Riga, Latvia has become my European home away from home for the past five years, given my participation with 5G Techritory. I recently returned to the event as an advisor and speaker. From my perspective, the event has gone far to demonstrate Latvia’s position as a mobile telecommunications leader in the European Union. The country boasts an impressive fiber deployment that serves broadband services to more than 70% of households, ranking it as one of the densest deployments in the world. That’s an important statistic, because fiber also provides needed backhaul for next-generation 5G networks and services.
For me personally, it was a busy three days in Riga, and I would like to share my insights from a pre-event media tour and the event itself.
Pre-Event Media Tour
The first stop on the pre-event media tour was with Rail Baltica—an ambitious high-speed train project that will connect all three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) by the end of 2030 to support personal travel, business commerce and military logistics and defense. Rail Baltica is a fully electrified and sustainable rail system that is bringing together countries from all around the European Union and other parts of the world. Given the project’s electrification, 5G should factor heavily into its communications and command and control systems. I also suspect that autonomous operation may be an eventual area for investigation, given that the railway crosses three countries and could also someday be connected to Finland in the north. Partial to full autonomy could solve many operational challenges, given the distances covered and the need to comply with the human-operator regulations of the individual countries.
The second stop was at Riga Technical University, an institution with an enrollment of 12,000 students. The university offers many tech-oriented degree tracks, but also serves as a research facility for the region. Silicon photonics represents an area of leadership, and the institution’s work in optical transport networking supports advancements in quantum computing, networking silicon design and associated infrastructure. These efforts are likely to benefit Latvian fiber service providers such as Tet with the latest technology to enable symmetrical, multi-gig performance to power a host of consumer and enterprise use cases.
The 5G Techritory event itself spanned two days and was filled with developer workshops, technical demonstrations, keynotes and panel discussions. Mobile network operator LMT and equipment company MikroTik demonstrated a millimeter-wave router proof of concept for use in maritime dock and ship-to-ship communications. It’s a compelling use case that should also benefit from the efforts of Qualcomm and others to improve propagation, which will support greater scale and adoption.
During the event I also spent time with Nokia Europe senior vice president Rolf Werner to discuss his company’s efforts to drive adoption of industrial metaverse and smart-city applications through blueprint and ecosystem efforts. I applaud Nokia’s efforts to assist its mobile network operator clients in seeking new monetization opportunities, which is especially welcome given the sizeable investments already tied to 5G deployments.
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I personally led two sessions at the event, first to discuss some of the business challenges and successes tied to 5G, then to do a deep dive on Open RAN that examined security, integration, supply chain, performance and sustainability considerations. You can find the latter session and many others on the event website if you’re interested.
What might best showcase Baltic telecommunication leadership is a memo of understanding between Latvia and Ukraine that was signed at the event. Latvia is pledging to help Ukraine rebuild its critical telecommunications infrastructure with an emphasis on 5G. During the war with Russia, more than 5,000 base stations have been destroyed, with one in eight Ukrainians unable to access the internet and related services. Latvia’s willingness to share best practices and lessons learned in its own 5G deployments should go far to accelerate Ukraine’s efforts.
I continue to be impressed not only with Latvia, but with the whole Baltic region, especially for its leadership in telecommunications and 5G adoption. 5G Techritory goes far every year to highlight innovative 5G use cases that are poised to disrupt markets, accelerate digital transformation, fortify critical infrastructure and create economic prosperity within the European Union and beyond. I expect next year’s event will lean heavily into generative AI and security, unlocking even more game-changing applications as many public mobile networks transition to 5G Standalone, marrying 5G core and radio access network infrastructure to unlock the true promise of next-generation mobile communications.