back to article What's holding up the 5G utopia in Britain? Quite a lot, actually

5G is like an all-night drunken brainstorm in which the world's brainiest telecoms boffins went wild, and really let rip. The morning after is a real headache. During the night every conceivable business model, every possible use case and every far-out new bit of radio technology is added to an ever-growing list, physics be …

  1. Kez

    "Duct and pole access is not quite as sexy"

    You haven't seen my pole

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. tiggity Silver badge

    Remote areas

    s someone who often hikes in remote areas with no signal of any sort, my top priority would be 100% UK coverage, so if I fall on a hill (UK hills too small to merit being called mountains!) and survive then being able to request help would be good.

    Fast data speeds etc. all well and good, but please mandate 100% coverage (by land mass not population as plenty of great walking / climbing areas in zero population areas).

    .. Especially given that "normal" mobile comms are supposed to be used (date keeps slipping, surprise, surprise) for emergency services use replacing the (old, limited but still better coverage than mobiles) airwave system

    .. Yes I know there are various satellite comms using devices you can get that allow this (and at the cheaper end a pure personal distress beacon) but lots of people don't even have an emergency location beacon with them, never mind a satellite phone (and they are expensive) whereas most people have a mobile phone of some sort.. and its often the least prepared who get into trouble (not always, experience and having gear for "any reasonable situation" can make people over confident sometimes e.g. going out when avalanche risk is high)

    1. Ragarath

      Re: Remote areas

      Being someone that has always lived in rural locations I honestly don't think this is the priority. Yes coverage by landmass should be done, don't get me wrong, but covering a mountain (the definition is there even if you choose to ignore it) because of careless / irresponsible walkers is not needed.

      Walkers have long had the tools about them to walk safely on their adventures. I was always taught to log where I am going make sure someone knows when and where and how long. If you have fallen what's to say you have to option to call even if you have signal? Are there even statistics on how many people would have been saved if they had been able to call immediately? From an anecdotal perspective how many times have you needed this?

      This is an activity that is undertaken voluntarily as a hobby for fun even with the risks which is why it's not the priority as your asking someone else to foot the bill for something that is already available for you, albeit with a cost to you, as you mentioned.

      To sum up. Yes 100% coverage should be the eventual goal but not as the priority and not for the reasons you have mentioned.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Remote areas

        I live in a fairly populous rural community. I cant get a phone signal in the house. Plans for upgrading the area come and go. I may have to get satellite BB to keep our holiday cottages full - people are starting to complain they cant watch anything other than 100 channels of freeview!

        1. DCFusor

          Re: Remote areas

          The serial downvoters on this obviously do NOT live in truly rural areas. Where I live - it's about 1/4 mile between driveways, and there is no coverage at my home AT ALL unless you get in a car and drive to the top of the nearest hill - about a mile. Visitors freak out when their toys stop working.

          I have DSL over copper here...and let them onto my "broadband" which costs $80/mo for one megabit up and 4 down.

          And exactly one choice of ISP, not counting satellite with huge latency.

          The problem is real, and we who live in the undense areas - the ones who you know, produce pretty much everything you city folk need to survive in your dystopias - from food to electricity to taking your garbage into our landfills, are a bit tired of paying out all that tax to get ... in return.

          Shame on those who think we don't matter. You might find out differently should we stop playing patsy.

  3. Mage Silver badge

    5G is going to matter

    I don't think so.

    It's mostly hype.

    More coverage needs more masts, no matter which G.

    More speed/capacity needs higher mast density in existing bands, the higher bands with giant channels are only for auditoriums, stadiums and open plan offices, not real mobile coverage.

    All these things need more CapEx and higher running costs with almost no extra income. So what incentive is there apart from some PR installs at cherry picked sites?

    There are "invisible" 5G developments that are useful and will get deployed gradually to do with combining bands, back-haul and back-office. Not new air interfaces or 5G masts except for niche applications and high end power hungry phablets.

    1. Commswonk

      Re: 5G is going to matter

      I don't think so.

      It's mostly hype.

      I wonder if 5G qualifies for the term "vapourware" yet. I would argue that it certainly deserves to...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 5G is going to matter

      "More speed/capacity needs higher mast density in existing bands"

      I heard a rumor that 5G masts will need to be significantly shorter (i.e. 25-30ft vs 50ft/80ft) resulting in a significantly reduced range per site. i.e. the number of sites needs to increase significantly.

      And while back-haul is an issue, it isn't a significant difference if the number of sites remain the same. If on the other hand, you nor require 3-4 times the number of sites....ouch.

      1. JohnFen

        Re: 5G is going to matter

        It's not a rumor, it's true. The range for each 5G cell is much shorter than with earlier tech, and there will have to be many more cell sites. This is related to the radio frequencies involved. Also, those frequencies are terrible at things like passing through walls, so many buildings will require 5G cells inside them.

        On the upside, as you point out, the antennae can be much smaller (even much shorter than 25 feet), so it's feasible to put them on lamp posts, etc.

        The density of cells required depends on the speed to be supported. They can be as far as 3000 feet or so apart, but if they're going to support high speed, they need to be much closer than that.

