back to article Oh look. Vodafone has extended its ultrafast 5G network to deliver... Wi-Fi?

Mobile connectivity provider Vodafone has expanded its 5G network to another eight British towns and cities. The amazing wireless tech of the far-flung future is now available in Birkenhead, Bolton, Gatwick, Lancaster, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton – even though there isn't much you can do with a 5G …

  1. TRT Silver badge
    Devil

    Hm...

    "The 5G GigaCube could bring happiness to people allergic to Ethernet who are prepared to suffer lower performance and higher cost as long as there are no wires involved."

    Dyson, then.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Hm...

      How is this different to WiFi points that could take a 3G PCMCIA card back in um, maybe 2006, or the Flash OFDMA 4G PCMCIA card or USB stick in 2008?

      There is NO way 5G can work directly on WiFi. Not without a 5G transceiver that can use the WiFi band in the phone AND the airpoint/repeater/base and that is greedy parasitic operation as it reduces capacity of a licence free band and allows a Mobile operator to use spectrum they didn't pay for.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Hm...

        Also how is this fundamentally different from the various MiFi's devices that you can pick up.

        I get that (on paper) the WiFi range is better than my Huawei 3G MiFi gismo and will support 64 concurrent clients as against 6. However, both of these are design trade-offs to achieve reasonable battery life etc.

        As for business use, from my experience of putting WiFi in transit vans for utilities, the capabilities could be useful, provided the GigaCube can be dashboard mounted and utilise external antenna - however, as integrated batteries aren't so important I suspect there will be better candidates to fulfil this use case.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Hm...

          Aren't you better off given the driver an iPad / Surface / Android equivalent with its own mobile connection? Would be cheaper than having a separate MiFi, and probably give you better performance.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Hm...

            >Aren't you better off given the driver an iPad...with is own mobile connection.

            Depends on the use cases being addressed, expected work locations eg. locations without mobile signal and application software being used (most of which tends to be written for Windows clients).

            >Would be cheaper than having a separate MiFi

            WiFi only iPad/PC plus van-based MiFi/router has a lower TOC and more readily supports a number of other mobile workforce use cases than a single device solution.

            >and probably give you better performance.

            Whilst there are occasions where this is will hold true, for most of the time you can utilise the resources of the van and so can use more power hungry equipment ie. drive more 3/4/5G radios, have bigger antennas etc.

      2. Neil Alexander

        Re: Hm...

        There is NO way 5G can work directly on WiFi. Not without a 5G transceiver that can use the WiFi band in the phone AND the airpoint/repeater/base and that is greedy parasitic operation as it reduces capacity of a licence free band and allows a Mobile operator to use spectrum they didn't pay for.

        What are you talking about? This article is about a device which has a 5G modem and acts as a wireless access point, same as has existed for 4G and 3G networks in the form of "MiFi" devices. Nowhere does it mention using "5G on Wi-Fi".

      3. SAdams

        Re: Hm...

        “How is this different to WiFi points that could take a 3G PCMCIA card back in um, maybe 2006, or the Flash OFDMA 4G PCMCIA card or USB stick in 2008?”

        Errr .... far more bandwidth, and far less latency ?

    2. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Hm...

      How the feck can one be alergic to EM-Spectrum? Do the suffer from Photodermatitis perhaps? Thats about the only thing on the Spectrum I'm just about ready to accept.

  2. Graham 32

    Looks like the article is showing prices excluding VAT. Vodafone's prices incl VAT are here https://www.vodafone.co.uk/gigacube/

    And it's an 18 month contract not 12. There is a 30 day contract (good) but with £325 upfront. No way is the device worth that. When there's a SIM-only option I might consider it and grab a device off ebay.

  3. Flywheel Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So would that explain...

    recent rollouts have all been "non-standalone" 5G deployments – meaning the network is supported by existing LTE (4G)

    .. why my previously strong EE 4G signal dropped to 40-50% on the day they switched on "5G", and has stayed low ever since?

  4. macjules Silver badge

    Has anyone actually checked this?

    Take a look at this map. According to this just the only place where you can expect to benefit from 5G coverage in London "Good indoors & outdoors" is in the middle of the Thames.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Has anyone actually checked this?

      So is that indoors coverage under the water?

      1. tony2heads

        Re: Has anyone actually checked this?

        HMS Belfast?

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone actually checked this?

      So Vodafone's gismo will be of no use to Silicon roundabout/tech city businesses then...

  5. sal II

    Data cap

    Ignoring all the issues with coverage, contention/congestion etc.

    Why even offer data cap? if i'm gonna use 1Gbps speed I will blow through the 100GB cap in like 15min. If I'm not gonna use 1Gbps why pay more for 5G, instead of getting cheaper 3/4G MiFi

    And I bet their "unlimited" has fine print about throttling after certain amount of data is used up.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Data cap

      There's a reason that I deliberately held off on all the "unlimited" data packages until recently.

      I use 4G as my only Internet connection, via a little Huawei box that powers my whole home network.

      Up until this year, you could never get to the bottom of their fair-use and they all excluded tethering (for reasons I can't fathom - 1Gb is 1Gb whether it's on a phone or Wifi, no? And all phones offer hotspotting).

