Baby steps or giant leaps towards a 5G future, you decide.
Anyone who has followed technology and mobile services since the days of the first PCMCIA GPRS and 3G mobile data cards will be well used to the next step always being the that will generate massive change for industry, public while making mobile operators rich, and thus we are in that bubble once again for 5G.
As part of its target to avoid the UK playing catch-up for 5G technology when other countries nail it as the first actual hardware goes on sale DCMS has published another update to its 5G strategy today, following on from an October update on 5G testbeds and trials. This latest update is meant to include funding for the first large scale projects.
Of course you cannot do much without a consultation and therefore there is a call for views around the right scale for the pilots.
Pyramid of scenarios for 5G use
One of the perception problems with 5G is that so many headlines are about the top of the pyramid i.e. multi Gigabit per second downloads but the pyramid actually gives a very good idea of the areas where there is a belief that if you can get near universal geographic coverage the economic benefits will be massive and we will give you a hint the big money spinner is not going to be us the public with our mobile data plans but the mobile data plan for your car and the myriad of other devices that will have 5G. Dare we suggest that the smart meter roll-out should have only done limited pilots to data and waited for 5G and better compatibility between operators.
The self driving car is something some say is decades away and others say its almost here now, but as roads get more crowded the amount of assistance for drivers is likely to increase and unless personal vehicle usage habits change a future with a lot more toll roads or road based charging supported by 5G connectivity is a real possibility, i.e. the old Vehicle Excise Duty could vanish to be replaced by variable charging based on measured emissions from a vehicle and where and when it was driven.
Areas like the Smart City and Industrial automation offer potential benefits but given the poor security implentations that have plagued various devices the day of the closed LAN with tightly controlled firewalls or a total air gap solution will most likely remain.
For those reading this on their home connection and wishing they could get any mobile data signal on their phone, it is possible but in no way guaranteed that ahead of the large 5G roll-out operators will start to prepare by installing more 4G masts, in urban areas more masts are needed to cope with the increasing volume of devices (note devices not people) and in rural areas there are still plenty of people waiting to see their first 4G mast.
Tracking the Governments ambition for the 95% geographic coverage of the UK with mobile coverage is going to be a lot more complex than fixed line and while the mathematical and software modelling for wireless services is improving there are still so many variables involved that lots of solid hard testing is needed and the temperature, weather and time of year will all have an impact e.g. rural areas on a cold dry winters day will have different levels of service as trees have few leaves versus a hot humid summer afternoon after a rain shower where you have trees with leaves and the additional moisture layer.
We are also acutely aware that even with the 95% superfast fixed line broadband coverage target approaching rapidly which is going to leave 1.4 million premises without access to an over 24 Mbps connection option that the noise from those who have seen no improvements will give the impression that nothing has changed for a much larger number. Or phrased differently trust in statistics, evidence and politicians appears to be at an all time low and click bait headlines and modern political fights are not helping those trying to pull together data.
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