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Tunisians concerned about financial implications of 5G

Joining the hype that has been going on since 2019 about the fifth generation of wireless networks, known as 5G, Tunisia announced on Monday May 8, through its Minister of Communication Technologies, Nizar Ben Néji, the deployment of this technology on its territory in 2024.

“The roadmap for the deployment of the fifth generation of mobile wireless networks (5G) in Tunisia is being developed and will be announced in the coming weeks. It will set the modalities and dates of implementation of this technology, whose launch in Tunisia is scheduled for 2024,” the minister told reporters, on the sidelines of his participation in the ICT Summit 2023 organized in Tunis by Huawei Tunisia, in collaboration with the Department of Communication Technologies.

“Pilot experiments have been conducted with telecom operators in this sense. The deployment of this technology in Tunisia will be done gradually and will unfold according to the needs of the various types of users (companies, administrations…)”, he noted, before extending, as it should be, on the many advantages of this technology, called to replace the 4G.

Practically everyone knows the advantages of 5G, including the opportunity to provide users with lightning speeds on many devices thanks to a very significant increase in speed.

However, 5G technology also has many disadvantages, which have been repeatedly highlighted in press reports and by NGOs, although some still seek to “put them into perspective” by confining them to the highly questionable impact on the environment and health.

However, independent experts have emphasized the very costly aspect of the deployment of 5G technology, which is indisputable.

As a recent report by a French analyst pointed out, “the deployment of the 5G network will be very expensive, which will lead mobile operators to charge more for their services”.

These price increases will affect all users, administrations, companies and individuals, at a time when the issue of price increases has become the number one pet peeve of public opinion everywhere.

Painful addition

However, in the case of Tunisia and Tunisian users, given the country’s current difficulties of all kinds, these additional charges will carry more weight and make the bill more painful, according to Tunisian commentators.

Acknowledging the role of 5G technology in accelerating the digital transformation and its positive impact on promoting economic and social development, they were skeptical about Tunisia’s ability to really benefit from it at this time, as other countries have done, given the obstacles of all kinds that hinder the revival of the Tunisian economy, despite the many assets it already has at various levels. In their eyes, 5G could not miraculously change the situation in Tunisia, given the current situation. 

Other experts warned that not all devices will be compatible with 5G. Some will need to be updated or modified to support the speed of these networks. This is because 5G will expand the scope of the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects devices and various objects used by people, from refrigerators to cars.

Smartphones in particular will need to be 5G-enabled to take advantage of the benefits.

Again, a new 5G-enabled phone will need to be purchased to take advantage of the benefits. This is another expense that will make operators and phone retailers happy.

The 5G network may have an impact on health, and there is some concern about electromagnetic waves and an impact on the environment due to the number of 5G antennas that will need to be installed.

5G is both worrying and fascinating because it will increase exposure to electromagnetic fields, which means it will emit millimeter waves. These waves can have harmful effects on health: “neurological disorders, cellular stress, cancer risk …”

In many countries, protests on this issue have slowed down the installation of 5G, in addition to the foreseeable impact on meteorological satellite observations, which will affect the quality of weather forecasts.

General dialogue

These considerations have not escaped the attention of the Minister for Communication Technologies.

“To ensure the success of 5G in Tunisia and the leap in performance promised by this 5G, it is essential to maintain a continuous dialogue between all stakeholders: the government, regulators, telecom operators, infrastructure operators, suppliers and equipment manufacturers in the field of telecommunications,” he said.

For the Minister, the deployment of 5G is indeed part of the national digital strategy, which, he said, aims in particular to modernize and complete the legislation governing the digital domain, ensure the financial and digital inclusion of citizens, develop the digital infrastructure and better connect sectors not yet connected and underserved regions. It also aims to strengthen the hosting capacity of national and sectoral data centers and promote the implementation of a national strategy for the cloud and the cloudification of services and national applications.

This strategy also aims to accelerate the digitalization of the administration, secure the national cyberspace, ensure digital sovereignty and create a climate of digital trust, which is essential for the implementation of digitalization projects.

It provides for the establishment of a data-based governance model through the use of big data and the development of artificial intelligence systems, the development of digital capacity and the facilitation of professional retraining towards digital professions, as well as the development of a digital entrepreneurial ecosystem and the promotion of innovation and private initiative in this field.

The ambition is very high and requires a total transformation of the Tunisian scene. The contribution of international cooperation will be crucial.

In this regard, the Chinese ambassador to Tunis, Li Wan, who was present at the meeting, underlined his country’s willingness to promote technological exchanges and expertise with Tunisia.


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