back to article So. To the question we really wanted answering: How real is 5G?

So what's really happening with 5G? And is it proper 5G? "5G" is an umbrella term that covers all kinds of new network technology, continuing to be developed at various speeds. The industry had to stop the music at some point so a baseline specification could be heralded, and that's what the 3GPP did in mid-2017 with the core …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I won't hold my breath

    Looks to me like 5G is simply so that marketing hacks can sell new and shiney hardware and connection contracts, using the magical term "up to". Existing 3.5G and 4G technologies offer theoretical speeds that nobody I know in the real world (in the UK) ever sees, so what's the purpose of having more bandwidth between the tower and the handset, when the networks over-subscribe the capacity, and provide limited backhaul connectivity?

    Even then, where's the use case? No point spewing 4K content to a mobile device that can't show the benefit, and the MNOs clearly have no ambition to create a high speed domestic offer to replace fixed line.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: I won't hold my breath

      Yes, I get between 300bps and 1kbps here at the moment. Vodafone's own speedtest tool tells me there isn't a data connection at all.

      1. WallMeerkat

        Re: I won't hold my breath

        Vodafone can barely take a voice call from my home never mind thinking about data.

        And yet I'm only with them because they're the "best" reception!!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about auto-updates?

      You've kind of answered yourself in the same comment as to why 5G makes a difference.

      The capacity of the cell increases. A bigger cake sliced up works better than a smaller cake. And with other bands being enabled, they are also more than one cake to slice up now.

      And "up to" is not "magical" term - it is governed by the laws of physics. It isn't theoretical either, the speed can be seen and measured if the channel conditions are met.

      If you want the peak speed that you incorrectly describe as "theoretical", you just have to be willing to pay a lot of money for it. Like a leased line.

      Use case - your mobile can be the *source* of the 4K video to stream. 4K live streaming.

      "MNOs clearly have no ambition to create a high speed domestic offer to replace fixed line"

      You clearly are not aware - in the UK -

      And if you want the 5G example -

      PS: marketing hacks selling new shiney is when they label 4G technology as 5G as AT&T has done and there is no engineering behind it. There is real technology behind 5G.

      People like you had a rant for 3G, 3.5G, 4G, 4G+ LTE advanced.

      I am pretty damn sure, barring the odd one, no one wishes networks were still on 2G GPRS because the newer G's were all "marketing shill" and "a waste of time".

      Stop ranting and start reading up on what this actually is.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I won't hold my breath

      You're right not to hold your breath - you're obviously from the UK, soon to be the backwater of Europe.

      Your "leaders" aspire to providing everyone with 10 Mbs to everyone by 2020.

      Mega bits, according to the BBC:

      Wow <expletive deleted> wow.

      That's what I call "taking back control".

      /sarcasm off.

      At that rate, North Korea might get it before you LOL.

  2. Philippe


    I think I'll do like Trump and wait for 6G.

  3. big_D Silver badge


    if only Vodafone could get LTE working.

    My contract is up to 500mbps LTE, but I generally see below 1kbps at work and 5 - 10mbps at home...

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: now,

      Consider yourself lucky: still got "only" UMTS from Unitymedia. It's generally okay except for some worringly large blackspots. Noticeably better when abroad because they generally don't apply traffic-shaping. Still 500 MB / month for nowt so I shouldn't complain too much but maybe I'd be better off with a data SIM from another EU country…

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: now,

        lol I knew about Vodas takeover of KD, a few years back.. But. it might have passed you by that they also managed to get their mits onto UnityMedia as well.. Something I only found out purly by accedent. As I visited their Website trying to find the complaints line as both my House Phone, and VDSL line(s), have both decided that today was a great time to crap over themselvels.

        I thought we had laws in place to prevent this kinf of monoploy? Humm I guess not....

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: now,

          The UnityMedia deal hasn't been finalised as it awaiting regulatory approval but I don't see that not being given. There is still a market for ISPs, more so than for mobile where we're down to three networks in most countries, although I thiink it was demonstrated that >= 4 networks are required for effective competition.

          Currently UnityMedia is operating as a cheapskate MVNO with O2's network, which is presumably why it doesn't have LTE codecs. And shitty coverage.

  4. Gio Ciampa

    "4K video beamed from car circling the streets"

    With nobody else using the entire network I'll wager...

    ...what happens when World+Dog are on there too?

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: "4K video beamed from car circling the streets"

      Not dogs. 4k cats.

      1. Gio Ciampa

        Re: "4K video beamed from car circling the streets"

        World+Dog will be watching the cats I presume...

  5. chuck_u_farley

    But why?

    Why do I need 1.8 Gb/s to my phone ?

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: But why?

      Q: Why do I need 1.8 Gb/s to my phone ?

      A: So you can burn through your data faster and incur additional charges.

      1. fattybacon

        Re: But why?

