A staff member tests the speed with a Huawei 5G mobile phone at Huawei 5G Innovation and Experience Center in London, Britain, on Jan. 28, 2020. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

5G network operation start delayed due to pandemic, regulatory complexity and different Gov’t priorities – CTM VP

The advancement of the local 5G network has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, regulatory complexity and different legislative priorities by the Macau SAR government, the Executive Director and Vice President of telecom provider CTM, Aguinaldo Wahnon, said today (Wednesday).

“5G can already be licensed under the existing legislation. The initial idea was to do this under the future telecommunications law but since this took longer than expected authorities decided to license 5G under the current legal framework,” Wahnon said after a media tour to present CTM’s infrastructure.

Local telecommunication company CTM declared earlier this month that the 5G network has been fully operational since June 2021 and is already able to cover the entire territory of Macau.

The city has remained the only one in China without an operating 5G network, with the telecom provider having already invested MOP600 million (US$(US$74.2 million) in establishing its infrastructure using Huawei technology, with MOP2 billion earmarked in investment for the whole network in the next five years.

However, CTM stressed that they have not obtained the necessary operating license from the government, due to “considerable delay” caused by the “modernization of the legal and regulatory framework”, which includes the revision of the local telecommunications law.

“It’s a complex matter and you can’t revamp legislation in force for decades from one day to the other, its needs to be carefully considered,” he added.

Aguinaldo Wahnon

The CTM VP also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic and a larger focus by authorities on advancing new gaming law amendments also led to a delay in the advancement of the 5G network in the SAR.

“The government had more pressing matters that delayed the advancement of the network. But we and our shareholders are now very happy that it seems there was. a clear signal that the 5G network will advance this year.

CITIC Telecom International has been the major shareholder in CTM since 2013, holding a 99 per cent stake in the telecom group, with the remaining 1 per cent held by Macau Post.

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng revealed during his policy address that the local government will issue the first 5G licenses in 2022, with a new Telecommunications Law – which will cover a convergence license to telecommunications operators – to advance in the second half of 2023.

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Raimundo Arrais do Rosário also recently reiterated that the regulations required to allow 5G licenses will advance this year.

“When we have the licensing we will be immediately ready to operate”

Establishing an operating 5G network in the city also faced several technical challenges, including a need for at least twice the number of radio stations when compared to 4G, and large energy supply support due to its higher energy consumption.

Site testing has also shown the local 5G network can reach a speed of 1.3Gbps, with Declan Leong, VP of Network Services at CTM saying today that once the network is operational the local wi-fi broadband speed will “again rate amongst the top 10 in the world” as assessed by the Ookla Speedtest Global Index.