Ericsson: Lithuania’s chance for a great digital leap forward

Thomas Johansen

After imposing the quarantine, all countries, including Lithuania, witnessed drastic changes in data consumption habits. Most mobile network operators noticed people having more and longer calls, with up to 100% increase in voice services. The demand for online services, including movies, music, video calls, webinars, and games, also skyrocketed – in Lithuania alone, some social networks recorded almost 700% growth in traffic, Thomas Johansen writes.

The existing telecommunication network is load-resistant and does have wide capacities, but, like any technology, it has its limits. Though this may not be evident to ordinary users, even a simple downgrade of video quality from 720p to 480p can substantially ease the load on the network. Some movie streaming services reported a 25% cut in data consumption following the European Commission’s call to reduce the quality of video.

But that was a temporary solution. Now, as businesses and even governments shifting to digital communication, and people opting for more online services, telecommunication infrastructure must widen its capacities even further in order to help countries to revitalize their economies.

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Bounce forward, not backward

In April 2020, in her interview to the Spanish EFE, the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen noted that the world we know has changed, and that European countries need to “bounce forward” and not “bounce back”.

The Baltic states have all the means to leap forward to Industry 4.0. For instance, already today, Lithuania is the EU’s leader in terms of e-infrastructure. On a global scale, it offers one of the best technological and connectivity environments. With the support of and in cooperation with the government, local businesses could use the momentum and make a vital transformation towards the digital, innovation-based economy. But for the transformation to happen, the foundation must be laid for a new telecommunications infrastructure.

A small step towards faster and safer telecommunications

On 8 May, 2020 the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Lithuania advised the government to approve a 5-year plan aimed at staged deployment of a fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications network across the country’s major cities and transport hubs.

Healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, and energy/utility sectors represent the biggest opportunity for revenues created or enhanced by 5G. As an example of such cases, in Germany, Mercedes-Benz, Telefónica, and Ericsson established the world’s first 5G network for automobile production. This allowed the car inventor to increase production and, if necessary, adapt it at short notice to changing market requirements. Another example is the autonomous driving truck project with Telia and Einride where a single driver can control a dozen of trucks, driving 60% OPEX savings. None of this would be possible without an infrastructure for the live transfer of big chunks of data.

Global service providers, such as video streaming services and cloud gaming platforms, also benefit from wider-capacity networks that allow them to meet the growing demand for uninterrupted high-quality video and audio content.

But next-gen data networks are even more crucial for local businesses and public organizations. Whether it is healthcare, customer support, training, or even news broadcasting and government meetings, businesses and institutions increasingly rely on delivering critical service remotely. Ensuring not only smooth but also secure exchange of gigabytes of information between public institutions and citizens, businesses and customers, as well as employers and employees – this requires more advanced telecommunication solutions.

Benefits for governments, but not at any cost

Advanced telecommunications not only support uninterrupted operations of small-to-large businesses and public services during critical periods but will also pave the way for the development of new, more innovative and digitalized economy segments. Yet, integration of the new technology should start with addressing a pivotal factor – data security.

By encouraging investments into the 5G network, the government lays the foundation for a long-term economic boost. But it’s not only about the economy, it’s also about higher security. If compared to existing 2G/3G/4G infrastructure, 5G enters the market as the most secure mobile network generation ever, with security built in from the start as part of the standardization process. But technological standards are not the full answer to a secure 5G network.

Understanding the potential risks, in 2019, the EU issued a Toolbox for 5G Security that advises all EU member-states to assess potential risks and develop a comprehensive approach in ensuring the security of 5G networks.

High security requirements for mobile network operators, strict access restriction policy against high-risk suppliers, and diversification of the supply chain – these are the some of the main factors that Lithuania and other EU countries have jointly agreed to address in their legislation and national policies while moving towards Industry 4.0.

Information is everything in the 21st century. That’s why each vendor in the 5G ecosystem must prove not only its compliance with the industry’s security standards, including the third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) but also that it can be trusted with critical national infrastructure. COVID-19 changed the world. People, businesses, and governments require infrastructure, data and information even more and even faster. Yet current generation networks are simply not optimized for services and networks with dozens of gigabytes of data per month. But with close cooperation between the government, businesses, and other stakeholders on the 5G network, Lithuania may do a great leap towards a digitalized economy and become an exemplary case for countries worldwide.

Thomas Johansen. Responsible for Governmental Relations in Northern & Central Europe at Ericsson

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