WHERE DO YOU THINK TURKEY STANDS IN TERMS OF 5G TECHNOLOGY?
Turkey has the necessary technological capacity to develop products with 5G. However, translating this capacity into products and commercial industry will require both effort and investment. If we switch to 5G in 2023, it won’t be too late, because the specs of many of the features that will differentiate 5G products from 4G have just been written – it will take until at least 2023 for these products to be brought into use.
The “domestic and national” product development timeline that began in 2018 should have led to commercialization of 5G by 2023. However, disruptions encountered in support for the projects and a loss of personnel put a stop to these developments. Additionally, the private sector and the defense industry were unable to work together on the development of 5G. The government’s decision-making mechanisms could not bring these industries together, and further could not decide how to fund them.
ARE THERE ANY DOMESTIC COMPANIES IN TURKEY THAT CAN DEVELOP PRODUCTS FOR 5G TECHNOLOGIES?
Turkey also has the capacity to develop products for 5G infrastructure. Studies for the development of domestic infrastructure for mobile networks in Turkey began in 2013, when the defense industry initiated the military-use LTE Base Station development project. Later, with the development of 4.5G, the project expanded into the civilian sector. However, in the last eight years, despite large budgets and the support of Turkey’s mobile operators, the 4.5G project could not reach its expected targets. Nevertheless, this project led to very important technological knowledge and field experience for the mobile communication sector. On the other hand, with the establishment of the Communication Technologies Group (HTK) in recent years, the private sector has successfully completed research and development for the “End-to-End Domestic and National 5G Communication Network” (UUYM5G) project. Funding from TUBITAK allowed the institution to greatly increase its competencies, and this is the biggest project in the history of the institution. Now, it’s time for the private sector – naturally the key player in [the development of mobile telecommunications] – to become the playmaker and to bring the capacity of the defense industry to the private sector.
IS THERE A LACK OF RESOURCES IN THE STUDY OF 5G TECHNOLOGIES?
For our project, USD 20m was used just in the first phase. USD 12m was provided by TUBITAK, while USD 8m was provided by private companies. I think that awareness about 5G is low in our country. While the defense industry can easily find resources, the private sector needs to invest itself in order to get use of sources. If the private sector had the money to develop this, they wouldn’t ask the stable. But because the system is wrongly constructed, despite the private sector being the source for the state, players have trouble finding resources.
HOW MANY COMPANIES COMPRISE THE COMMU˹ NICATION TECHNOLOGIES GROUP?
More than 160 companies from 13 cities comprise the Communication Technologies Group (HTK). After the establishment of HTK, the share of purchases made by mobile operators that were made locally increased from below 1% to 20%. The fact that companies work more closely with each other and with mobile operators has led to this.
IS GTENT CAPABLE OF BECOMING AN INTERNATIONAL PLAYER?
Because cooperation could not be fully established between the defense industry and the private sector in the UUYM5G beginning in 2018, though the defense industry was later included in the project, a “division of labor” was established. The project was divided into two separate projects. 10 of the private sector companies involved in the project came together to form a company called GTENT, and defense industry companies did not participate. The prototypes that GTENT went on to develop with other HTK players, demoed at the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), are at an internationally competitive level. If unity in this industry is achieved, and if the private sector is supported, we can domestically develop necessary technologies for 5G infrastructure and to open a very important export channel for our country.
Today, the investments of our mobile operators are around USD 2bn per year. With 5G, this figure is expected to exceed USD 3bn. Out domestic producers have a market for products that must be at least 45% domestically produced of at least USD 1.5bn. Though the domestic market share of USD 1.5-2bn is not necessarily a sustainable volume, it will at least give domestic producers the power to stand up and make connections with global powers. The customer base for our GTENT and HTK manufacturers spans nearly 100 countries – these are operators that can be sold products from Turkish producers. GTENT aims to reach an annual export volume of USD 5bn by taking a 10% share of the regional market and a 5% share of the global market by 2028.
WHERE DOES TELENITY STAND TODAY?
Today, Telenity serves more than 1 billion users with mobile operators in more than 40 countries. Instead of licensing its products in line with changing trends, the company has built the Digital Service Platform, which it serves from the cloud, compatible with 5G standards. In the End-to-End Domestic and National 5G Network project, on the one hand, we share our global standard product development culture with stakeholders. On the other hand, we develop the digital platform for these products. Telenity employs 150 engineers in four centers. The company has become an education center, which has brought more than 1000 engineers into Turkey’s ecosystem since its founding.
IT SEEMS THAT THE GOALS OF ASELSAN’S ULAK HAVE NOT BEEN ACHIEVED. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THIS SITUATION TO?
The 4.5G base station was developed with the business model and leadership of the defense industry, then opened to use by mobile operators in 2017. Even though these were not the stakeholders and customers that the defense industry was used to, they had to use what they were giving. Even though they were not the stakeholders or customers the defense industry was used to, mobile operators gave more support to this project than they have to any manufacturer in four years. They used what they were given, kept to the “45% local” target, and with the “encouragement” of the government and the enthusiasm of managers and teams to take part in a domestic success story, gave their all. However, at this point, these goals are still very far away. Domestic 4.5G base stations are still used by very few, and only in areas that do not require good performance.