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The Faster the Better: Hungary’s 5G Coalition

The new generation of wireless internet, 5G is around the corner. The system of super-fast data transfer is expected to be internationally spread by early next decade. Hungary aims to be at the forefront, but has to get prepared. 

Attila Soltész, President of the Association for Informatics for Society (left) and Tamás Deutsch, the Prime Ministerial Commissioner responsible for the Digital Welfare Program, at the opening of the two-day Infotér conference at Anna Grand Hotel in Balatonfüred on October 18. Photo MTI/Tibor Ilyés

The fifth generation of mobile internet, predicted to cover Europe in three years, will not simply be faster than the current 4G. It will also widen the usage spectrum of internet, not only meaning that operations can be done from thousands of kilometers distance as data is transferred without delay, but also that, sooner or later, we will live in smart cities where everything, from the irrigation systems in our parks to buses that count the number of passengers will be connected to the internet and permanently optimized.   

Yet, to get there, strategies have to be built, infrastructure has to be developed and regulations have to be made. To say on schedule, the government initiated the 5G Coalition, which got under way in June and by now has 52 members representing a wide range of market players from the information and communication technology sector, the government and academics.

The coalition’s goal is to establish mid- and long-term strategies that will enable Hungary to make the most out of the upcoming development.

“Hungary has all the capability to be the first to take social and economic advantage of the 5G technology by the time it gets internationally spread in the early 2020s,” Prime Ministerial Commissioner for the Digital Welfare Program Tamás Deutsch told the Budapest Business Journal.

“We already have a good 4G infrastructure to build on.” The big global telecommunication companies are already here in the country, meaning that innovations and best practices can be simply imported, Deutsch says explaining his confidence.

Some, however, have their doubts. As one sector insider revealed to the BBJ, telco companies already work with a very low profit margin, since the big financial gains of the web lands with giants like Facebook and Google instead of the Internet providers, therefore it is questionable if the global companies will be in a hurry to spend money on infrastructural development.

Still, the government’s optimism has other roots, too. The fields that 5G is expected to reform and boost most are e-health and autonomous cars, and, as Deutsch point out, there is a strong automotive industry in Hungary. To fully exploit this, a test track for driverless cars is being built in Zalaegerszeg (some 230 km southwest of Budapest), and will be inaugurated next spring. There, the different market players can keep tabs on developments and take stock of the further demands.

Everyone Involved 

Automated and, as such, optimized systems of the future’s smart cities can save money, too, Deutsch points out, though initial investments are needed, he admits. Untangle local tax paying, for example, simplifying parking systems or enhancing heating efficiency through smart grids can all reduce costs, Deutsch explains. Making calculations about the return is also among the responsibilities of the 5G Coalition.

It often happens with technological developments that the regulation cannot keep the pace with the innovations. In the case of 5G, first the international standards have to be laid down and the cross-border issues of frequencies, which are otherwise national resources, have to be discussed, Deutsch says. After this, national regulations have to be created. All this is expected to be done by the end of the decade and “we have started to get prepared in time.”

Yet, to take full advantage of 5G, society needs to have digital competencies. Without this, the boosted data transfer capacity and the expected increase of “Internet of Things” (IoT) services will widen the social gap instead of narrowing it.

Ongoing educational reform is a tool to provide kids with the necessary skills, while those no longer at school will be reached through the Digital Welfare Program. In its framework, 1,500 laptops and tablets are spread countrywide to enable free of charge courses. “This is a must,” Deutsch says. “Having digital competencies decides whether I am my own lord, or I am vulnerable and technology is above me.”