      This year, Smarty (a Three reseller) and then - ironically later - Three clarified their terms. "Unlimited" now means 1000Gb, tethering absolutely 100% allowed, according to Smarty, for instance. 1000Gb is big enough for the foreseeable future for me, I'd have to do 10 times my normal traffic to hit that. I signed up immediately (again, ironically, moving away from Three themselves who couldn't be bothered to offer me that guarantee at that point!). And it's on a monthly rolling contract so I can always switch again if necessary.

      So now I feel "safe" having a 4G running my whole network, letting all my Steam games download, watching stuff on Amazon Prime all day long, etc.

      I will move to 5G when and if someone does the same for 5G. Available in my area. Monthly rolling contract. Better speeds than 4G. And at least 1000Gb of untethered data available before they play any games with my speeds or try to charge me.

      For reference, 1000Gb (1Tb) a month is a constant 3Mbit per second... it doesn't sound a lot when you say it like that... but if you expect me to move to 5G, then I can easily see that you'd want more than that or that you could burn through that quite quickly. I think I would want an increase proportional to my actual speed - if 5G really is 10 times faster than 4G, in my own real-world testing, then I'm going to want 10Tb of data before I touch it.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Data cap

        Never really had a problem with 'unlimited' broadbands, Until recently the local exchange only allowed 3.5 MB, and never had a complaint no matter how many Linux distros I torrented 24/7; then this year moved to Vodafone Fibre for £20 a month. Still unlimited but at 4GB speed. I prefer Cat 7, but at present have to use WiFi.

        This morning I downloaded from Mega [ old stationery catalogues from the 1950s ] as usual and in 6 hours got 51 GB of data down. Generally, I think so long as one doesn't abuse the system, 'unlimited' is usually pretty much what it says, within the constraints of physics.

      2. davenewman

        Re: Data cap

        They dropped the no tethering conditions when forced to by the European Commission. It breaks single market regulations.

      3. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Data cap

        "This year, Smarty (a Three reseller) and then - ironically later - Three clarified their terms. "Unlimited" now means 1000Gb, tethering absolutely 100% allowed, according to Smarty, for instance. 1000Gb is big enough for the foreseeable future for me, I'd have to do 10 times my normal traffic to hit that. I signed up immediately (again, ironically, moving away from Three themselves who couldn't be bothered to offer me that guarantee at that point!)."

        I think you may be confused. "Unlimited" for Three means unlimited, and has done since they started offering it (originally labelled "all you can eat", specifically to distinguish themselves from other providers who called their limited plans unlimited). They state that 1000 GB (not Gb) is the point where they may start suspecting you of commercial use and question whether you should be on a regular consumer contract, but there is no cap and you can happily use more than that if you can somehow manage it. Tethering has also always been allowed in the UK, although they've only recently started allowing it, with data caps, while roaming. I'm also not sure how you managed to think Three couldn't be bothered to guarantee that since, as noted above, it's been one of their big selling points for a long time and they're happy to boast about it at every opportunity.

  6. AMBxx Silver badge

    Am I missing something?

    Is this any different to just using your phone as a wifi access point?

    1. steelpillow Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Am I missing something?

      "Is this any different to just using your phone as a wifi access point?"

      Not at the system concept level, the GigaCube is just a phone with the expensive screen and battery replaced by the mains charger.

      But in practice it has bigger and better RF components and is optimised for higher bandwidth, so it will perform solidly where your phone has long fizzled out.

  7. steelpillow Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    WTTW

    I have Huawei's 4G Router, predecessor to the 5G GigaCube. I am far enough away from the nearest fibre cabinet that even this gives me substantially faster broadband than my old BT FTTC copper wire.

    Because it gives me WiFi, all my mobile IoT stuff needs no individual SIM or costly mobile contract. I call it WTTW (or WT2 for short) - Wifi To The Windowsill.

    The WiFi-to-5G model also appeals because one WiFi box goes where 5G cannot go without an expensive shedload of local repeaters all over the building.

    I can only say that this is the future. End of.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: WTTW

      But currently all the proposed 5G areas are in very large cities, which are already well served by a variety of different services, most offering better performance at a lower price. Which does beg the question, who exactly is this aimed at?

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: WTTW

        PR and income for Ofcom -> Treasury.

      2. steelpillow Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: WTTW

        "This is the future!"

        "But currently..."

        Oh, and since when was "currently" also the future?

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: WTTW

      No, for fixed use FIBRE is the future. Mobile for fixed use (i.e. ANY premises) is retrograde!

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: WTTW

        "for fixed use FIBRE is the future."

        Sorry, you are out of touch with reality. Nobody is ever going to roll out fibre here, the cost will always be prohibitive. But we have 4G and the future will with high probability bring us 5G.

        The question is, if fibre is not yet available, which will be cheaper to deliver, fibre or 5G? Sorry, but 5G blows a huge hole in the profitability of new fibre and, long-term, that is going to cripple if not kill it.

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: WTTW

        Before fibre ever gets to your premises, they'll be a much more expensive fibre to a nearby cell tower. I guarantee it.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: WTTW

          My cell tower is attached to the same green cabinet as my landline.

