While news headlines continue to be dominated by all things Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)—and other stories either fall by the wayside or barely eke out any traction—Canada has subtly activated 5G, the fifth generation of wireless technology for digital cellular networks, that first began rolling out in mid-January. Canadian communications and media company, Rogers Communications confirmed on March 6th via press release that “it has begun rolling out Canada’s first 5G network in downtown Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, with 20 more markets to come this year.”
Brent Johnston, President, Wireless Communications stated, “As the first national carrier to introduce unlimited data plans and 5G to Canada, we’re proud to exclusively bring our customers the first 5G smartphones on the country’s only live 5G network. This is the beginning of 5G and as it evolves, it will deliver more capabilities including speed, latency and capacity. Rogers Infinite and unlimited business data plans will make it possible for our customers to take full advantage of this next generation technology.”
For now, Rogers, who partnered with Ericsson to help deploy 5G, is using the 2.5 GHz spectrum to increase network capacity before expanding to the 600 MHz 5G spectrum later in the year. This said, the timing seems quite perfect as, with most major Canadian cities on lockdown, and their leaders urging citizens to stay indoors, internet usage is getting a massive spike. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Nielsen, media streaming is expected to grow by roughly 60 percent. Presumably, this surge in usage is giving the network’s new capacity a solid test on its ability to handle the load. So much so that as recently as March 17th, 5G boxes throughout downtown Toronto were getting what appeared to be maintenance (see below).
Also of note, on Monday, March 9th, just days after Rogers activated their 5G network, U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House special representative for international telecommunications, Robert Blair, was in Ottawa to speak with Canadian officials and offer them “advice” to not install equipment from Chinese telecom company Huawei, further adding that if Canada were to do so, America would no longer be able to share with them sensitive intelligence information. With 5G deployment, not to mention National security, a foremost concern for presumably all countries, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains was quick to note that Canada “won’t get bullied by any other jurisdiction” when making its final 5G decisions.
Whether or not Huawei is a suitable bedfellow or 5G is even safe remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is, the new technology is here, active, and before we know it, going to be the norm. Where does your city stand with 5G? Unsure? Well, it’s a good time to explore the topic. Heck, we sure have the spare time at the moment.