Attorney General Carl Bethel.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel has announced that telecommunications companies have submitted recommendations to the government for the implementation of a 5G network in The Bahamas.
“Let me assure the Bahamian people, 5G is coming,” Mr Bethel said in the Senate yesterday, as he revealed it was the Cabinet’s decision to approach the country’s communications giants to have discussions about 5G.
5G is the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. Phone companies began introducing the technology around the world in 2019.
“One of the issues raised was the question of devising a strategy for the implementation of 5G within our lifetimes and as soon as practicable,” Mr Bethel said.
“I asked the agencies, the two giants, to either prepare a separate or collaborative report.
“Well, being in a state of competition they went so far and combined, up to a certain point, their recommendations and then for competitive reasons they each went and did other things into separate reports that have now been received (and) turned over now to the appropriate minister for implementation.
“I was minister of the regulator and I put the lions in the cage. Having done that, those reports as soon as received were turned over to the minister and I am sure that he will be able to in short order I believe he’s speaking tomorrow to give a more full presentation.
“But, the government of The Bahamas I assure you now has already weighed in with our private sector partners and they have fully embraced the challenge to devise plans which the honourable minister, who we say is the best of the lot and I agree he is one of the best of all of us will no doubt push through towards an early conclusion.”
Mr Bethel said State Finance Minister Kwasi Thompson was expected to make further comment on the matter at a later date.
He was responding to Senator Fred Mitchell, leader of opposition business in the Senate, who raised concern that the country could not advance efficiently into a digital economy while plagued by telecommunications issues.
He said: “When I go to Grand Bahama in the middle of every call whether using the phone network or using the data network (there are) dropped calls, dropped data. Sometimes you have to wait two and three minutes for it to come back up and (also) here in New Providence.
“So, all I say is one day you know you go to the ATM and it keeps spinning, spinning, spinning you know. Central Bank is saying it’s going to become a digital currency and all of the digital stuff. Nothing in my view beats cold hard cash. It’s the greatest invention of mankind because it’s easy to use and no issues. So, that’s my feel on that and I mention that because in the last couple of weeks there was a statement by the now CEO of BTC a man named Andre Foster.
“The first time I’ve seen the telephone company’s actually address the question of 5G and what they are going to do. Now, my feeling is and this is the suggestion to my own party is that he says 5G will come in (20)22 or (20)23. I don’t know how you’re going to build a digital economy unless you improve this service.
“My view is that the Bahamas government ought to form a public corporation and do from island to island within the islands a complete fibre network to digitise this country, which we will own and the phone companies can take in offers if they want, but they clearly do not in my view have the national interest of this country.”
He continued: “What they are doing is selling cell phones. You know the more cellphones you sell and extracting profits and fancy ads and all of this but national development cannot move forward in my view unless there is a proper digital platform and infrastructure for The Bahamas and I’d like to advocate that.”
New BTC CEO Andre Foster recently told Guardian Radio that to build a 5G network locally would require partnership with other providers because it needs “so much investment from an infrastructure perspective.” Mr Foster said there was no real demand locally for such a network, therefore it will likely not be built until next year or 2023.
In 2019, Aliv’s Chief Officer Damian Blackburn said the company was “keeping a close eye” on global developments around 5G, the next generation of mobile technology, even though he suggested this was unlikely to become “commercially available” until 2022.