          I actually get faster speeds on 4G than on fibre - 50 down / 20 up on 4G vs 40 down / 12 up on fibre.

          Before my cabinet was fibre enabled, I was getting the same speed on both - 10 down / 1.5 up.

          1. NeilPost Silver badge

            Re: WTTW

            Yeah, but there is certainly a fibre blown from the street cab up the ducting to the cell tower. You will be copper cab to on premise.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: WTTW

      Same.

      For nearly two years now, and now I have a proper definition of unlimited data on a proper tethering contract, I can't tell the difference, to be honest.

      I also pop the little soap-bar-sized box into my laptop bag occasionally and don't have to rely on pub wifi or airport wifi or foreign cafe wifi either. Hell, I don't even inconvenience my friends by needing to jump on their guest Wifi. Even my car can pick up the Wifi from it, if I want. I actually had Internet speeds in Spain last summer that my hosts didn't even have.

      I've also used SIP phones over it, VPNs, all kinds... it just works.

      I do have an IoT SIM in my car GPS tracker but it literally costs £25 a year and then a fixed price per text (which is rare and means either I've lost the car or someone has stolen it) with a guarantee that they won't terminate the account for low use because of the annual charge. I'll be doing the same for my house alarm too. And they are all different networks, which is my "backup".

      But Wifi To The Windowsill is a very apt name. I just happened to put it onto a Draytek to offer it out to the network and get much better 5GHz Wifi coverage, but apart from that, it's the same idea.

      1. martd

        Re: WTTW

        Can you share your hardware choices? Would like to set this up and avoid choosing myself between a Huawei LTE Cube B5180 and a draytek vigor 2860ac

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: WTTW

          >choosing myself between a Huawei LTE Cube B5180 and a draytek vigor 2860ac

          Interesting set of choices: personally, I would go for the Huawei for home residential usage where you are replacing ADSL and mobile/portable office usage for small user groups where most users will be WiFi connected.

          As for the Draytek, well if your home office needs what it offers and you have reasonable xDSL then...

          However, if budget permits, look at the 2862Lac.

          Personally, I use a 'real' router at home as have FTTC and use 3G for backup (currently upgrading to a Draytek), a MiFi/phone for personal mobile office and currently a Three Web Cube for my mobile team office (also gets used by the family when camping/caravaning), because it needs mains power and so is less likely to be left behind when packing up...

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: WTTW

      >Because it gives me WiFi, all my mobile IoT stuff needs no individual SIM or costly mobile contract.

      Interesting, one of the "benefits" being touted for 5G IoT is that users won't have to connect their IoT gismos to their home WiFi, instead they will automagically connect to 5G...

  8. Joe Gurman

    Geometry lessons needed for marketing force?

    I mean, it's never a cube, innit?

  9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Coat

    take a 5G signal and translate it into reasonably fast Wi-Fi without the need for any wires

    Wow! WiFi without wires? Who'd a thunk it?

  10. Sirius Lee

    Or...

    "The 5G GigaCube could bring happiness to people allergic to Ethernet who are prepared to suffer lower performance and higher cost as long as there are no wires involved."

    or BT or Virgin Media or Talk Talk or...

  11. TheMechanicTurk

    No brainer

    £22 a month ‘unlimited’ 4G MiFi from Three at 35mbps vs £44 a month Virgin 100mbps (effectively 50-70) .. no brainer.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it me, or is the sales pitch they're using for 5G exactly the same sales pitch they used for 4g.

  13. Michael Habel Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Hummm....

    So how limited will the unlimiited servive be, I wonder?

  14. NeilPost Silver badge

    £42/month for unlimited 5G data.

    Can’t see that lasting for long.

    Is it perhaps like their 4G ‘unlimited’ which seems to have tiered speed v’s price options.

  15. Christian Berger

    That product seems virtually impossible to debug

    I mean if that "Gigacube" doesn't have a wired Ethernet connection you cannot even tell your subscribers to try plugin in their computer directly. Therefore you can blame all of their problems on their local WLAN being congested.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: That product seems virtually impossible to debug

      My 4G GigaCube does indeed have an RJ45 socket (into which I plug a shameful legacy 100M hub for my other legacy hardware). Moreover it has a web interface which lets me delve into the usual stuff for any vanilla router - diagnostics, logs, etc. I can also set up a VPN and blah blah. The 5G one looks outwardly identical so I trust its Ethernet will still be there.

      It also has a phone handset socket, though whether for VoIP or true Mobile I have not bothered to find out.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vodafone 5G isn't 'superfast'

    The headline implies Vodafone offers superfast' 5G, however it doesn't for all its customers. Only one tier of tariffs offer full speed, the others are heavily restricted, with speeds that are comparable to 3G speeds. Vodafone has been a disappointment this time around.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I live in Manchester, 20 minutes walk from the city centre and jumped on one of these. Why? Because despite being this close to the city centre there's nothing greater than ADSL speeds available to me in a 3 year old house. BT have no plans to upgrade the cabinet and Virgin have no plans to cable across the street to me so this is a lifesaver

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