back to article Overhyped 5G is being 'rushed', Britain's top comms boffin reckons

If anyone knows the state of play in 5G, it's Regius Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director and founder at the Institute of Communication Systems and 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, and the government's go-to man for mobile technology. But he warned today that the industry was being too hasty in proclaiming the …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Well then

    If he is so smart can he tell us how we are going to force millions of customers to upgrade their $1000 phones for no good reason ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well then

      No need: just wait - eventually the non-replaceable battery in their current phone fails and they buy a new handset. Which will have 5G. OK, so that will be in a few years, but by that point 5G's bugs may have been ironed out.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: Well then

        No need: just wait - eventually the non-replaceable battery in their current phone fails and they buy a new handset.

        Well, that won't help, there are huge mega corporations worth billions that need the profits within the next couple of months.

        For Gods sake, have pity....

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Well then

          There are still over half a billion people in China alone who don't yet have smartphones. As many again in India. And I haven't even tried to find numbers for Africa.

          If you really want the market, it's out there. You just have to develop something for it.

          1. paulll

            Re: Well then

            Getting a decent proportion of them to buy phones seems like only a matter of time, but convincing any significant number of them to pay for 5G infrastructure in the UK seems like it might be a tad more challenging.

          2. Paul 14

            Re: Well then

            What do you think happens to the old 2G/3G/4G infrastructure when it's replaced in places like the UK? Seriously, it goes to places like Africa and India.

            Smartphones are massive in areas, especially in Africa, without any traditional broadcast or telecoms infrastructure. These people have never had a TV; a smartphone is a revolution for them. No need to develop anything else.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Well then

              Unlikely, it is much cheaper to buy modern integrated kit from Hauwei than try and cobble together disparate used 20year old systems from the UK

      2. illiad

        Re: Well then

        there are many who are sick of smartphones and their limited batt life, and go back to simpler ones..

        me, I had a gs3 for 6 years, would have been more, if I did not see a 0% interest offer for the s8..

        1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

          Re: Well then

          Here is a suggestion/experiment for you. Try ONLY using your phone for phone calls. Nothing else, only phone calls, and see how long your battery lasts. I did just that and my Honor 9's 3200mAh battery lasted nearly 9 days before it died. Now to be fair I don't make/take that many calls but the best non-smartphone I ever had for longevity (Sony Ericsson W800i) lasted less than 5 days. If you are one of those who just can't survive unless you are checking Face/Twit/Snap/Inst every 10 secs then you will just have to get into the habit of charging your phone every night. If you can't manage a whole day on a charge, then maybe you need to put the damned phone down and get a life?

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: Well then

            obv never tried a nokia, I got 19 days out of a 3210

    2. SimonC

      Re: Well then

      Implying it's any more difficult to make users buy a new handset than


      SendMessage("New, Shiny, Expensive.", Users.AllUsers);`

      1. theblackhand Silver badge

        Re: Well then

        I hope you are prepared for a visit from Apples lawyers. You seem to have both the internal details and the curves...

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Well then

          You seem to have both the internal details and the curves...

          I say, steady on there, this is a public forum.

  2. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Trouble is, the telco's will say you can have 20 Meg a month for £50 so then it's as pointless as 4G. Unless the backend bandwidth (from the base station to the internet) is unlimited, once you get more than a few users on a mast using 5G, it slows to a GPRS crawl. So, to sum up, telco's sort out your back haul before wasting time and effect on headline hype which will leave everyone frustrated.

    1. ARGO

      Unlikely to be a backhaul issue

      Backhaul isn't usually a problem - a single fibre has way more capacity than any UK network has in air interface. Poor throughput is usually down to too many users sharing the capacity on a single cell (which is why 3G is often faster than 4G these days), and the logistical difficulties of adding extra cells to relieve that load.

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Unlikely to be a backhaul issue

        It depends on the network. Sprint was notorious for putting WiMax 4G on T1 connections. You'd get 5 bars of signal with 0 to 10 kbps data.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Just wait for the EE adverts...

      They will need to hike prices a long way to pay for the next tranche of Kevin Bacon ads.

      £50/month for 2Gb but it is 5G innit.

      There will be some suckers... there always is.

      Mines the ones with a set of semaphore flags in the pocket

  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    SNAFU again

    Didn't we go through this series of arguments when 4G was introduced? Forget about the technical pros and cons - this is a sales and marketing issue as far as all the vendors are concerned. Eventually 5G will get sorted out and everyone will forget about this.

    1. Nate Amsden

      Re: SNAFU again

      4G isn't even sorted out yet, so myself I am not holding my breath for 5G. I can count on one hand the number of times I was doing something on 4G and the speed was really good (above 10-15Mbit) over the past 6 years. I think that count is 2 or 3(one of those times was in a Vegas conference hall where they obviously had repeaters of some kind inside).

      Meanwhile I can go to many busy places on 4G and not have enough bandwidth to even get DNS resolution to work.

      It's not my phone, since I have tried a couple of other phones(new and old) which behave about the same.

      Carrier is one of the top two in the U.S.

