5G offer from America

5G offer from America

Jamaican Government studying proposal

By Durrant Pate
Observer business writer

Sunday, October 25, 2020

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The Jamaican Government is now studying a proposal from its American counterpart for a Fifth-Generation (5G) mobile technology service being rolled out here that would spare the island any costs associated with the investment.

US Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia, in an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer last Friday morning, said the Andrew Holness Administration has had the proposal for some time now as it was first presented during the Government's first term.

Ambassador Tapia stated that the American company, Rivada Networks, a telecommunications company with a 5G business model, had expressed a desire to come to Jamaica to build out a 5G system at zero cost to the Jamaican Government.

5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects, and devices.

Rivada Network is partly owned by veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove, who was a senior advisor and deputy chief of staff in the George W Bush Administration.

An embassy official who spoke to Sunday Finance explained that the system would be free in the sense that the Holness Administration would not be required to pay any upfront capital. All this would be done by Rivada Networks, which would construct the system like a build, own, operate, and transfer (BOOT) operation, wherein its capital and returns are earned over time from its use.

The US Embassy official was quick to point out that the proposal doesn't include a guaranteed rate of return, like that enjoyed by Jamaica Public Service, explaining out that Rivada will undertake the capital risk in deploying the infrastructure in Jamaica.

When asked at what stage the proposal was now at in the Government, Ambassador Tapia was unable to give a definitive answer. However, he indicated that it had been taken to Cabinet when Fayval Williams was technology minister with the promise that it would be brought to Parliament.

The American diplomat reported that he hasn't heard of any new development, but ventured to state, “I would say they are working on it and that it's being considered.”

Ambassador Tapia mentioned that having spoken to new Technology Minister Daryl Vaz, he is optimistic about the proposal moving forward, noting that Vaz indicated that it would take some time for the system to be implemented. He estimated that the time frame would be one and a half to two years.

If the system is accepted, prior to its implementation, there would first have to be a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Kingston and Washington as a first step. The MOU would ensure that there is recovery of cost plus profit for Rivada, which is a private company not connected with the American Government.

The US ambassador did admit that if Jamaica were to sign with Rivada, China — which is also vying to roll out a 5G service in Jamaica — would be most concerned.

Already, the regulator of mobile technology in Jamaica, Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), is laying the groundwork for the proliferation of 5G services locally. SMA is now researching and putting in place new monitoring tools available for 5G technologies, given the need for additional monitoring tools and adjustment to its monitoring techniques when 5G is rolled out in Jamaica.

SMA has acknowledged that there will be challenges with monitoring 5G in Jamaica, noting that it is already “exploring various options in overcoming the challenges with monitoring of the 5GHz band and frequencies above 6GHz”.

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