back to article Cambridge boffins: STOP the rush to 5G. We just don't need it

The headlong rush into 5G is an unnecessary technology treadmill, or so the great and the good of the wireless world have concluded. Cambridge Wireless, a network which brings together senior players in the mobile industry, may have moved its annual shindig from the esteemed university to London's Emirates Stadium, but it …

  1. James 51 Silver badge

    I think that work on the underlying technologies should go ahead but coverage is a bigger problem now than speed.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      I would think you need BOTH at the same time. Just as you need to spread the coverage, so too do you need to improve the speed within the covered area to handle two factors of growth: new customers and increased demands of existing ones.

    2. asdf Silver badge

      speed is king (for the shareholders)

      Their is a simple reason they can't get 5G to market quick enough. At least here state side with some companies like Verizon (with usually by far the best network away from coasts in most places) they no longer offer unlimited data. They make their money selling data so if you can get you to go over your monthly limit and hit the overage gravy train in 13 sec instead of 9 minutes like before its a giant win. Also funny how they are dragging their asses getting true very high speed broadband (non-wireless) in the home in any market Google is not in, if they care so much about speed for the customers.

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      So maybe 5G needs to focus on getting better performance in marginal signal areas?

  2. Mike Tree

    3G would be nice. In the (large) village I live in we can't even get 2G a lot of the time!

    1. Mike 9

      I get 4G where I live, however on my phone,I had to turn off 4G because half the time incoming calls and txt's didn't work. The mobile operators suggestion was to turn on 4G when I was using data and turn it off when I wanted to receive calls!

    2. Michael Strorm

      2G? 2G?!!

      I can't even get a bloody 1G signal where I am! No way am I wasting my time upgrading to 2G if I can't even get a 1G signal on my Motorola.

      I regret getting rid of that radio phone in my car now.

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Missing poll option

    "Complete the roll out of 2G & 3G"

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Missing poll option

      It might also be nice to have a good reason to move from 2G just as soon as they have managed to deliver it reliably to places 10 miles out side of the apparently 'rural backwater' that is London. Receiving calls within the house would be a huge step forward from not getting them at all, No wonder I stick with POTS a superior contact system which has the undoubted advantage of working more of the time.

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Missing poll option

      Verizon here in the states is actually looking at reducing its 3G coverage because it still has a significant number of contracts grandfathered into unlimited data on 3G which is the apocalypse for their business model. They don't allow unlimited on 4G.

      1. Chris Beattie

        Re: Missing poll option

        Yes, they do. I know, because I have it. You have to have a grandfathered unlimited data plan to start with, and you can't buy a new phone on contract or they'll change your plan. When my 3G phone died, I bought a 4G phone from eBay. I took it to the local Verizon store to purchase a 4G SIM for it and get it activated.

        Now, whether Verizon does any rate limiting or not, I can't tell. I work in the sticks where the phone switches between 3G and 4G often, but my current phone has lost enough of its little metal mind that even on good wi-fi at home it would be charitable to call it "sluggish". But my bill doesn't change whether I use 3GB in a month or 13.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: Missing poll option

          Didn't think they would let you activate a 4G phone on the unlimited data plans. Ok that does it. Now they are only %99 bastards (but damn if their network doesn't rule out west).

  4. mamsey

    Beware the zombie apocalypse...

    Any fool know that 5G leads to the zombie apocalypse.

  5. ratfox Silver badge

    Why can't we have both?

    I feel there's nothing wrong with preparing 5G and roll out 4G everywhere.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Why can't we have both?

      In a word, money.

      As soon as 5G turns up, 5G phones will be on the market within minutes. The Sheep will go "ooooo, must have new shiny" and want one, at which point any network not offering 5G will lose customers like it's going out of fashion[1].

      So 4G buildout goes hang while perfectly well serviced areas with gobs of customers (i.e. cities) get pointlessly upgraded to avoid this.

      [1] This is seen as "demand for 5G", even though less than one percent of buyers will actually use the capabilities for anything constructive (i.e. something other than faster access to cat pix).

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Why can't we have both?

        As soon as 5G turns up, 5G phones will be on the market within minutes. The Sheep will go "ooooo, must have new shiny" and want one...

        Yes, the sheep will do that, while those of us who've seen this all happen before will say "I'm not buying a 5G phone until there's actually a 5G network I can use, and I can tell which of the handet manufacturers implemented 5G correctly/implemented the correct flavour of 5G.

