back to article When Huawei leaves, the UK doesn't lead in 5G, says new report commissioned by... er... Huawei

New research from analyst house Assembly suggests the UK faces a £18.2bn hit to its economy as a result of the decision to ban Huawei from the nation’s network. It’s a stark figure, vastly surpassing the one provided by the British govenrment, which estimated the cost to carriers at the £2bn mark. In a report commissioned by …

  1. Lorribot

    3G was important, 4G meh, ok, 5G really not seeing a compelling reason or any real usage outside of major cities as it's still difficult to get 4G in rural areas where 5G (assume reasonable data costs) could fill the gap for broadband, but more likely to get FTTP from BT before Vodafone erect 5G out this way.

    So really could not care at all as it more case of the mobile phone industry's equivilent of the Ford Edsel.

    1. Snowy

      The Ford Edsel was described as being "Ugly, overpriced, overhyped, poorly made and poorly timed". Most of the same things can be said of 5G!

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        I'm sure the front end of the Edsel was the primary reason it didn't sell.

        Americans have always been rather prudish

    2. mego

      5G - proper 5G - is a serious rethink of how data works across wireless transmission. When I speak of 5G here, I mean in it's correct form, not 5G LTE or some crap that's not really fully implemented. It's practically the same jump as when mobile was voice only to when we had 3G - yet at the same time, much more than that. 5G redesigns and restructures how wireless transmission works, in as much as WiFi has diverted from the original infrared wireless systems, so is 5G (REAL 5G I mean) different from 4G. Beam-forming (a part of the real 5G spec for most companies) is a significant technology that is literally at it's infancy, with very few serious engineers actually capable of developing in the arena.

      4G as we have it today isn't even really to spec, hence it being called LTE in most marketing documents. 5G, on the other hand, is capable of beating wired connection for latency and capacity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "5G on the other hand, is capable of beating wired connection for latency and capacity"

        Citation needed. There is no real world use case where that would be true, given the backhaul of any 5G node/mast connects to a fibre (wired) connection for its backhaul. 5G is not some magical blanket ubiquitous signal that transcends the skies, it's fundamentally a point to point, device to mast relay, with fibre backhaul, using cloud based cell handover/protocol, at its core.

        At one time posts here used to be from trained engineers, not pumped up marketing people.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          The other thing is, as far as I understand it, the high-speed, low latency signals from 5G are blocked by things like walls, glass or human bodies etc. and ranges are incredibly short (a few metres). There are also long-range, low speed parts to 5G, which will be more robust for IoT devices that need little bandwidth or for rural areas.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Exactly this. In order to work effectively at speed you're going to need 5G nodes _everywhere_ and your 5G device needs to jump seamlessly back and forth from telco to private infrastructure

        2. tip pc Silver badge

          "5G on the other hand, is capable of beating wired connection for latency and capacity"

          “Citation needed. There is no real world use case where that would be true, given the backhaul of any 5G node/mast connects to a fibre (wired) connection for its backhaul“

          That’s not true, plenty of instances where phone masts are back hauled over radio, especially as masts are tall and can line of site. A great example was the BT tower built largely to host microwave aerials, which have now been removed.

          Wi-Max was often used to backhaul 4g too.

          High frequency traders built a microwave network from London to Germany because they found they could get less latency.

          People make the mistake that a cable is quicker than radio, but the reality is that lots of cable, even fibre, is radio over that medium.

          Light and radio waves travel faster through air or space than through any cable. Signal quality can be far superior through a cable though so far easier to attain higher bandwidth especially over distance. I have some old gig fibre transceivers in my draw that are rated for 70km, microwave can probably do that with equal or less latency given the speed of light in air vs a glass/plastic fibre.

          1. cg0

            I guess that depends on context, if you assume a standard residential connection of 80/20 from BT easily 5G beats it on speed and in the case of my Virgin connection easily beats it for latency.

            Though of course you can't beat fibre backhaul especially when the network itself requires a fibre backhaul.

