A technician from mobile operator XL Axiata inspects a base transceiver station on a telecommunication tower in Labuhan Badas, West Nusa Tenggara, in August last year. (Antara Photo/Reno Esnir)

New Normal Coincides With 5G Development in Indonesia

BY :TARA MARCHELIN

JUNE 05, 2020

Jakarta. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many Indonesians to spend more time at home and rely on the internet to connect themselves to the outside world. As a result, demand for faster internet has risen and the government has been forced to speed up its much-promised digital transformation – including preparing the country for 5G technology. 

Communication and Information Technology Minister Johnny G. Plate said on Friday Indonesia will have to improve the distribution of the country's existing internet network – 2G, 3G and 4G – before it can move on to 5G.

"We need to improve our digital infrastructure first before we can launch the digital transformation," Johnny said in an online seminar.

The minister said the country's frequency spectrum should be managed more effectively to allow the government to cut costs. 

He said before 5G can be developed in Indonesia, improvements must be made to lower-band, middle-band and ultra-high frequency spectrums. 

According to the minister, Indonesia's current 737 MHz internet frequency spectrum is not nearly enough. 

"We need at least 2,042 MHz of spectrum frequency by 2024. That means we're still short by around 1,310 MHz to future proof it," he said.

The government will also have to ensure the country's digital infrastructure is equally distributed – with improvements sorely needed in regional areas – by developing more middle-mile and last-mile networks in residential areas.

"We already have the backbone telecommunication network infrastructure in place. We need to continue with the development of middle-mile and last-mile networks in residential areas at the sub-district, village, urban hamlets [RW] and neighborhood unit [RT] level. We have to cover all the blind spots," Johnny said.

A recent study by technology company Cisco said Indonesia might have up to 100 million 5G users in 2025. Meanwhile, its 5G network might only be ready by 2023.

Widodo Muktiyo, the ministry's director-general of communication and information, said the government had been concentrating on providing digital infrastructure in 3T (Frontier, Outermost and Remote) areas.

"We've increased total traffic by 23 percent or 7.3 gigabytes per day in 3T areas. Meanwhile, telecommunication companies can keep improving digital infrastructure in urban areas and profit from it," Widodo said.

The companies have also been offering discounts, free internet and other bonuses worth up to Rp 1.9 trillion ($136 million) each month to assist people as they stay at home during the pandemic.

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