    3. happyBoy

      Re: 5G is going to matter

      Correct! Also - Hardly any operator has declared (apart from 1 in SE Asia I read about) a full nation wide 5G rollout due to the very same cost/coverage/capacity/backhaul/more site acquisition/RoI issues. OpeX wise - this thing is going to go from bad to worse in the short-term. Till we have mixed mode/G networks in play - due to the change in antennas and kit at the Radio edge becoming more active and complex - the ops requirements are going to start costing more (oops!) - at least till someone has a majorly 5G'ish nw and synergies start taking effect.

      However - Standalone 5G is still far away and the 5G uptake will go similar to the 3G to 4G changeover with operators recouping investments/sweating assets on the current/4G as long as possible - spectrum (and Marketing) perhaps being the only carrot/stick driving slightly different behaviour. Mansoor is correct when he talks about the business case simply not being that clear. The other driver as someone else has pointed out is the 'me-too-PR' angle. The more imminent avatar of 5G is the Enterprise / Industrial use cases (IoT based).

      This will take a while as far as consumer goes. Theres time for another beer.

  4. JohnFen

    Why is this being presented as a race?

    I honestly don't understand why this 5G stuff is being present in terms of a race between nations. Why does it matter at all who rolls it out first? Of all of the things that I find weird about 5G -- and there's a lot -- this is what I find the weirdest. It seems to me that this doesn't matter in the slightest. In fact, it might be better to let another nation do it first so that someone else can work through all the inevitable difficulties that come with deploying new tech.

    It smells a lot like it's just a hard-sell tactic. "Buy now while supplies last!"

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Why is this being presented as a race?

      I think the US politicians see it as a race because they want to be the centre of that market and have their manufacturers be the main beneficiaries. I suspect China has a similar interest.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not an expense

    The problem is that the government sees 5G is an expense, and not an investment. No different to education really.

    1. JohnFen

      Re: Not an expense

      The expense is quite high, though. For a government to view this as an investment, there has to be a credible case that it will produce value in excess of that expense. Has that case been made? I haven't really seen it, but I'm just an outside observer.

      Now, for the cell companies, this would absolutely be an investment, as they're the ones who will be getting paid.

      1. DCFusor

        Re: Not an expense

        Y'all listen up here - John Fen , mage, and Commswonk know their stuff (I spent some time as an RF engineer myself). This is a huge outlay that will only really serve those who use the shiny to distract themselves while walking into poles and streets. The rest of us would be perfectly happy with fiber to the premises. and might not even mind sharing some normal wifi to the street and next door (it's widely done where I live to have a guest wifi access enabled).

        Some of us, due to virtually no coverage to our rural households of any G at all, think this is yet another way to siphon money we will never get any benefit from. Some of us have stopped bothering with mobile phones and the associated bills entirely, in fact - you still need a landline to get or make calls where I live.

        (Mountains of SW Virginia)

        1. Ole Juul

          Re: Not an expense

          We have no G either. That's only for flatlanders.

          (Mounts of SW BC)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comment on article, well done Andrew.

    Informative and educational, I like the style found it an easy read. That's not all that uncommon at this site but rare generally. Then again I do not mind more than a couple sentences in a paragraph. I'm told that is a no no these days. I think this is an example of how to do it, more info if one wants more than an F scan.

    What I really liked was this sentence. "In China, where property rights are largely theoretical and voting is ornamental, the government can issue sweeping edicts and simply get the thing built."

    That's illustrative and punchy and it will work great when describing Canada, which is the topic of most of my posts. I'm sure to steal it in some form and hopefully recall I got it from AO should someone ask.

    Here is an explanation of why it works so well for me.

    Canadians have property rights but when Canadians asked to include them in our Bill of Rights our government said no. In Canada property rights are for the government and courts at the time to decide. Some Canadians have no individual rights to their property or house, only collective rights. Having actual property rights enshrined would cause too much trouble for Canada.

    Our voting is largely ornamental thanks to having our elected assembly controlled by party rule and by having all bills from the elected assembly face veto by an appointed assembly. An appointed assembly that regularly vetoes bills from the elected House.

    Veto by the Royally appointed was on display for all of Canada when it came to legalizing Cannabis. It is on display whenever someone looks at how the Canadian system actually works. When they do look it becomes very apparent why billions of dollars can be transferred to companies in Quebec with no debate or consultation but Canada can't build ocean ports or terminals to fund that same corruption.

    "In China, where property rights are largely theoretical and voting is ornamental, the government can issue sweeping edicts and simply get the thing built." AO

    Thanks for that and the info.

    BTW: Most of Canada has no Internet coverage (or need for it) and many Canadians and politicians call 20 Mbps high-speed and pay over $100 a month for the privilege. Canada, more valuable resources per capita than any other nation, we could do better.

  7. JeffyPoooh

    Backhaul options

    For squirting a 5G signal into a given area, simply to provide more complete coverage (as distinct from providing huge bandwidth to swarming hordes), there's not necessarily a requirement for fibre. That in-fill 5G site could piggyback off a full site, using some 5G to provide the backhaul.

    Furthermore, if the ultra high bandwidth magic built into 5G could be copied-and-pasted into the microwave point to point backhaul links using fixed dishes, then that approach might be used in places.

    Fibre isn't always and forever going to be essential. It's certainly better. But don't let better impede good enough.

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