        3. Commswonk Silver badge

          Credibility Gap

          At one time posts here used to be from trained engineers, not pumped up marketing people.

          And I suspect that comments like New research from analyst house Assembly suggests the UK faces a £18.2bn hit to its economy as a result of the decision to ban Huawei from the nation’s network and These delays will, in turn, cause the UK to miss out on around £10bn of productivity benefits, Assembly claimed are the product of frustrated marketeers rather than "trained engineers" or anyone else for that matter.

          The UK has now been spending the last 6 months or so with "Working From Home" being very much the order of the day. How many business leaders have been reported as screaming that WFH has been an abject failure because of the lack of 5G? With many organisations seemingly content to allow WFH to continue almost indefinitely it seems to me that they must be satisfied that the country's IT provision is at least adequate. OK; there are doubtless many organisations for which WFH is not an option, but there is nothing to say that it is a lack of 5G is responsible for that.

          It is all too easy for someone (Assembly in this case) to come up with an unsubstantiated assertion such as they have, but that is probably because it is not necessarily easy to prove that the assertion is wrong.

          Sooner or later I hope someone comes up with a properly researched report into how well (or otherwise) the UK's IT infrastructure coped with a sudden increase in "domestic" traffic and its actual impact on business efficiency, along with a equally proper assessment of all the upsides and downsides of people not congregating in their offices so that future requirements are determined by facts rather than marketing or any other form of hype.

          Until then I will treat the hysteria about the lack of 5G (or even 4G in a lot of places) with increasing scepticism.

          1. mego

            Re: Credibility Gap

            "Until then I will treat the hysteria about the lack of 5G (or even 4G in a lot of places) with increasing scepticism."

            It's... not that simple. Ignoring the qualities of 5G itself, consider the problem that we are actually oversaturated in mobile accessibility requirements. The old technology - which is pretty poor at handling heavy demand and when too many mobiles are in the area, choke - can't keep up with just mobile demand. The problem? Nobody wants to invest in high end 5G towers just to fix a mobile problem that's been there for decades. BUT... if that 5G tower now can service home internet as well, at a fraction of the cost for implementing fiber and cellular in the area... now you start to see a major cost savings for delivering what is fast becoming a demand.

        4. mego

          Here's something for you to chew on: (in which it speaks of and reference-verifies the >1ms latency, 10Gb data rate at peak, etc.). That's not only within fiber range, but when we can set a latency of under 1ms from your computer to station, it significantly alters the playbook for how we handle data needing rapid response (AI for example).

          And I don't work in Marketing, I work in IT. I've worked in the semiconductor industry though for over 20 years, and while I'm not a highly qualified RF engineer, I do know enough to understand why 5G is so important to both the IT world since it affects me and decisions I'll be making for our WAN in times to come, and I can recognize it as an achievement of the engineering world.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      I'd be happy with 4G or even 3G here. Currently ISDN would be faster than the "4G" I'm getting. In the city, I get 50 - 150mbps, at home 2 - 3mbps and at work 0.001mbps - so slow that Vodafone's own speed test app says there is no internet connection. My contract says 4G "up to 500mbps", to be honest, I'd be happy with 5mbps at work and 50 at home.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I was out in the valleys near Richmond. We had no phone signal at all - on O2 or Vodaphone. No signal, 2G, 3G or anything....

      5G ain't gonna solve that.

      1. EssexGuy

        Re: 4G

        Vodafone and O2 share their masts. So if you have no signal from one you are very unlikely to have signal from the other.

        Better to carry a combo of Voda + EE or O2 + EE to maximise your chances of having a signal from at least one provider.

      2. AdrianMontagu

        Re: 4G

        4G? 3G? 2G - we would love to have a raven here in Wales!

    5. Smooth Newt Silver badge

      According to the estimates commissioned by Huawei, the UK faces losses vastly surpassing the estimates commissioned by the British government.

