How can Finland maintain its position as a 5G pioneer?

The Minister of Transport and Communications of Finland, Timo Harakka, spoke at the FiCom Forum morning seminar on 26 May 2021 about Finland’s progressive development of 5G and its significance for the society. Finland has achieved its leading position through smooth collaboration and open interaction between the authorities and the sector.

Timo Harakka, Minister of Transport and Communications
(photo: Finnish Government)

Summary of the minister’s speech:

A few years ago, the ministry, the Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom) and the entire telecommunications sector agreed on the joint aim of making Finland a 5G frontrunner. We can all be proud of how well this objective has been met. Finland is internationally recognised as a leader in mobile networks and technologies. Now this also applies to 5G networks. This success has been achieved together, with each of us playing our part.

Progressive frequency policy is a prerequisite for wireless innovation

The Ministry of Transport and Communications has the duty to ensure that the fuel of mobile networks – frequencies – are available for network construction in sufficient quantities, expediently and early enough. In frequency terms, we are trailblazers in Europe. Finland was the first EU Member State to fully implement the so-called 5G pioneer bands. The first ones were auctioned more than four years ago, and the final ones last summer. Only three Member States took 5G bands into use within the time frame specified by the European Commission.

Two frequency bands have been specifically reserved for the construction of local 5G networks. Since last summer, private radio networks have been established, for example, for industrial areas, harbours and power stations on one of these frequency bands.

Testing of new technologies is crucial

In Finland, numerous development projects are underway. They are testing network solutions for industry and smart cities. These tests promote the creation of new services and innovations based on 5G technology while also enhancing the visibility of Finnish expertise.

I am glad that we have been allocating frequency bands for diverse testing and product development uses for many years now. We have a unique national set of test networks, and Traficom is also running its own ecosystem project.

New aid programme is more technology-neutral than before

Finland has high-quality yet affordably priced wireless connections. As remote work and multiple residences become more and more popular, fast connections are increasingly necessary in sparsely populated areas as well. Reliable networks increase municipalities’ vitality and offer opportunities for adopting new digital services.

At the beginning of this year, we initiated a new aid programme for broadband infrastructure, which aims to promote the construction of fast connections in areas where this has not happened on market terms. Connections can now be established based on fixed wireless 5G technology. Therefore, the programme is more flexible than its predecessors, as fast connections can be implemented cost-effectively, using the technology most suitable for each area.

Communication network infrastructure is crucial for a functioning society

The importance of proper communication network infrastructure has only grown during the global pandemic. In Finland, remote work and the use of media streaming services increased mobile traffic by as much as 40 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic. Our telecom network capacity has coped well with this increase.

This is thanks to what may be the best data communication networks globally, and I want to thank all of you who invest in them.

As remote work and multi-site work increase, connections must work optimally also in public transport vehicles. Providing user-friendly, low-emissions and accessible transport services is one way to reduce traffic emissions and other negative effects. I hope that through negotiation between businesses and the authorities, we will find solutions for improving mobile reception also on trains.

Technology dependence also increases risks

Concerning the security of 5G networks, the EU needs to adopt a common approach. In October 2019, the Member States published a report on the EU coordinated risk assessment on cybersecurity in 5G networks. In January 2020, Member States and the European Commission agreed to a joint EU toolbox of mitigating measures for improving the cybersecurity of 5G networks.

Finland is committed to implementing the joint EU 5G toolbox and has formulated supplementary legal clauses that follow the recommendations. These will further strengthen regulation concerning communication network security.

Collaboration will keep us at the forefront of development

I want to conclude with more thanks. Two of the most important elements of the Finnish success story have been our shared aim to be frontrunners and the excellent interaction and collaboration between the sector and the authorities. We have been able to solve many challenging questions through dialogue.

By upholding this collaboration, we can maintain our position as leaders in technology, thereby fostering both competitiveness and wellbeing.