      The California city I'm in has a population of 200,000+. (That and I've traveled a bunch of places and LTE generally sucks everywhere, though usually I can get 2-6Mbit).

      If there was an easy way to switch my phone to 3G on the fly I would but it requires 2 reboots and removing the sim card in order to get around the locks that the OS/carrier/whatever have on it. I do flip the mode whenever I travel outside of the U.S. though.

      5G sounds promising for fixed wireless communications at least on paper. It seems to make absolutely no sense for mobile phones. It's just a gimmick and will be for years to come.

    2. Pangasinan Philippines

      Re: SNAFU again - Remembering DAB

      DAB was rushed to market as better than FM radio, which it obviously was not.

      Required by industry and rejected by consumers.

      Only a change of CODEC could rescue it.

  4. goats in pajamas

    It's a conspiracy

    I saw a video on teh youtube that said that 5G is how "they" are going to kill us all.

    I'll get my coat.

  5. Keven E

    I'll wait...

    till ours go to 11.

  6. martinusher Silver badge

    If governments really cared about the welfare of the people...

    ....then they'd open up more bandwidth for WiFi rather than having it tucked in a couple of tiny open bands that were only left license free because they were regarded as useless.

    I worked on wireless networking for many years and one thing that always struck me was the gulf between what the technology said was possible and what the marketing department said was possible. The marketing people invariably won out but were always disappointed because ultimately its the technology that makes and enforces the rules. Everything in wireless is a trade-off; you only get the advertised rate under perfect conditions, something that never happens in real life.

    The only reliable way to push throughput is to increase bandwidth. That's one area where the solution is political, not technological.

    (...and yes, I know we're talking phones, not WiFi, but its basically the same thing, the real difference being that the data used by phones is 'owned' by the carrier while WiFi is open to all, unlike cellular its not something you can easily make money off.)

    1. jonfr

      Re: If governments really cared about the welfare of the people...

      There is no shortage of bandwidth for WLAN. At least not on 5Ghz. What is missing is some type of management because people don't know how to manage their wireless hardware.


  7. John Savard Silver badge


    Have they forgotten that President Trump has commanded that Americans have the opportunity to benefit from 5G and yea 6G as well as soon as possible?

    So there is no excessive rush, this is a matter of genuine urgency!

  8. big_D Silver badge

    Looking up...

    Your correspondent looked up to discover the identity of this wise panellist – and was astonished to find it was me.

    That must be on the short list for best comment by a journalist 2019. It certainly made me smile. I hadn't read the byline, but I knew instantly who wrote the article with that statement - well, 90%, as it wasn't "Something for the Weekend", I knew it wasn't Dabbsy.

  9. Crypto Monad

    "the benefits of 5G in transportation and health"

    Which are what, exactly?

    Video doctor's appointments can be done over fixed broadband connections. Video over 4G works in the few cases you might need it (e.g. at the scene of an accident).

    And self-driving vehicles had better be autonomous if you don't want them to crash into each other. We can't even get 3G/4G to cover 100% of the road network - so what chance 5G where you need cells every few hundred metres? What happens when your self-driving car needs to drive into a valley, or down a country lane?

  10. m0rt

    "urged Ofcom to modernise"

    Well there you go. Fscked.

  11. Milton

    Marketing BS >>> Technological Reality

    As we've noted with one US provider (AT&T) already using outright lies to pretend it is providing 5G connectivity to gullible consumers, the marketing bullshit for this is going to stay far, far ahead of the technical realities.

    Let's not forget that 5G requires a vast number of (relatively small) antennae to work, because these have to be close to the device (no more than hundreds of metres distant) in order to connect, so the chances of ever using 5G outside a city or some kind of serious population density will remain essentially zero. The atmospheric attenuation of mm-wave signal is bad enough, but the signals are not going to be able to get through the walls of buildings, so even with a multitude of aerials and beamforming, you're highly likely to find larger buildings, or those blocked by others, remaining as eternal black spots. Users will find that the precise location and even orientation of their device—even the position of thier own bodies—makes wild differences to bandwidth availability.

    The fact that it will only be practical in cities (already mostly wired) leads many to suggest automotive applications as the key use case, but if you actually need low-latency high-bandwidth connectivity while driving—which is more an article of faith than a proven fact—how will you cope if the signal drops out for a few seconds every time you pass a big building, a construction site, a warehouse, a train, or even as you take the time to pass a large truck?

    It's amusing to note that some practical 5G deployments would install antennae with greater density than was needed for the failed early-90s Rabbit mobile phone system, widely mocked for requiring a base station on every block.

    5G has every appearance of technology being invented and deployed because it can be, not because there is a strong need for what it can do. How many people really need gaming-level bandwidth while out and about: especially given it will crash every time the train passes anything that blocks what is, after all, close to being a line-of-sight signal?

    If 5G instead promised simply to extend mobile reach, which would be a huge deal in the USA, finally bringing adequate if unspectacular connectivity to vast rural areas, it would make a lot more sense. But of course, in the boondocks is where it is supremely useless.