      I'm shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Apples to oranges

        Yeah, obvious vested intertest is obvious.

        However comparing projected economic hit to projected telco rip'n'replace costs is comparing apples to oranges. Telco costs are only part of the overall economic hit. That is, if you believe the 5G hype. Which I don't.

    6. Anonymous Coward

      >>>So really could not care at all as it more case of the mobile phone industry's equivilent of the Ford Edsel.

      Weren't you that guy who used to say the same thing about mobile phones, sms, etc ... ?

    7. Lee D Silver badge

      I run my entire house from 4G.

      BT are too stupid to sell me a decent speed ("probably 4Mbps down, 1 up" in the middle of a city center inside the M25...). Nobody else has any facility independent of BT.

      I would probably go to 5G if I knew there was a good boost in signal/speed. Otherwise, forget it. As it is, I'm just artificially limited on 4G... unless the limit on 4G is 30Mbps exactly, despite the fact that I live opposite the pole that supplies it and have a 4G antenna on my window facing it.

      But 4G is enough to run my entire house and all the gadgets and even stream HDTV out of the aerial to my 4G phone. And I have an unlimited data package with a stupendous "fair use" bit before they start slowing me down (1000Gb/month). And it costs me £18 a month, and a little £50 wifi router that's the size of a bar of soap and fits in my pocket if I should decide to go somewhere (it tends to stay at home now, connected to the antenna, because then I can stream from that to my phone wherever I am).

      5G isn't going to sell - especially as the dongles/routers are still relatively rare and expensive - until you can provide a service capable of utilising them. There's no point me buying a 1000mph car if every road has a 30mph speed limit, except to show off.

      Strange how they can provide service to the 4G mast that they will upgrade to 5G soon enough to cope with thousands of users doing what I do, but they can't just upgrade the line that's still sitting in my porch, unused, because they charge a £160 activation fee, £25 a month, on a 24-month contract, to give me more than 4 down, 1 up.

      1. EssexGuy

        BT Mobile rate limits to 30Mbps on their "standard" 4G.

        There is an optional £4/month upgrade to allow you "up to" 60Mbps.

        Or you could switch to another provider like EE (BT Mobile use their infrastructure) who doesn't rate limit.

      2. mego

        I can guarantee you the likelihood of that being real 5G is practically zero if it's just upgrades to the existing tower. 5G requires a pretty significant change to the supporting structure, such that the tower will likely need full replacement and/or movement if power support isn't in sufficient supply in the spot it's in.

  2. DavCrav Silver badge

    "followed by a three-year milieu where it becomes less competitive, only to regain footing by 2024."

    I don't know what you think the word 'milieu' means, but it isn't that.

    1. TimMaher Bronze badge

      Well, not in my milieu anyway.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huawei is right, if they are going to use inferior US gear instead of Huawei, they may as well stay with the existing spyware/backdoor laden 4G US gear they already have.

    Huawei not only give them the opportunity to get superior technology, it also gets rid of the NSA/FBI/CIA backdoors and ECHELON support for the US spy agencies.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      I don't know about getting rid of the three letter agencies, they tend to slurp off backbones, but the unfortuante fact of life is that when it comes to standards compliant 5G you've got to involve Huawei. You might be able to limp along with a sort of "5G Evolution" until one of the other manufacturers catches up but the result is that you'll end up dumping a lot of really expensive but only partially functional gear on the customer base (who aren't going to be at all pleased when they find out they've been conned).

      Currently the US doesn't have that much of a play in this technology. Qualcomm is a major chip supplier and they've cross licenced technology with Huawei but they're building chips for phones, not infrastructure. We (the US) seem to be pinning our hopes on OpenRAN which sounds rather like what is known here as a "Hail Mary" play -- there's not the investment to really get this moving and there's no easy way to ramp it up (the government might provide money but that won't make a suitably trained workforce appear as if by magic).

      1. AKL_wino

        Samsung? massive contract just awarded for Verizon 5G rollout.

