If 5G is the answer, what is the question?

Recent months have seen conflicting messages round 5G. On the one hand, the UK public sale of frequencies in the so-called “5G pioneer band” raised £1.35bn. On the opposite, the chairman of Huawei publicly mentioned that customers wouldn’t discover any distinction between 4G and 5G and the one purpose Huawei was creating 5G gear was in case an absence of a 5G providing affected its 4G gross sales. What’s occurring?

5G has been the topic of unrelenting hype for a few years. Go again to 2016 and most believed that 5G was transformative, would change the way in which we lived our lives, would open a number of latest income streams for operators and was a chance for international locations to achieve essential world management. It was in opposition to this backdrop that I revealed my ebook The 5G Myth, a lone voice suggesting that the enterprise instances introduced simply didn’t make sense.

But in November final 12 months, issues began to vary. The CEO of BT mentioned he couldn’t see a enterprise case for 5G and neither may different operators he talked to. Others, similar to Vodafone, adopted go well with. Even Korea Telecom – for a very long time the poster-child for industrial technique investments – mentioned the enterprise case was difficult and that the learnings from preliminary deployments on the 2018 Winter Olympics had been that deployment was more durable than anticipated.

So if operators can’t see a enterprise case, why did they spend a lot on spectrum? The reply is capability. Mobile operators typically undergo community congestion in dense city areas and site visitors calls for proceed to develop, albeit at a slowing price. The lowest-cost solution to ship extra capability is to utilise extra spectrum on current cells – that is less expensive than constructing a number of small cells. The frequency bands auctioned, at 2.3GHz and three.5GHz, can be utilized instantly for 4G.

Hence they’ve worth to operators as a less expensive solution to meet current demand. They additionally give operators an choice to construct 5G ought to a enterprise case emerge for it – most operators wouldn’t need the danger of not having 5G spectrum after which discovering that there’s a sturdy want for it. It can be price noting that this isn’t some huge cash for spectrum – a lot lower than the £22bn spent on 3G spectrum, for instance.

So, ought to we be pleased with the way in which issues have performed out? On the plus aspect, the spectrum will enable operators to offer extra capability, in all probability with out elevating costs. And sanity is beginning to prevail about 5G, decreasing the danger of huge wasted investments. But on the minus aspect, cell connectivity is way from excellent, with not-spots and connectivity points nonetheless occurring far too typically. These frequencies is not going to assist enhance connectivity – the vary is just too low to be helpful.

A extra achievable and, arguably, higher future is what I name constant connectivity – the power to be related at an affordable velocity all over the place. Rather than aiming for the ever-faster connections promised by 5G proponents, it means that delivering enhanced protection in plenty of identified problematic areas, similar to trains and rural areas, would generate larger worth for the economic system and be most well-liked by most customers.

In most of those areas – trains, planes, indoors – Wi-Fi is a greater resolution than mobile, except for protection in rural areas. This displays a development that has been below approach for years in the direction of growing use and reliance on Wi-Fi to the extent that it’s now the popular technique of communication for most individuals. Developing insurance policies for a “Wi-Fi first” world is changing into more and more essential for governments and regulators.

The finish consequence – connectivity all over the place – could be properly price striving for. A terrific street system is not one with limitless most velocity, however one with minimal congestion and wonderful security. A terrific communications system is one that’s obtainable all over the place, always, with minimal congestion and at low value. The current 5G public sale is prone to show a sticking plaster fairly than a treatment for the present connectivity points. It is time for a unique method.

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Publish Date: 2018-05-08 09:58:00

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