Orange – have launched 5G connections in one form or another. Vodafone turned on the first 5G connection in its Supernet 5G network and later expanded the coverage to Cluj-Napoca and Mamaia, when it also launched the first 5G subscriptions in the country. Red Infinity 17 and Red Infinity 25 are the first 5G-ready subscriptions providing unlimited data traffic within Supernet 5G, the first 5G network in Romania.

“We are very proud to be amongst a handful of operators globally and the first in Romania that have launched 5G services and a commercial offer. This speaks to our commitment to being at the forefront of innovation not only locally, but also globally, and making sure that Romanian users get the opportunity to experience leading technologies. We are committed to continuing our mission and long-term investments in state-of-the-art technologies in order to support and develop the digital Romanian society in the era of speed,” said Mostafa El Beltagy, director customer business unit, Vodafone Romania.

Digi Communications also launched its first 5G broadcasting stations in June and started the development of the future Digi Mobile 5G Smart. “Romania is now on the world map of state-of-the-art 5G technology. This is good news for Digi Mobil customers, who will have access to mobile data services at 5G speeds and low latency through first base stations. This is another important step by our company towards the convergent future of communications, following the test of the 5G prototype platform a year ago. The project materialized after mixed teams of specialists and partners worked on it – all of it in order to provide customers with the best mobile communications services as soon as possible at the most affordable market prices,” said Valentin Popoviciu, vice-president of the DIGI administration board | RCS & RDS.

Orange tested 5G connections in real use at the Untold festival, and conducted several transmissions in VR 360 with the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. “Our priorities are closely linked to the needs of customers, especially their desire to benefit from uninterrupted connectivity, but also with the best network services. All this is supported by annual investments of over EUR 100 million in the development of the network. Now, together with technology partners such as Samsung, but especially with customers, we aim to demonstrate the performance of the 5G network. 5G represents an important technological leap, which promises a new level of communications, and is about to change the world of services offered today,” said Emmanuel Chautard, chief technology officer, Orange Romania.

The phone models available officially in Romania are the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G. Samsung recently launched Galaxy Note 10, but neither of the two models has 5G capabilities. Apple will launch its latest models in September, but there is no info about a 5G handset. However, 2020 will bring a much bigger offer of 5G phones, while prices (which now are around EUR 1,000 per handset) should decrease. 

5G TENDER EXPECTED IMMINENTLY

The tender for the new frequency spectrum, meant for 5G use, will be held in the coming months and the winners should be known by December, 2019. The Romanian authorities expect to raise EUR 580 million from 5G licensing, a much lower sum than the first estimates of EUR 1 billion. 

According to the latest papers from ANCOM, the communications authority, rights to use the frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz and 1500 MHz bands, which has no allocation so far, will run for 15 years, from 1 January 2021 for the 700 MHz band and 1 January 2020 for the 1500 MHz band.

ANCOM intends to grant licenses for the spectrum to be auctioned in the 800 MHz and 2600 MHz bands for 10 years, with options to be considered for aligning the expiry date with the rights existing in these bands valid till April 5, 2029. In the 800 MHz band, Telekom Romania Mobile Communications, Orange and Vodafone have usage rights valid until April 5, 2029. Also in the 2600 MHz band, Telekom Romania Mobile Communications, Orange, Vodafone and RCS & RDS have the rights to use the frequencies until April 5, 2029.

The tender may be changed by the latest memorandum signed by the USA and Romania in Washington that should include “anti-Huawei” filters in the tender. The memorandum states that three major filters should be applied at its 5G auction: the supplier should not be under another government’s control, and should have transparency in the shareholders structure and transparent corporate practices. If applied, it may rule out the use of Huawei equipment for 5G networks since the company is not considered transparent regarding its shareholder structure. 

 

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