        Yes, I agree though; everyone I talk to rates the Huawei gear way above the followers.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "We (the US) seem to be pinning our hopes on OpenRAN which sounds rather like what is known here as a "Hail Mary" play"

        The US's behaviour is risking R&D + wafer manufacture leaving North America entirely as it becomes increasingly antagonistic towards _everybody_

      3. mego

        "Currently the US doesn't have that much of a play in this technology"

        Oh, you'd be surprised. a couple of major telecom companies are talking about the technology for business leased connectivity (not mobile) use. I just had a conference call with our data services rep the other day who was talking about 5G being a probable next step for some of our facilities where fiber isn't an option.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Australia had 5G before Korea.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Australia does not even have mobile phone coverage by most providers in the small towns along the west coast - I think there is only one provider that does that, ( but I forgot the name - Telstra? Not Vodaphone, I see to recall). Ok, this was 2015, but I seriously doubt matters have improved much - and why should they? There are just not enough customers outside of the bigger towns to warrant the investment in infrastructure.

      1. marky_boi

        whoa !!! sayin' the west coast is not covered is like saying there is little coverage on the moon... basically no people, low returns and little need. when you look at coverage for the population we are then approaching 99% with 4G.... To an Australian, the UK looks like a mobile backwater, you still have 2G.. 2G was closed down years ago and the Telcos are looking at removing 3G too. 2/3 telcos now have usable 5G and the other of course is Voda....

  5. Oh Homer

    Where's the proof?

    18 billion is a lot of money to flush down the toilet on the basis of completely unsubstantiated paranoia.

    1. Snowy

      Re: Where's the proof?

      The 18 billion is so large a lie they should have written it on the side of a bus.

    2. Mark Exclamation

      Re: Where's the proof?

      Agreed, but it's not the potential of backdoor that is the problem. Huawei is a puppet of the Chinese Communist Party and *must* do anything they demand. Furthermore, with the increasing bullying China is doing to its trading partners (see Australia for example), the world needs to step away from China and source products from elsewhere, and leave China in the cold until/unless they become reasonable. Rejecting Huawei is a very good place to start, and we must add many other companies and products to the list. COVID has decimated much of the world's economies, so for most countries it can't get much worse, so now is the time to reject Chinese made products, preferably make our own, or at least trade with friendly, international-law abiding countries.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: Where's the proof?

        s/China/the USA/g

        s/Huawei/Cisco, Boeing, Apple/g

        not saying that China isn't doing the same, but the US are bullying their allies[*] still and claim moral superiority over China while doing that.

        [*] though everybody sorts of doubts nowadays whether they will still honour that fact.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Where's the proof?


          at least as far as the USA is concerned anyway

    3. mego

      Re: Where's the proof?

      Are you more knowledgeable than government officials required to know every intricate detail before making recommendations? I must ask, have you offered your amazing skills and knowledge to the government since you don't need to research to make an opinion that it's unsubstantiated paranoia? Surely they'd be glad for someone that can make such snap decisions without need for pesky research.

      Sarcasm aside, I did a quick Google search and found copious information including law reviews on the spying law established in China. Clearly you didn't even bother to do so, so here you go we'll do your work for you. Here's the first couple that hit my results. Most telling is the following quote from a presenter at the International Legal Technology Association:

      "You should also be aware of the laws in China that compel every Chinese citizen and company to assist in national security or intelligence work. This should concern you if represent clients that work in or with China."

      Who knows if El Reg will allow this comment, I hope so since it answers your comment directly.

      1. Mark Exclamation

        Re: Where's the proof?

        Seems you're replying to my comment. If so, I can't see the relevance. In one part you seem to support my comments, but your introduction is obviously snarky. And thanks for "doing my work for me", but I didn't realise I had any to do. If you can't see what's bleedingly obviously going on, what's written doesn't matter.

        Oh, and if you're not replying to my post, my bad.

        1. mego

          Re: Where's the proof?

