back to article EE boffin: 5G will be the LAST WORD in mobe tech – literally

Andy Sutton, principal network architect for UK mobile network EE and a visiting professor at the University of Salford, says 5G will be built around small cells and a heterogeneous network. According to the good prof, whose institution is working with EE on streaming 4K hi-def TV, there will be a level of meshing between …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Football Angle?

    What's this got to do with artificial grass?

  2. Rabbit80

    Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

    If i can burn through my monthly allowance in under 10 mins?

    Rather than focus on speed, I want to see the ridiculous data caps gone. Then (and only then) I might consider 4G.

    1. Richard 22

      Re: Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

      One word. Three. They have an all-you-can-eat data option, and enable 4G for all their subscribers at no extra cost. They're a little behind on the rollout compared to EE, but their DC-HSDPA speeds are pretty darn good too.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

        Then when they get more customers you'll be lucky to get 0.5Mbps. It's happened in some Three markets already.

        All you can eat only works if you are massively under-subscribed.

      2. PaulyV

        Re: Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

        However I understand the generosity of Three has gone the way of the dodo for new users as of recent weeks with their limits now at 2GB per month. Happy to be proved wrong.

        This edit button comes in handy sometimes - the limit which came in recently applies to tethering on new accounts, but worth noting.

        1. Dazed and Confused

          Re: Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

          Just signed up with 3 for #1 son as his T-Mobile contract has run its course and they don't have a bill shock proof parent friendly tariff. 3 offer all you can eat data, with more talk and texts than a teenage boy will ever use for £12.90/month on a rolling 30 day basis. Seemed idea contact for a teenage. Only problem is I can't block it at night time to stop nocturnal anime sessions.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

      The caps are because it doesn't have capacity. They are actually too high for the current mast density.

      If you want x2 higher cap in reality who pays for about x4 as many Base Stations? The higher the cap the slower on average the network.

      Mobile infrastructure can only cope with a tiny percentage of customers connecting at the same time, unlike Broadband which has to cope with over 75% connecting at the same time (that will rise to nearly 100%).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

        Only 3% of mobile users use over 5GB, so what's important to you is not necessarily the norm. A couple of years ago it was only 1%. In the same vein the top 10% of users consume the same data as the other 90% of users.

        Why do the economics of this make people think that high users should not pay more? Expecting 9 X the data for the same price might be seen as selfish by some. The money has to be found to pay for these new eNB Small Cells and faster backhaul to boost capacity. If there are no new users coming onto the networks, then each user will have to pay more if they use more. I'm pretty certain that I'm not getting an all-you-can-eat deal from my local BP.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whats the point of super fast mobile broadband..

      10Gb of data allowance is the norm these days, on 4G. If you're eating through it in 10mins... that's a fast network, no?

  3. Natalie Gritpants

    My nearest lamppost is 400m away

    Never mind, 2G works OK-ish

  4. Crazy Operations Guy

    "5G will be the enough"

    Yeah, just like how no one is ever going to need more than 640k of RAM...

  5. James 51

    So, their going to turn mobile phones into walkie talkies. Looking forward to the hack that allows you to call people within 100m without piggy backing on anyone's network infrastructure. Could be handy when abroad.

    1. Tom 38

      I was born with a hack that allows me to call people within 100m...

      1. Elmer Phud

        "I was born with a hack that allows me to call people within 100m."

        But I bet you can't poke anyone from that range.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Walkie Talkies

      Tetra can do it now.

      So can a pair of smart phones with WiFi.

      It's of very limited value. Mesh based connection to eventual back-haul is staggeringly slow speed and high latency, would encourage Operators to have a few less masts. Better performance needs more masts.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So, their going to turn mobile phones into walkie talkies."

      Push To Talk has been a feature in most US market phones (and most Nokia phones) since at least 1998, it got removed because most telecoms providers don't want to support it in Europe for some reason.

  6. Mage Silver badge


    5G will generally be no faster than 4G. Just more flexible.

    If 3G hadn't used an older more obsolete "Air Interface" than GSM due to US Companies political pressure to make it an incremental upgrade of CDMA-1 (inferior to GSM), we would hardly have needed 4G.

    The physical limits are the handset / modem having an omnidirectional ground level or indoor aerial and amount of spectrum economically viable for one user to have. Much speed improvement needs about x10 more masts. That's not economically viable. If there is fibre to each street and every other lamp has a Wireless Base, then you get more speed and capacity. But that's probably not economically viable and not applicable to Rural.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like he's figuring we won't be able to squeeze much more capacity out of the air beyond 5G (meaning that 5G wireless tech will be pretty close to the physical limits).

  8. AndrueC Silver badge

    He sees small cells, typically with a coverage of 50m to 150m

    Otherwise known as a wifi hotspot?

    1. boony

      Not quite wifi hotspot

      though part of the mix for some operators....

      They are actually small eNodeB's in LTE language that are installed on Street Furniture. Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung & Alcatel Lucent all have variants with live trials going on at present in many markets. In the UK, trials have started with greater rollout over 2015-2018 timeframe.

