In July 2019, Latvia became one of the first countries in Europe, which introduced 5G network coverage. Latvia is ahead of such European countries as Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, France, Estonia in the area of Internet coverage and becoming one of the 5G network leaders worldwide. 5G is currently developing an environment in Latvia that will be able to ensure a higher level of exports, thereby making it possible to compete globally. The development and use of 5G compatibility have been one of the priorities of the European Parliament which means not only speed and coverage, but also a series of functions that will be provided for sensors and other equipment in the digital environment. 5G was introduced in Latvia by “Latvian Mobile Telephone” (LMT), one of the most ambitious and innovative companies in Latvia with more than 25 years of experience in the telecommunication sector.
Latvia is known throughout the world for its fast Internet connection, while at the same time providing low costs for its consumers. As a result, Latvian telecommunication companies such as LMT can provide solutions to processes that consume huge amounts of data daily. Latvia is experiencing increasing trends in Internet connection consumption. In recent years, the usage of Internet in Latvia has increased rapidly. As Latvian mobile operators can ensure free access to fast Internet, with consumer-friendly cost, customer demand in Latvia is still growing. For this reason, one of the challenges for the telecommunication operators in the future will be to provide common information capacity while maintaining the security of data transmission as well as stability.
The deployment of 5G-enabled technologies can have high added value for businesses, attracting investment and increasing national competitiveness. The implementation of 5G in Latvia means a breakthrough in technology that will create new industries and will have a positive impact on existing industries and change our daily lives.
In Latvia, there will be many benefits from the introduction of 5G network coverage. Not only will the population of Latvia have access to several times faster internet connection, but the introduction of the 5G network will also provide the possibility of running many more Internet of things (IoT) (system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines) devices simultaneously as well. 5G coverage in Latvia will also expand opportunities for 4G network coverage. For example, the NarrowBand IoT will allow mobile internet to be provided in places where it was not possible until now. Similarly, it is now possible to establish local mobile networks on the 4G network for the needs of a particular company or authority. The introduction of 5G network coverage in Latvia will also improve the stability of the data transmission connection and the security of the network coverage. By that guaranteeing an uninterrupted data exchange as well as an improvement in response time. These improvements would be able to help to implement and guarantee high-quality solutions in Latvia, such as the development of the digital economy, remote drone management, unmanned vehicles. 5G Technologies has high added value and can provide a new business, investment attraction and increase national competitiveness.
Although 5G network coverage has only recently been developed in Latvia, LMT has already started developing and presenting innovation of the defense industry for export. 5G will open up unprecedented mobile capabilities, such as creating a dedicated transmission channel to security authorities, so that the rest of the Internet does not interfere with the channel. LMT has introduced its potential clients with other innovative solutions in the security field – mission management system, drone traffic management, computer vision and other. The development of 5G in Latvia has contributed to the creation of new potential areas of export, as well as the development of new products in Latvia.
The implementation of this powerful 5G network has enabled Latvian entrepreneurs to develop new ideas in the technology sector. Together with internal affairs and defense sector authorities, LMT, in cooperation with Riga Technical University, is developing new, innovative solutions for national defense. By being able to successfully provide internet coverage in Latvia has allowed LMT to be involved in various European projects. All of this results in the development of mission management systems that integrate both human communication and various IoT sensors to assess the situation more quickly and to be able to make more accurate decisions.
The income from the information and communication technology sector in Latvia’s state budget has increased from €289 million in 2015 to €356 million in 2017, as well as exports of the Information and Communication Technology sector are experiencing rapid growth. The introduction of 5G in Latvia will mainly support the information and communication technology sector. The introduction of 5G will significantly improve the environment of this sector in Latvia, thereby strengthening the leaders’ position in terms of building the communication infrastructure, which will also have a significant impact on the state’s budget.
Latvia is experiencing an increase in the number of information and communication companies that introduce innovations that are competitive in the global market. For example, “Giraffe Visual” is one of the first companies in Europe to provide the highest-quality interactive visualization in 360 ° virtual tour format, 360 ° video, interactive presentation technology as a service for touchscreen surface and virtual reality. from a small Latvian youth company that built virtual tours for guesthouses in Latvia for a couple of years, they have become industry leaders in Europe with clients in 27 countries. This is just one of many examples. Business incubators, accelerators are currently active in providing financial support, working spaces, self-growth seminars for young Latvian entrepreneurs. In particular, capacity building for information and communications companies is supported. The support of the state and the introduction of 5G coverage in Latvia will provide technology companies with a better environment to carry out their potential, thereby contributing to the development of the economy in Latvia.
