Kazakhstan may become the first country in the Caspian region to launch fifth generation, or “5G,” wireless services. Prime Minister Askar Mamin announced on Tuesday the government’s intent to roll out the latest wireless technology in what is the largest country in Central Asia.
Bringing wireless, high-speed internet and mobile services to the vast plains of what is the world’s ninth largest country isn’t easy. Communications specialists will launch a pilot project later this year in the capital city of Nur-Sultan (previously known as Astana), as well as in the southern city of Shymkent and in Almaty – Kazakhstan’s former capital and largest city.
“In general, 5G network is expected to cover all settlements with a population of over 50,000 people,” reads a statement on the prime minister’s website.
The goal is to digitize housing and public utilities, along with sectors like agriculture and health. 5G satellite technology can offer 20 times faster data speeds than 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks and better support for artificial intelligence and virtual reality with low latency, giving impetus to the government’s plans.
“This is an important aspect for real-time applications, such as robot control or emergency applications for cars. Brake signals take only a few bytes, and it’s still important that they be delivered quickly to alert the vehicle about the danger and the need to stop,” said Arturo Azcorra, a Spanish scientist and telecommunications engineer, according to reports by Sputnik.
Kazakhstan’s mobile operators said they are ready to participate in state-run pilot projects. Local communication specialists say 5G will most likely come online in Kazakhstan after 2020, adding that modernized technology infrastructure is something to look forward to.
“This means an upgrade of almost all elements, ranging from switchboards to base stations,” said Kirill Strashenko, a manager at the network and IT infrastructure division of Kcell, a Kazakhstani’s mobile telecommunications company.
Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is not the only Caspian nation trying to launch 5G services across the country.
In 2017, Azerbaijan’s first mobile operator, Bakcell displayed the 4.5 G Pro technology and 5G readiness at its “BakuTel 2017” exhibition stand. Bakcell, recognized as the “Best in Test” in Azerbaijan by P3 Communications and the Fastest Mobile Network in Azerbaijan by “Ookla”, is one of the main investors in the non-oil sector of Azerbaijan’s economy. The company’s officials have announced that they are ready to introduce 5G, as soon as the demand for such technologies emerges on the market. At the same time, the company believes that this requires a wider penetration of 5G-enabled devices and therefore, 5G services will be introduced not earlier than in 2020.
Russia is likely to be a fast follower and is also expected to launch 5G services. According to GSMA, a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, Russia is poised to have 50 million 5G connections by 2025.
“Other countries in the region expected to launch 5G services by 2025 include Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine,” reads a report issued by GSMA.
While Europe is still moving from 3G to 4G, South Korea – the number one country when it comes to high-speed internet penetration – has already launched 5G commercial services earlier this year. The technology was also available for the Olympic Winter Games held in PyeongChang in 2018. While it is not yet widely in South Korea, the move to 5G marks a shift in available technologies and high-speed internet access. The United States, Switzerland and Estonia have also begun piloting the introduction of 5G.