        Yarp. I enabled 4G Data Roaming on my son's phone when he went to Spain. One video call, all allowance used up for the week. The app that used to have nice controls which you could limit bandwidth manually were removed for 'improved user experience', so when offered a juicy 4g data resource it usedto the max.

        Looked very good, mind.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But why?

      "Why do I need 1.8 Gb/s to my phone ?"

      Because it probably means ~100 people can connect to a mast at 10-15Mbps.

      It's not all about you. Sorry...

    3. Hermann

      Re: But why?

      apparently for beaming 4K video from car

      1. Khaptain

        Re: But why?

        Because the dream of FTTH is just a dream.

        1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

          Re: But why?

          Really? My gigabit FTTH is working great!

    4. M.V. Lipvig Bronze badge

      Re: But why?

      Because Facebook, Google and Amazon must all be able to track you to within 5mm of your actual location to make sure your ad experience is the best possible ad experience you can have. Not to mention the Alphabet/M-Number Agencies want to know what you're up to in case they need to drop a drone delivered explosive enema up your backside. And tracking takes ban!dwidth

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Can anyone hear the tumbleweed?

    I thought the whole point behind LTE and the switch to an IP stack was to make future network upgrades less monumental? In the West, in most places (defined by % population) coverage is good enough for most people already. We only got the moniker 5G because manufacturers wanted something to badge their kit with.

    The drivers for 5G are countries with higher population density and, supposedly, the billions of sensors clamouring to be online constantly. Still waiting for the credible use cases which don't include things like cars sending monitoring data in real time and fridges that take all the bother out of stocking up, …

    So, China needs 5G as its citizens are mobile first / mobile only. Hardly surprising then that Huawei and ZTE have done so much work in the area.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can anyone hear the tumbleweed?

      >> was to make future network upgrades less monumental

      Who said it isn't less monumental? Did you think 4G promised zero cost upgrades to the end of time?

      >> coverage is good enough

      640K Ought to be Enough for Anyone

      Wow - 128 kbps ISDN line - we will never need anything more ever.

      The internet is only using for academic use - what home will ever need it?

      Networks are already dealing with compounded data use growth - images and videos are going high-def and things are moving off-device.

      And the new world is all about data - user's data, user meta-data, device sensor data is already possible today - every mobile phone is a data source that is tapped, sensor networks are the chicken-egg thing so phones would enable the infrastructure spend that the sensors could then practically tap on to.

      Information is king - and data collection is the new weapon. As with anything, it can be used for good and bad, but without question the ability today to process such vast amounts of data can enable things that were utterly impossible before.

      BTW - here is an actual example that is accelerated by 5G because of its significantly lower latency.

      The hype is all for autonomous but this sort of driver assistance is far closer and real.

      If the question is does the mass market need it NOW with the next phone purchase - probably not. But arguing that there is no point to it is luddite thinking. As commentators did with 2.5, 3, 4G

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I didn't notice much of a difference at all when my AT&T phone upgraded to the new 5GE.

    But perhaps I'm just holding it wrong?


    1. Clunking Fist

      Re: Meh

      Did they send you a 5G sticker? Did you stick it on? You did? I bet you didn't stick it on quite the right spot. Or maybe upside down.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like we are entering the next stage of the Gartner hype cycle

    We're moving on from the "peak of inflated expectations" into the "trough of disillusionment". In a couple years we might be ready to hit the "slope of enlightenment".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Looks like we are entering the next stage of the Gartner hype cycle

      In a couple of years, we'll be on the slope of despondency, due to the job losses.

      And heading the wrong way on it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electric cars are "very real"

    But I don't see many people buying them in the next few years, apart from those who've got a spare £30K burning a hole in their pocket.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Electric cars are "very real"

      Electric Cars are a ****'ing fraud. But, let me use my smug holier than thau green face anyway.... Cause Envro-Hippies are the worst kind of Trolls that, its possible to be.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Electric cars are "very real"

        Tell me more about your Sumg-mo-bile again, like how we have to strip mine sh--hole countries for the rare eaths to manufacture the Batteries, and how envromentally friendly the eventual disposal of these Batteries will end up being again? I would say you had a slight right to be smug, if it were possible to attach said Smug-mo-bile to one of the bird killing windmills that the greenies seem to like so much. the dirty secret however is your producing the same amount of CO² as everyone else. IF ONLY indirectly. but, lets not go bursting any bubbles...

        Note this isnt a direct on the Technology as such. But, these toys have a long way to go before ever replacing the internal combustion engine. Like Clarkson stated i only have (whatever number he pulled outta his arse), of hours left, and I don't want to waste them waiting for my Smug-mo-bile to rechage.

  10. jonfr

    No VoLTE/VoWiFi on many networks

    The problem is that many mobile networks don't support VoLTE/VoWiFi (4G) yet and route their calls over 3G or 2G (GSM). That adds a lot of extra hardware to their infrastructure and that is a hardware that needs to start going down soon. Running 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G networks at the same time just can't be smart or cost effective in any way. There is a benefit in using VoWiFi since it allows calls to be routed over the internet instead of the mobile network in case of bad signal coverage inside a home.