Education and the development of 5G have a common future in Latvia. With the introduction of the new education reform in Latvia, emphasis will be placed on the acquisition of information technologies, promoting high computer skills for pupils. The number of students in the information and communication technology sector has also increased in recent years. It is therefore important that future professionals in this sector are provided with an environment that is competitive with the global market, an environment for improving their knowledge in the field of information and technology. Developing 5G specifically in Latvia will allow students to operate with big data, create innovations in the information and technology sector.
“Big data is a key basis of competition, productivity and innovation development nowadays. Mobile telecommunications is an industry which espouses well with big data concept. Experts predict that in the next few years, 50 billion different smart devices will use to collect, analyze and share data. The amount of data in our world will explode. Data management and analysis steps show – Big data is from mere buzzword – big data is here to stay” – stresses the President, Chairman of the Management Board of LMT Dr, Prof. Juris Binde.
A significant benefit of 5G Internet coverage in Latvia will be job efficiency. 5G will improve business efficiency and productivity, as well as make easier people’s everyday life. Due to the high speed of the 5G Internet, it will be possible to improve and implement smart solutions, not only in the technology sector. For example, the ability to transfer and process large-capacity data more quickly will improve the functioning of public administration, health care, education. 5G network coverage will ensure a rise in job productivity in Latvia.
Similarly, 5G allows information to be processed not only centrally but also locally in the base station area to perform data analysis quickly and in a restricted field. LMT, together with the University of Latvia, has already developed a method for evaluating the regional economic activity, based on big data from the mobile network. Mobile data analysis makes it possible to measure population dynamics, plan infrastructure and find many more effective solutions. This study has shown good results and confirms the potential for large data use in Latvia.
Although the introduction of 5G brings a lot of benefits to the Latvian economy, almost every fifth of the population (17%) believes that 5G technology in Latvia should not be implemented. One of the reasons explaining the resistance to the deployment of the 5G network in Latvia is the disinformation campaigns in the social networking apps like Facebook, which uses distorted and false facts about 5G technologies that have been shared by several hundred people, thereby reaching thousands of others. Surveys show that against 5G implementation are older people or people with a low level of education. The financial situation of people has also great importance. The higher it is, the more positive attitude towards the introduction of new technologies in Latvia is received. As part of this disinformation campaign, there was even a protest against 5G in Latvia this year.
It is worth noting that in Latvia the electromagnetic radiation rate is supervised by the Health Inspectorate. Commenting on the hazards of 5G waves, the Latvian Health Inspectorate stresses that there are no grounds to question the effects of 4G or 5G on human organisms. The commercial operator must confirm the safety of the antennas with special certificates to install them. Independent measurements are performed after the installation of the antennas. The measurements ordered by the Health Inspectorate have never shown deviations from the norm.
In order to successfully implement the 5G network in Latvia and use full capacity that this technology offers to Latvia, the world’s first hackathon of 5G policymakers took place on 26th and 27th November 2019. This 5G hackathon is an innovation in policymaking. The event aimed to bring together all sectors involved in 5G technology to assess current challenges related to 5G and to develop recommendations to promote 5G innovation in the Baltic Sea region.
With the help of this hackathon, industry professionals, representatives of the Baltic and European region met in Riga to recommend more appropriate legislation for the opportunities that will create 5G technologies, while making the Baltic region a 5G innovation leader in the world. By creating this type of hackathons, the Latvian government has shown that it cares about entrepreneurs in its region and that the government wants to provide a business-friendly, innovation-friendly environment.
The current legislative framework is not suitable for achieving the maximum efficiency of 5G technologies. Innovative policy-making tools such as the 5G hackathon have helped Latvia, as well as the Baltic Sea region, together with professionals in its field, take the first steps towards a common approach in establishing a legal framework. The regulatory frameworks must be not only conducive to innovation but also safe for consumers and others.
As has already been shown, in the future 5G technologies will have the opportunity to boost economic growth, so Latvia is already creating appropriate laws that support both entrepreneurs and households. Important topics as cross-border transport problems, infrastructure issues, personal data protection challenges, security, data availability were discussed in the hackathon.
“5G is one of those technological breakthroughs that has the potential to change the way we live. We have to be responsible for creating an environment and legislation at a cross-border level that will enable new innovations and increase our economic competitiveness globally. That’s why the first-ever 5G policymakers’ hackathon will bring together the key representatives from all Baltic Sea Region countries to create common recommendations for policymakers, to help them to prepare better legislation for the possibilities that 5G technologies will create, and to establish the region as leaders in 5G innovation.” – Ralfs Nemiro, Minister of Economics of the Republic of Latvia.
5G hackathon was just the beginning of creating a single policy for 5G across the Baltic Sea region. After the hackathon, the Ministry of Economy and members of the hackathon had prepared 5 recommendations for the policy makers, which are planned to be discussed.
 Latvian research centre SKDS
 Latvian research centre SKDS