Why 5G will be important for the Baltic Sea Region: Q&A with Talis Linkaits
For the second year in a row, the 5G Techritory Forumwill be held in Riga, Latvia, bringing together the leading individuals and organizations responsible for 5G deployment in the Baltic Sea Region.
Latvia has played a decisive role in laying the foundations for successful 5G implementation throughout the region through initiating 5G Techritory, a joint platform for cross-border, cross-level, and cross-sectoral collaboration.
Ahead of the event, ITU News caught up with Talis Linkaits, Latvia’s Minister of Transport to get his views on the opportunities and challenges of 5G development in the region.
How big is the economic impact of ICTs in your country and why is 5G becoming so important and strategic?
It is for sure that the ICT sector is one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the Latvian economy.
The number of companies and employees is increasing. The figures speak for themselves – at the end of 2018, almost 34,000 people worked in the ICT sector in Latvia, the total profit of ICT companies was €270 million with a €3.6 billion turnover, compared to 23,000 employees, €205 million profit and €3 billion turnover 5 years ago.
“The increasing role and presence of 5G will have a significant impact on almost every sector.”
The ICT sector accounts for 4.1% of Latvia’s GDP. Total ICT exports reach €1 billion per year, meaning that our businesses and specialists are competitive in the global market.
The increasing role and presence of 5G will have a significant impact on almost every sector.
The technical capabilities of 5G will make it possible to use new smart urban solutions, connected and automated transport solutions, as well as will support the growing number of Internet of Things devices in many sectors.
Unlike previous generations of communications, 5G will be capable of allocating and providing high-quality, low-latency communications for important services across various sectors, for example, related to human well-being, environmental monitoring, agriculture, and connected and automated mobility.
Therefore, the role of smart technologies and ICTs in all areas is more relevant than ever before.
What are the key milestones and expected human impact of implementing a national 5G strategy in Latvia?
For the second year in a row, Latvia is organizing an event gathering stakeholders with a rich expertise to continue the discussion and collaborate on the advancement of the 5G industry – the Baltic Sea Region 5G Ecosystem Forum “5G Techritory”.
“5G technology not only will change the way of thinking and strategy of many businesses, it will also create a new dimension in cooperation among states and industries.”
During the 5G Techritory Forum in 2018, mobile operator LMT was one of the first in the region to have demonstrated a 5G access test. These are just few of the milestones listing us among the frontrunners of 5G introduction in Europe.
5G possibilities will affect without doubt industries of various sectors including smart-cities, logistics, agriculture, energy and healthcare.
5G technology not only will change the way of thinking and strategy of many businesses, it will also create a new dimension in cooperation among states and industries.
However, without international global understanding of the opportunities offered by 5G, it cannot be fully applied and profited from.
What are the reasons for fostering collaboration on 5G at the Baltic Sea Region level?
I am very pleased with the collaboration the region has had while working on 5G deployment plans.
Nordic and Baltic countries are among frontrunners in Europe when it comes to innovations and new ICT solutions.
The Baltic Sea Region countries are top-ranked in the EU by several of the fast internet coverage and take-up indicators.
For example, Sweden and Latvia are among the top countries with the highest share of population that has a fixed broadband subscription with a speed of 100 Mbps or faster, in Sweden 71.1% and 53.3% in Latvia.
“I am certain that rapid 5G deployment will bring a notable benefit to the businesses, industries and economies in the whole Baltic Sea Region.”
Moreover, the Baltic countires have engaged in the ambitious Rail Baltica project that will involve collaboration on infrastructure deployment and where sharing a joint vison is a must to succeed.
For the three Baltic countries, the project is unique in its scale. Therefore, it is important that we continue to support and encourage each other in the region and give our contribution to the EU’s competitiveness and collaborate with the rest of the Europe.
Europe can be competitive with the USA, China and Korea only by acting as one united player. I am certain that rapid 5G deployment will bring a notable benefit to the businesses, industries and economies in the whole Baltic Sea Region.
We must take the initiative and be the leading region in 5G technology deployment to reach the full potential of our innovations. The collaboration among countries in the Baltic Sea Region improves the EU’s competitiveness in a global market.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities of doing so? What role will Latvia play?
Teamwork can always be challenging. In particular, international cooperation requires everyone involved to agree on a single solution or strategy.
Currently, some of the most important projects that truly require close collaboration in the region are Via Baltica – the connected and automated driving corridor from Tallinn up to Warsaw and the Rail Balticrailway infrastructure deployment.
How would you envisage future collaboration with ITU through its Office for Europe? How can ITU add unique value in this regard?
It is already for the second year that ITU has taken part in organising the 5G Techritory Forum here in Riga, which is one of its several initiatives in the European region.
We are honoured and look forward to the upcoming visit of ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao to Latvia.
We have actively participated and shared our views in the discussions held in the events organized in the framework of World Summit on the Information Society covering such topics as, for example, child online protection, machine translation, and internet governance.
Latvia will continue to be actively involved and express its positions in such discussions.
ITU certainly plays an important role in building regional and international platforms for stakeholder cooperation to design the most suitable models for effective infrastructure deployment and digitalisation.