  9. ElNumbre

    The future...

    "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson IBM*

    *" 76% of all quotes found on the internet are made up." - Abraham Lincoln.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: The future...

      I'm sure this boffin chappie is well aware of the IBM quote, which makes his willingness to go public with an apparently equally short-sighted remark all the more interesting and newsworthy.

      1. Bob H

        Re: The future...

        I think the main reason he might say that there is no 6G is the fact that the spectrum is already reaching the Shannon information limit for the modulation and spectrum occupation. So in terms of the air interface there is little progress to be made towards increasing bandwidth. The next steps are about how you build the network and how the phones interact with the environment. With increasingly flexible modems in phones and base stations increasingly being software defined radios hopefully we won't need much more new hardware.

        The biggest challenge as everyone seems to recognise is getting them to actually put the infrastructure in. The fact that most of the networks haven't given consumers easy access to femtocells just shows how backwards we are. My village has very limited Orange/EE coverage and yet the network provider refuses to acknowledge anything is wrong. Some parts of London are difficult to make calls in because the networks are congested and yet after years nothing gets done. Investment in infrastructure seems to have a broad-brush, national focus rather than responding to demand and feedback.

  10. Mike Dimmick

    "By 2018 he envisages data usage as twelve times that of 2012, and as Vodafone has recently said this is heavily driven by the adoption of 4G."

    I don't agree. My view is that as users step up from feature phone and older 'smart'phones to current-generation smartphone, they go from hardly using data at all to using hundreds of MB per month. However, they pretty soon plateau at a level of mobile data usage that they're happy with. As the rate of adoption of smartphones starts to slow down - Ofcom's most recent Technology Tracker survey puts it at 65% of the population, up from 63% the previous quarter - I expect the rate of increase in mobile data to slow down. Most projections are taking the initial exponential growth in data usage and extrapolating exponential growth into the future, uncritically.

    It's true that browsing on phones and tablets is displacing browsing on home PCs. However, at least some of that browsing is happening on Wi-Fi - in the same survey, 73% said they browsed on their phones using their mobile data connection, 69% said they used home Wi-Fi and 32% used Wi-Fi elsewhere. In the previous quarter that was 72% on mobile (+1%), 64% on home Wi-Fi (+5%) and 30% on hotspots (+2%). The survey doesn't say what proportion of browsing was done on each, but I would expect that where home Wi-Fi is available it would be largely used in preference to mobile data.

  11. aidanstevens

    16-32 users in 50-150 metres?

    Well that's not encouraging if you live in any kind of big block or estate. EE's 2G/3G network is unreliable enough as it is.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trying to cancel my Orange mobile broadband owing to lack of (3G) coverage

    But when they call me back they can't get through... because even their 2G coverage is flaky. :-(

    And just a few miles from the centre of Cambridge.

  13. Derek Kingscote

    Who is this guy?

    Microcells present special problems, namely control and handover, and how will the network keep on top of where you are all the time?

    With so many cells and limited range for a cell, RF power levels will [necessarily] be very low – will this even work indoors?

    If the networks are overloaded or destroyed; –ok destroyed you can do nothing in the short term until the networks bring their events kit in [the additional kit they install for special events like Glasto; Silverstone; Cheltenham Races] but if they are truly overloaded in a disaster they have the authority to switch the network off and only users with priority class have access.


    Have you any idea how the police configure and run their TETRA networks? If they are on 4G and the network's down they will be affected too. Will this release 12 enable them to set up multiple talk groups; programme the radios depending on the function/area the officer is covering; will they be able to do over the air rekeying for security? How will that integrate in the control room with their SICCS system? How will the emergency button work? Can higher priority kick lower priority calls off the network e.g. emergency button has been pressed and will the channel be kept open for the audio to get through. Device to device is problematic because the control can't get hold of you if they need you.

    They may, in future, use 4G on a completely stand alone network as they have at the moment, but the upgrade cost are enormous. It is quite a few years since I was involved but over 10 years ago the SICCS [integrates absolutely everything in the control room] was about £500k and the radios [which are personal issue] were about £700. Ours was a fairly small force, but saying that 1000 officers have to have new radios, where is that £700k coming from. £700k + £500k = £1.2Bn, and I haven't even covered the cars with their GPS and tracking the vehicle in real time on the mapping system. If you ever get the chance to look round an operational police control room do take it. They are not in the dark ages any more.

    [The Fire control set up was a complete farce. The number of firemen and vehicles are a fraction of anything that controls working police officers. We specified off the shelf hardware for most of our kit. The SICCS screens were delivered on standard PCs and running off servers. Not bespoke hardware and overspecced mapping. But I digress]

    There are 43 Forces in the UK so it'll be in the order of £100Bn for the total roll-out costs.

    He says :"this will involve a mix of running fibre – either by digging up the ground or through existing power ducts." Most power cables are in the ground with a yellow tape over them saying Danger, Electric Cable.

