As the world has prepared for and now begins to deploy 5G wireless service, there have been a lot of promises made and predictions of what it will bring to consumers.

There has been talk of high-speed connections, low latency (delay in connecting), and lower costs. It is predicted that once 5G is fully deployed and operational, you will not need any wires or cables for communications or entertainment services. Everything you do will be connected including your mobile device, all your fixed devices (HDTV, security system, smart appliances), and even your automobile.

While these promises sound great in theory, what does it mean for Guam and the Marianas directly? Guam’s hyper-competitive telecommunications market brings us a host of benefits. It is amazing that with a relatively small population, Guam has four mobile operators. This results in competitive pricing and access to the very latest technology. When there is increased competition, consumers are always the winner.

DOCOMO PACIFIC was the first to bring 5G to Guam in October 2019 when it began commercial 5G fixed services. The race to 5G started in earlier that year when DOCOMO opened its 5G lab in Guam where both local and global companies that are part of the Open Partner Program could test 5G applications. With assistance from its parent company in Japan, as well as technology partner Nokia, DOCOMO will soon launch 5G mobile services. The initial 5G cell sites are located in Tamuning, Hagatna, Mangilao, and soon in Saipan. Expansion will be dictated by market demand and as new applications are developed. The latest Samsung phones are already 5G capable and it’s rumored that Apple will have a 5G capable phone later this year.

We have seen during the past few months as we’ve dealt with the global pandemic, the urgency and need for applications such as telemedicine and distance learning. Higher speeds and lower latency will allow for increased reliability and security in these applications.

One very real application for 5G in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands will be to extend fiber optic lines. The heart of every telecommunications network is fiber optics. The radio portion of the cellular network is only the access to that fiber network. Currently, the “last mile,” as it’s called, connects your home or business using primarily copper or coaxial cable. This requires digging up the ground and drilling holes through your walls. The use of 5G to bring fiber-like speeds and connectivity from the edge of the fiber network into your homes or businesses will dramatically transform the industry.

As with all new technology there remains some questions about demand. Do we really need faster speeds on our phones? A strong LTE network currently gives us most of what our smart phones need. DOCOMO’s mobile 5G network will not require you to pay additional fees. With a 5G enabled phone on its network you will be on 5G whenever you are in range of a 5G antenna or 5G hot spot.

Just as with 2G, 3G and 4G wireless services, 5G has caused some to question the health effects on users.

5G in the United States and Guam will use some of the same frequency bands that previous generations of wireless have used. DOCOMO’s 5G network is in the midband frequency, which is very similar to previous network generations. The antennas are co-located with 3G and 4G. As in the past, we’ve recently seen an increase in misinformation regarding the safety of Radio Frequency on social media and online. Some have even linked 5G to the spread of the corona virus. Mobile phones communicate by transmitting radio waves through a network of fixed antennas called base stations. RF waves are electromagnetic fields, and unlike ionizing radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays and even the sun’s rays, they cannot break chemical bonds nor cause ionization in the human body. After being extensively used for more than 25 years, the body of scientific evidence does not show that cellular technology is dangerous to humans.

Guam and the NMI have now joined the 5G future and the promise of new and transformational applications and technology is bright. Innovative services like Airbnb, Uber, Netflix and others that have become part of our day-to-day lives have developed as 4G networks started to mature. No one predicted them when 4G first arrived on the scene about 10 years ago. Similarly, there will likely be some incredibly important new services and applications that 5G will enable once it starts to mature. mbj


— Roderick Boss is the CEO of Docomo Pacific. He can be reached at [email protected].