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Monday, August 8, 2022

Basic connectivity is still a challenge

the arrival of 5G in Brazil is great news and will bring huge gains to our ecosystem of innovation and technology. But, above all, it represents an enormous opportunity to bring and democratize access to Internet for the part of society still excluded.

We need to ensure that this is one of the main priorities for the implementation of this technology, not making mistakes from the past that generated a precariousness of structures and access to the internet.

in our times, being connected is a right. We have a duty to ensure that it is accessible to everyone.

Brasilia was the first capital in the country to offer the long-awaited “pure” 5G, that is, it has a completely new infrastructure dedicated exclusively to it and, therefore, offers high-speed internet, massive device connection and low response time with high reliability. On Friday (29), standalone 5G was also released in the cities of Belo Horizonte (MG), João Pessoa (PB) and Porto Alegre (RS).

5G allows an internet up to 20 times faster than 4G. To give you an idea, if before we took 10 minutes to download one movie on 4G, the same can be done in just 30 seconds using 5G.

By offering high-level speed, connectivity and responsiveness, a favorable framework is created to enable some technological advances that previously seemed to be very far away, such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Autonomous vehicles, smart traffic lights, surgeries performed remotely are just some of the possible applications from the arrival of 5G to cities, industries, hospitals and our homes.

The gains that 5G promises to bring to the country could raise gross domestic product (GDP) by $1.2 trillion by 2035. Technology should result in increased productivity, the development of new solutions, the opening of new businesses and a drop in production costs.

Brazil finally joins the 60 other countries that already have fifth-generation technology.

Despite the good news, it will still be a long time before fifth-generation mobile internet arrives across the country.

There are several challenges in installing the infrastructure and also in the frequency used for this signal. The 3.5 GHz band, the most common in countries that already have 5G, needs to be “clean” for this mobile internet to be offered. Currently, in Brazil, it is used by satellite dishesin which millions of families access public open TV.

O planned timeline for the implementation of 5G in Brazil points out that until September 29, all capitals must be covered. However, for smaller cities, those with up to 30,000 inhabitants, the technology is expected to arrive only in 2028.

Connectivity as a social right

We can and should be excited about the prospects of how this new technology can boost the use of disruptive solutions, but we must not fail to recognize the historical challenges so that connectivity can be a social right guaranteed to the population.

Ignoring the complex reality of our country, permeated by socioeconomic and structural inequalities, can lead us to repeat the same injustices, now in the face of a new technology that promises to be so transformative.

In Brazil, still in 2022, there are regions — in general, the most vulnerable — in which internet access is a distant reality and a denied right.

A study by the Instituto Locomotivas and the consulting firm PwC, carried out in 2022, identified that 33.9 million Brazilians are offline and another 86.6 million are unable to connect every day.

The impacts of a digitally excluded population can be measured from the huge economic losses. But they are mainly felt as an incalculable violation of the full exercise of citizenship.

In a society that is experiencing its technological revolution, excluding people from access to the internet means condemning them to poverty, social exclusion and the impossibility of accessing essential resources to develop, study, access public services – as the covid-19 pandemic has well demonstrated. 19—and generate wealth.

Public organizations, such as schools and Basic Health Units (UBS), suffer very deeply from the lack of infrastructure and disconnection.

According to 2020 School Censusonly 61% of public schools had broadband internet and, when we look only at rural schools, this number drops to less than 31%.

Another worrying factor is the quality of the Internet in these educational institutions.

The average internet speed in the units of the country is only 11 Mbps (megabits per second). To give you an idea, in the United States, schools with less than 100 Mbps nor are they considered connected, according to information from the Connected Education Innovation Program.

To reverse this exclusion scenario, the prospects seem to be positive. This is because, although not with the necessary urgency, the 5G auction, which ended in November 2021, guaranteed the public power’s commitment to connect 85% of schools by the year 2028. Of the R$ 47.2 billion that should be invested by private companies, R$ 3.1 billion —equivalent to 6.5%— goes to the education area.

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