    I appreciate he's employed by EE and has to push their technology but it's a bit early for 5G vapourware.

    The rest of us live in the real world!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who is this guy?

      Few points on your comments here...

      Even on lower techs with 8 cells, one channel was aways for emergency use and if 2 calls came in, on same cell, all other calls were dropped. Nothing new here.

      Electric cables can be used to backhaul data. This is seen with home plug tech, turning your house electrics into a LAN.

      With IP, you can program whatever you like, as most is software based. Device to device is not actually an issue either.

      Mobile cells have been deployed to disaster areas before. There is a lot to provide additional coverage, such as Pico cells and in-house solutions, which I know EE were offering some customers.

      Mobile style location based services are becoming more accurate and have been known to local devices within 10m radius. That was on 3G and I remember this as related to a Police story about a missing person.

      Also, your math is wrong...

    2. Bob H

      Re: Who is this guy?

      Yes there is a system proposed for 4G to prioritise certain groups of callers in the event of congestion which is why they are talking about it:

      The advantage for these mission critical customers is that when engaged with a network provider they can do it cheaper than with the separate infrastructure cost paid for now. The hardware cost would only be on modifying the existing control room areas to support the new interfaces. For those on the ground the upgrade would be substantial but perhaps the old equipment can be sold to cover the costs? There must be a good market for used TETRA in other countries?

  14. Mage Silver badge


    Some people are victims of Marketing, Wish full thinking or are Employees of Mobile Companies or Infrastructure Companies.

    Basic economics, mathematics and physics seems to escape some voters and commentards.

  15. Derek Kingscote

    Re Also, your math is wrong...

    Mea culpa. It was late – it should, of course read £1.2Million and £100Million

    Even on lower techs with 8 cells, one channel was always for emergency use and if 2 calls came in, on same cell, all other calls were dropped. Nothing new here.

    So are you saying that if all 8 channels on GSM are busy and you call 999, one call gets booted off – or do you get "no network" signal?

    Electric cables can be used to backhaul data. This is seen with home plug tech, turning your house electrics into a LAN.

    How you gonna manage all that data, also you have to get across power distribution transformers – all that lossy inductance at RF and capacitance which will look like a short circuit. In the old days on Long Distance copper cables even the spacing of the ink bands identifying the pairs was important.

    This is not at issue in a home network.

    With IP, you can program whatever you like, as most is software based. Device to device is not actually an issue either..

    TETRA handsets are not like ordinary phones with a SIM card. They are programmed with the all the various talkgroups they need. When the handset connects with the network it has to match up with the TETRA network, the TETRA talkgroups available to it, the security keys, and subsequently the SICCS system. The Network for UK emergency services is run by Airwave, and there are charges for using the Airwave network. As an end user organisation you don't have overall control, so end to end IP is not an option. TETRA handset to handset calls are certainly not a problem, except that when you do this, you are not available to the control room, and you are not listening to your home talkgroup, so in the event of a 'shout' you won't hear it, so you are useless to the control room.

    The missing person was probably done by triangulation.

    1. Bob H

      Re: Re Also, your math is wrong...

      One could probably use powerline and connect to the nearest FTTC cabinet, this gets round your transformer problem and gives up to 500Mbit/sec to each street? Besides if the base stations used a 60-70GHz mesh between themselves they wouldn't need fibre for km's.

      As for calling groups the Mission Critical 4G system is based on SIP, all the complex calling groups could easily be implemented as software functions. An application on the phone could easily allow an officer to see a directory, add people to custom groups for raids etc., and probably easily roam between forces transparently.

      Spend less time looking for problems and more time looking for solutions.

  16. Derek Kingscote

    Powerline & Mission Critical 4G system based on SIP

    Suppose your electricity transformer sub-station serves 1000 people [in reality it's probably a lot more], spread over 3 phases, that's 300+ per phase. All of those 300+ are on the same cable and earth, what use is 500Mbit/sec to each street? There's a main road junction at the bottom of our street; how will you give 500Mbit/sec up our road and 500Mbit/sec along the main road at the bottom of the street and 500Mbit/sec to all the roads off the main road?

    You can't beat physics.


    4G and SIP

    An application on the phone could easily allow an officer to see a directory, add people to custom groups for raids etc., and probably easily roam between forces transparently.

    The last thing you do is to allow "an officer" to "add people to custom groups for raids etc."

    This would result in chaos and anarchy. This has to be managed centrally, and the radios locked down.

    How would the Police Control Room control anybody under your scenario? and what about all the other functions e.g. recording voice calls; recording radio traffic; logging systems; time stamping calls; emergency button function; encryption and over the air rekeying; integration with other systems such as mapping [eg tracking a moving car in real time and displaying it on a map, where the rate of update is dependent on vehicle speed]; centralised voice mail system with a mailbox for each radio.

    I could go on...

    There are many things that are possible, but not all are practical.

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