    In sum and IMHO, I am more interested in ideas to broaden connectivity, for example using satellite constellations, than simply making it a bit faster for folks who are actually already quite well served.

    AT&T's lies notwithstanding, they might actually be ahead of the game: true and useful 5G is going to remain as bullshit fodder for marketurds, and for a long time yet.

    1. Paul 14

      Re: Marketing BS >>> Technological Reality

      Some points in response -

      1) 5G has been designed as suitable for mm bands, yes, but ultimately like 4G it will be rolled out to all mobile bands. 5G at 800MHz will for example be very nice for rural locations, and could actually remove the need for expensive rural fibre infrastructure.

      2) Unlike 4G, 5G incorporates a whole new radio transmit/receive architecture making more of bandwidth at any frequency.

      3) 5G is designed to operate in tandem with 4G to increase bandwidth. A likely scenario is a handset outdoors using 4G at lower frequencies to transmit, whilst using both the 4G and 5G at higher frequencies to receive, this providing greater bandwidth to the individual and more capacity overall. This way, moving about, passing trucks etc will simply affect the bandwidth you're getting, not the whole signal.

      4) Notwithstanding the above,. the most compelling case for 5G today is indeed to provide capacity in cities where 4G is saturated, not to provide extra features for the marketing department.

      5) Further into the future, 5G is likely to displace wi-fi and broadcast signals, as more devices (TVs, Radios, Consoles, IoT, smart speakers etc) are shipped with embedded 5G. It is quite feasible for example that a 5G smart TV could be rigged up to an existing TV antenna and get oodles of mm wave bandwidth.

      6) Wi-fi is saturated in cities and home 5G picocells connected to home broadband are a likely evolution. There's also a particular consumer advantage if new connected devices can operate "out of the box" without the need for local wi-fi configuration.

      1. rcw88

        Re: Marketing BS >>> Technological Reality

        You STILL need BACKHAUL, which needs fibre or dishes, as pointed out by another commenter.

        Line of sight doesn't work well when there's a 3000 foot hill in the way.

        Fibre only works when someone's paid real money to dig up the side of the road, EE put a mast in recently not far from where I live, it covers a NOT spot where there's about ten houses spread over about five square MILES. but I only have to drive about four miles down the road to reach another much bigger NOT spot with hundreds of residents.

        I really don't give a hoot about people running out of 4G in a city, tough, get off Faceache, I'd like 3G coverage EVERYWHERE first. I had a femto cell EE box in my house but it only works if the ADSL uplink is fast enough, it isn't, so its turned off. Wifi calling seems to work OK so there it is.

  12. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge


    Pah! Experts, what do they know. 5G is old news.

    The sooner we Brexit out of this EU that's holding us back we can get on with delivering a proper British 6G


    1. ARGO

      Re: Experts?

      It seems we already have 6G in the north:

  13. Dave 15 Silver badge


    You said 2g had poor speech quality but at least it had speech. 3g and 4g over vast tracts of the UK have no coverage. They used to publish coverage but don't anymore as they are so terrible

  14. osmarks

    Until data caps go up, it'll be totally useless for most people; you'll end up burning through your entire cap in a few minutes of high bandwidth use.

  15. Big_Boomer Silver badge


    We keep hearing about these next-best-things and they are almost inevitably a disappointment. I rarely get true 4G speeds (O2 network) and those times when I need good data speeds via a cell I am in a massive huddle of other users with overloaded cells and/or awful back-haul, normally in a traffic jam on the M25. It does me no good at all to have 4G when I'm at home/work as then I use WiFi. Marketing types have gasp-gasms over stuff like 5G but it's almost all hot air and spin and there is no real substance to their claims when they hit the real world. Yes, 4G is faster than 3G, and 3G is faster than GPRS, but that is of no help at all if you can't get 5/4/3G and are always on GPRS because the network can't provide enough capacity for the users/bandwidth. I would say to the networks to get their sh!t together and sort out their data coverage first, and when that is done then they can discuss bringing in the next techno-gasm. Give us what we are already paying for before you expect us to buy something new!

  16. anthonyhegedus Silver badge


    I don't go into London at all, but at various locations around London - Gatwick airport and Bluewater Shopping Centre for example, I got 180Mbps and 105Mbps download respectively on my phone. That to me is far more than I actually need, and also rather surprising, since this was at busy times of day when I expected nothing much. I recently moved from O2 to EE and have been really impressed by the more or less constant 4G signal.

    1. rcw88

      Re: Impressed

      Where there's a usable signal, I've found EE 4G in places most other providers cannot reach - including half the Outer Hebrides, but there are loads of places with no coverage.. the centre of Edinburgh, too many sandstone walls to mess the signal up. Most of the way from Stirling on the A811 to the Erskine Bridge. EE? niet.

      Other commenters have said the coverage maps are not available, its all on Ofcom's website, mast locations, the lot.

  17. Occams_Cat

    Just like 3G all over again...I'm still waiting for the promised revolution 3G should have brought me 10 years ago. That'll teach me for living in the obviously inaccessible, darkest depths of Wiltshire. (I'm on Three - O2, EE etc are even worse)

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