          Not sure how it streamed to respond to you - my response was actually to Oh Homer, who claims it's only paranoia to suggest China is a risk, regardless of the cost involved.

          My apologies for the incorrect connection.

  6. Securitymoose

    You've got to have 5G!

    Like you've got to have bypasses and a control chip in your head. Yeah right.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: You've got to have 5G!

      I got one and now I've got COVID-19; a few more contrails and I may even be able to upgrade to COVID-20...

  7. DrXym Silver badge

    When in Rome

    Britain should just do what China does - steal the tech. Pay a few insiders in these companies to help themselves to the source code and designs and surreptitiously provide the info to domestic competitors.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: When in Rome

      Domestic competitors - hahaha haha hahahahahaha haha haha ha good one!

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Even the ads for 5G networks from the likes of EE don't really show it doing anything that you can't already do on 4G networks. Or just wouldn't be that bothered about doing. Claims such as you can download a entire 2 hour HD movie in under a minute might sound good, but in practice how many people are actually looking to do that?

    1. David Roberts

      2 hour HD movie?

      All you need now is a clear, unthrottled route between you device and the far end server which supports the maximum bandwidth all the way.

      Including a server which can serve multiple simultaneous requests for many, many different movies at this maximum speed.

      Plus a device which can write the data as fast as it arrives.


    2. DrXym Silver badge

      The same happened for 4G too if you recall. EE or somebody else launched the product and it was complete arse for a long time with complaints of dropouts and poor service. It's one of those things where you need the infrastructure for the technology to prove itself but you need the early adopters to justify the infrastructure.

      5Gs main advantage is it supports a higher device density and at a range of frequencies that make it potentially more reliable and faster than 4G. Eventually to the extent that many households may use it for their home broadband and streaming.

      I doubt early adopters will get to enjoy a good service for a while yet though.

  9. Alan Brown Silver badge

    More important than 5G now: IPv6

    Several ISPs - including Talktalk and all its resellers - STILL have no plans to offer it in the forseeable future

    At least the mobe networks have stopped gatewaying phone IPv6 to the world via NATed IPv4

  10. Spanners Silver badge


    If you can just put things on hold for a few months, we might see an adult in the White House and all the protectionist fakery can be quietly forgotten.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Wait!

      Even so, not sure that would get rid of the hostility toward anything Chinese. Needs adults in the rest of government too.

  11. Cuddles Silver badge


    "The telcos have done a superb job of launching 5G, resulting in the UK being of the first countries to have all carriers offering services within a short period of time,” he said. This is even more remarkable when you consider the relatively fractured rollout of 4G"

    There was nothing "fractured" about the 4G rollout. EE were handed a year-long monopoly by the licensing authorities for no apparent reason, and everyone else jumped on board the moment they were legally allowed to. Praising telcos for doing better this time is just weird, given that the only problem last time was caused by the government, with the telcos having fought tooth and nail to actually be allowed to do it.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was it ever so?

    Was UK ever a leader in 5G?

    Please enlighten me more.

    I cant even get decent 4G where I live and work (london) . And hate those hideous 5G adverts, that claim it is better than mama's milk.

  13. Ringo Star

    We've never led on 5G. We installed two or three masts in a few cherry picked locations and said look the UK has 5G.

    Next we'll be telling ourselves we have some of the fastest broadband in the world (oh wait, certain people already say that).

    our telecoms are worse than 3rd world countries.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      3rd World

      Agreed wholeheartedly Ringo Star. When travelling (Roaming) , I have had consistently 30-40 Mbps in places like Mainland spain, Cyprus, Tenerife, Greece, Mexico, India (yes one of the most congested cities, yet decent signals and speeds - about 15Mbps consistently) and yet I barely get 2-3 Mbps on the home network turf (Three) in London/ UK.

      Something stinks big time in UK state of mobile infrastructure, where everything is determined by the beancounters and no genuine long terms investment approach.

      A lot of lying, BS and outright cons being peddled.

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