Minister of Communication and Information Technology Jhonny G. Plate, center, and Setyanto Hantoro, Telkomsel's president director, fourth from right, and members of Telkomsel's boards pose for photographs during a 5G launch event in Jakarta on May 27, 2021. (Antara Photo/Reno Esnir)

Indonesia Launches 5G Network, but Frequency Limitation Leaves Many in Blank Spots


MAY 28, 2021

Jakarta. Indonesia has launched the 5G internet network for public use in some parts of the Greater Jakarta area on Thursday, marking a milestone for the country's effort to improve its mobile broadband network amid limitations that plagued the frequency allocation in the country. 

The 5G network promises a faster internet connection — 100 times more data than its predecessor, 4G network — that enables various sensors to operate and make way for the internet of things implementation like smart homes and smart cities, artificial intelligence, virtual or augmented reality techs, and blockchain.

"The development of 5G throughout the country will become important milestones for our national telecommunications infrastructure," the Minister of Communication and Information Technology Jhonny G. Plate said on Thursday. 

Telekomunkiasi Selular (Telkomsel), the subsidiary of Telkom Indonesia and Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel), unveiled the high-speed mobile broadband network in six upscale residential areas including Kelapa Gading and Pantai Indah Kapuk in North Jakarta, Pondok Indah and ministers housing complex Widya Chandra in South Jakarta, and Bumi Serpong Damai and Alam Sutera in Tanggerang. 


Setyanto Hantoro, Telkomsel's president director, said on Thursday that the company plans to roll out the 5G networks in others cities soon, including Batam, Medan, Solo, Bandung, Surabaya, Makassar, Denpasar and Balikpapan. 

Setyanto said costs remain prohibitive for the company to expand the 5G networks in more cities. 

"The ecosystem and capital expenditure that we have to invest is massive. Soo, of course, we can't roll it to all places in Indonesia simultaneously. Also, if we do it (5G in all places), maybe there are still not many benefits for the community so that the economic aspect cannot be achieved," Setyanto said. 

Still, the company seeks to keep the cost low for its users in those cities to try the 5G network. Telkomsel's users already using the company's 4G network did not have to change their SIM card, Setyanto said.

Smartphones launched in the past few months are usually equipped with a 5G modem, but for them to work on Telkomsel's 5G network, they have to support  N40, the frequency band of 2,300-2,400 MHz on which the company rolling out its 5G service, the company said. 

Only a handful of devices meet this frequency requirement, including Huawei Mate 40 Pro, Apple iPhone 12, Xiaomi Poco M3 Pro 5G, and Samsung Galaxy S21 5G. 

Doni Ismanto, the founder of the telecommunication discussion platform Indotelko Forum, said it is up to the government to resolve the frequency limitation.

The government should make more frequency bands available for the 5G service. That, in turn, would enable more devices to connect to the network, providing more affordable options to customers.

"For now, we have to appreciate the hard work of operators such as Telkomsel, which are trying to deliver 5G with all the frequency limitations," Indotelko's Doni said. 

GSM Association, the global lobby group for mobile network operators, recommended in its policy paper published in March that government must allow operators to occupy low, mid, and high-frequency spectrum to "deliver widespread coverage and support a wide range of use cases," of the 5G network. 

The problem is that Indonesia's frequency spectrums are now jam-packed by television, radio, and mobile operators. 

Minister Jhonny said that the mobile operators need spectrum allocation of at least 2.047 Mhz across the various frequency band to support 4G and 5G deployments. Today, the government has only allocated 737 Mhz for telecommunication operators. 

That means the government must reallocate the spectrum of 1,310 MHz, almost double the current capacity, and renegotiate the spectrum usage terms with their current holders.

"It is a big job, but I have set a guideline that the government will use the spectrum optimally and use it for industrial interests, which in the end is for the glory of our country," Jhonny said.