Do We Want 5G?

Governments want 5G because they can have spectrum auctions for it raising huge amounts of cash.

The EU has it high on their list of tech priorities.

The UK is putting £200 million into 5G research this year, but many people think that a more pressing priority for government is to find a way to make it in the operators’ best interest to make the coverage of 3G and 4G signals consistent, universal and robust.

At the moment there is no incentive on operators to improve their networks. Until governments act to put such incentives in place, improvements are unlikely to happen.

More and more people are making the point that it’s a waste of money just providing faster access when what people want is certain access.

Many people reckon that consumers don’t want 5G, what they do want is an available, uncongested signal whether it’s 3G or 4G.

Uncongested 3G signals would deliver all the speed consumers want, and getting a signal means a lot more to people than getting a faster connection than 3G.

It is 17 years since spectrum was sold for 3G but many people can’t get 3G at all and most people have found difficulty, at some time, in picking up a 3G signal when 3G coverage is supposed to be available.

So momentum is building to change the government’s mobile communications priorities.

However with a 5G spectrum auction pencilled in for later this year, the government will be banging on about the advantages of 5G at least until then.

5G is as yet undefined but is generally seen as 10Gbps+ theoretical download speed.



  1. That’s a very insightful formula Robetc.

  2. Surely a barrel of scrumpy will focus hearts and minds, Robetc?

    • It might help to start with but the level of agreement will be inversely proportional to the volume of beverage remaining divided by the time elapsed since the barrel was tapped.

      In all honesty, the broadband isn’t too bad, but you wouldn’t guarantee a lamp-post or master socket being handy everywhere. The real issue is mobile coverage. Most builders down here have dual SIM phones to cope, and we had to change carrier when we moved house.

  3. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    Jogging my memory here as I remembered others too have shown an exceptional interest in lamp posts. It turns Amazon is the one:
    And they got a patent too:

    It would be a useful combination if the drones could directly access broadband while roosting like mad turkeys. Thankfully there should be no droppings.

  4. Thanks for that SEPAM, interesting.

  5. Absolutely Robetc, Vodafone was hubristic in 2000, it was raking in money and was prepared to spend anything on 3G spectrum and Gordon Brown knew that and stiffed them with a clever ganes-theory auction methodology devised by Essex University. Bags of money was raised for the Treasury but it stopped us having a global leader in mobile (Vodafone + Verizon or Vodafone + AT&T) and, as you say, it condemned the UK to a shitty network for ever after,

  6. Well the Cornish have always been a law unto themselves Robetc, if they want rural broadband they will probably have to do it for themselves. DIY broadband is absolutely possible, see:

    • Thanks David, that is brilliant. Certainly food for thought, though the idea you might get an entire Cornish parish to agree about anything is stretching credulity a little bit too far.

  7. Did it look like this, Alan?
    I managed to just do a copy and paste of this photo into the Comments so it should be possible to do it.

  8. Oh Yes good point about fibre Pete – could free-space optics connect up the lamp posts?

    • It’s a shame I can’t post a photo here. I just drove past one (a lamp post with wi-fi) this morning on the commute to work in Manchester.

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      Lamp posts tend to be close enough that you could do free space IR communications between them and IR is somewhat resistant to bad weather. Most likely you would deploy a tiered solution with fibres to some lamp posts, power line communications to some and free space optics to the rest.

      As usual these things are best deployed when setting up new infrastructure. shows how trivial the tech is, mass producing these things will probably bring down cost enormously.

  9. With BT making every master socket a wi-fi point and Virgin moving that way, base stations are not rolling out at the pace they used to.
    Phone users are moving over to using apps rather than the cell networks.

  10. Crikey Silver, but I bet if Theresa stamped her foot the local authorities would come to heel

  11. Absolutely SEPAM, you can take the manager out of the state monopoly, but you can’t take the state monopoly mind-set out of the manager.

  12. I thought that was what this small cell deal was all about, SEPAM, it seems obvious, but when did telcos ever do obvious?

    • SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

      You can do small cells in several ways, either the way most people will think but there is a second cheap version: use many thin segments out from the same base station. Maximum radius is actually a bit longer than one should think something I experienced a few years ago when I arrived at the scene of a traffic accidents. The parties involved were incapacitated and I had to call the emergency services. Rather than believing me when I told them where I was standing they sent all rescue vehicles to a city 15 km away as the crow and radio signal fly since that is where the bases station was located which I in fact was connected to.

      As they always say whenever something turns tragically wrong: “this should never have been possible”. It just did.

      Most telcos grew out of state monopolies and I guess that is where the cultural baggage some from, where innovations inevitably means fancy powerpoint presentations with drop shadows. With that also comes the belief they are immune against real innovation.

      • A hell of a lot of baggage was left over from the uk spectrum auction of 2002? 2003?. Vodafone ate the market in one sitting and have been trying to recover from their multi-billion pound fit of indigestion ever since.
        The sale allowed Vodafone to be very tardy about new coverage, and left no incentive for other operators to build infrastructure.
        Spectrum auctions are obscene, the group of people who benefit least is Joe Public, but the hidden cost is to commerce generally. There must be a limit to what any one company is allowed to grab. Governments only see the dollar signs flashing in front of their eyes, not the loss to the economy over a decade or more.

  13. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    Download speed quickly becomes a question of base station density which in turn means cost for the providers. My hunch is that they will just upgrade old base stations by adding new frequencies without adding more base stations.

    More than 10 years ago I read about lily pad networks where practically all lamp posts would be outfitted with a miniature base station and point-to-point communication for backhaul with a few connected to fibre backhaul. The idea was interesting but somehow it didn’t go beyond the concept stage.

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