    Some mobile network companies have started shutting off 2G and 3G networks. Some news suggest that 3G is going to be turned off earlier than 2G in Europe due to 4G network data speeds. Since 3G isn't that good for internet connection and 2G is only useful for voice and slow data connection.

    I am expecting to buy a 5G mobile phone from 2024. I am going to allow early adapters to figure out all the bugs.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: No VoLTE/VoWiFi on many networks

      "I am expecting to buy a 5G mobile phone from 2024. I am going to allow early adapters to figure out all the bugs."

      I am expecting to wait quite a bit longer than that. We've had 4G for nearly a decade, but coverage is still extremely patchy and 3G is more than good enough for the data rates anyone can actually use on a mobile device (>20 Mbps as standard, >600 Mbps theoretically possible). That's not to say upgrades aren't useful, but it's taken 10 years to get to the point where 4G is at all useful. Given all the issues 5G has, I certainly don't see there being any point in buying a 5G phone 5 years from now. Indeed, not living in a big city I'm not convinced there will ever be any point in getting one at all; plenty of networks don't plan to ever install 5G outside cities and will just fall back to 4G everywhere else anyway.

      So yeah, I'm betting on 2029 at the earliest for there being any point in buying a 5G phone, and even then only for people who spend significant amounts of time in major cities.

      1. jonfr

        Re: No VoLTE/VoWiFi on many networks

        You are going to get 5G signals before that. The current situation is to clear 700Mhz (this has only happened in some countries) and even go down to 600Mhz (maybe 450Mhz) in next few years. Television and radio is going to IP broadcast networks at the same time, so bandwidth is not an huge issues in the long term future.

        Current delay for 4G networks is the use of 2G and 3G networks in 900Mhz band. It has helped that 800Mhz is only used for 4G networks and soon 5G networks. The change of technology always takes time to happen.

        In Europe 4G and 4G+ coverage is good in the countries that I know (Denmark and Iceland). Denmark has close to 99% coverage an Iceland has close to 80% coverage (this numbers are just estimates based on the coverage maps that I can access). In Iceland the 4G coverage now is closer to 95+% if only counting towns and villages. Many areas of Iceland have no service or just 2G/3G service due to how remote they are.

  11. Dabbb


    you had design WiFi coverage for entire city using existing WiFi routers with range of about 100m. Nobody ever endured such a monumental task simply because required infrastructure is too expensive and number of required hotspots is just to high.

    Enter 5G and suddenly base stations with pretty much same range but somewhat higher throughput suddenly became viable and whole idea is no longer considered insane.

    Something does not add up here.

  12. Bush_rat

    Early Days

    I highly recommend reading the official white paper outlining the actually changes that make 5G distinct from 4G. It's boring, but most of the changes are around massively increased client density. I think it's a shame that the 5G advertising material is so heavily focused on speed, when it'll be the quality of connection that will really see a substantial benefit.

    Things like OFDM and the move to sub-6GHz and super-24GHz frequencies are expected to drop network latency from approximately 20ms on LTE down to sub-1ms on 5G. The 5% low for expected network speed also increases from around 10Mbps on LTE to a flat 1Gbps.

    But the vast majority of improvements require a substantial increase in the number of cells and antenna in a given region. This is going to be a very expensive upgrade, and it's going to take a long time.

    1. Dabbb

      Re: Early Days

      Just curious, what is latency of 24GHz 5G signal through reinforced steel concrete wall you normally find in high client density areas ?

      1. Bush_rat

        Re: Early Days

        Oh days! One of the awesome changes tho is the size of antenna, because they are only about an inch or so tall, you can cram a bunch into a unit smaller than most Wi-Fi APs. The idea would be to install 5G cells literally everywhere people would use it.

        And for areas where this can't be done (for cost or secutiry reasons), the 5G spec still operates on sub-6GHz as well as on actual Wi-Fi bands. On top of that, 5G also uses 4G LTE for handshakes and as a fallback. So once 5G is installed, the worst that you could expect is exactly what you already have, no worse.

        1. Dabbb

          Re: Early Days

          Sorry, I don't care about antenna size and how many you can fit into one butthole. I already have WiFi everywhere I need it and 4G for all other areas.

          What is the main selling feature of 5G I am supposed to be excited about ?

          1. Bush_rat

            Re: Early Days

            No idea. Probably the same types of things people were excited about them the GSM networks were being setup whilst people complained saying they had phone booths where they needed them and FM radio everywhere else.

  13. Dabbb

    5G vs WiFi

    5G - ip address from operator range and devices directly exposed to Internet.

    WiFi - ip addresses from private range and behind firewall and NAT.

    Right now you can block your "smart" tv from accessing Internet on your router or simply not setting up networking, when in 5-10 years it comes with 5G chip and "complimentary" Internet connectivity you would have no idea what it is doing.

    Does it make more sense now ?

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