        If there's ever going to be a need for 5G it would be helpful to have the standard(s) hammered out well in advance, though, otherwise some foolish manufacturer will start making handsets that implement some draft that turns out to be incompatible with the final standard.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Why can't we have both?

          Why can't they just get their G's correct in the first place?

          It's getting like "Now (that's what I call Music)" or Firefox!

    2. Annihilator

      Re: Why can't we have both?

      "I feel there's nothing wrong with preparing 5G and roll out 4G everywhere."

      Yes, the way this was written you'd think they were mutually exclusive options. As if the boffins designing 5G standards are the same engineers who are out there malletting new 4G masts into the ground.

      5G won't be ready for another 5 years. It's the equivalent of not buying a new CPU, knowing that Intel are working on the next gen chips at the moment.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And make the cost of 4G reasonable

    so Service Providers such as Gif-Gaf... Stop lauding that a 4G data allowance at no extra cost is the best thing since sliced bread. It isn't got it!

    O2 and EE should join G-G on the naughty step. Still flogging minute 4G packages.

    Pity the sodding customer who decides to watch [insert latest blockbuster flick here] and then keep over stone dead when they see their next bill.

    We should make 4G that standard. Only when 99.99% of the country by area not population can get a reliable 4G signal should we even consider going to 5G.

    At home I get 1 bar of 4G at the front of the house. At the back and less than 15m away, I get 5bars of 3G.

    Things like that need fixing and fast.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: And make the cost of 4G reasonable

      >At home I get 1 bar of 4G at the front of the house. ...

      And what is the actual internet connection speed? I 'love' one of my local network providers, whilst I may (at times) get a good 3G signal, according to the engineers the mast is at the end of a circa 3 mile length of copper...

      1. tomban

        Re: And make the cost of 4G reasonable

        >At home I get 1 bar of 4G at the front of the house. ...

        I have the same but 1 bar of 4g gives me almost 60Mbps, same at work but only ~25mbps.

        Except when it rains, then I get 4 bars of "No Service"

        1. tony2heads

          Re: And make the cost of 4G reasonable

          about the rain:

          Microwave absorption by heavy rain could be a serious problem for 5G if they go to higher frequencies.

  7. Cynical Observer

    More ... Give us more,,,,,

    You can see it won't stop yet - until one day someone can say of the mobile networks....

    ... "these go to eleven"

  8. Dan Paul

    Speeds versus Distance

    When we had 2G/3G there was significantly more coverage because the frequencies were lower. The signals penetrated buildings and reached most everywhere.

    Now Telcos move to 4G and coverage areas shrank as frequencies rose higher. Where I used to be able to get a signal inside a stainless steel elevator, now I get almost nothing. The signal in my own house is infinitesimal.

    4G buildouts need to be completed and the holes in coverage filled in before ANY new generation of cell transmission occurs.

    Stop putting the cart in front of the horse.

    1. Cynical Observer

      Re: Speeds versus Distance

      All about penetration (Wash your minds out!)

      With solid stone walls, 3G signals die within inches of being inside.

      Most of the providers that do provide femtocells (Home Signal/Sure signal devices) seem to stipulate one per customer.

      Thankfully, with all of the family on the same network, we can get more than one femtocell and place them strategically where needed to provide a useful signal coverage.

      Just one reason why if we change network, we will all end up changing en-masse

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Speeds versus Distance

      Where I used to be able to get a signal inside a stainless steel elevator, now I get almost nothing.

      OK, but now you have hit the one use case where I would actually side with the operators if they tell you to move to a spot with better reception :).

      The only thing mobile that should work in a steel elevator is 2G so you can still call if it gets stuck (which happened to me, and I had a signal - the lift intercom was busted).

  9. Lee D Silver badge


    Provide coverage now, but keep ever-increasing speeds in mind.

    Don't be blinkered and think that 2G-ing that out-in-the-sticks deployment is all you'll ever do to it... get into it being the nature of the business that you want everything using the same equipment with the same capabilities. Bring in those out of the way areas using 4G now, yes, that's first.

    And then when you are 4G everywhere, then you can go to 5G everywhere. Don't make the mistake of thinking that going 5G in London and 4G everywhere else is acceptable on anything more than the short-term.

    That place you're having trouble wiring out in the countryside? Do it once, do it right, make sure it's future-expandable.

    I think that a central push for coverage will just 3G everyone while those in the cities are on 5G, 6G or whatever and they get left behind yet-again.

    And I'm saying this as someone who has always lived and worked in and around London.

    Stop having second-class customers at all - give them all the same service and get more of them into your company by expanding into the empty/quiet zones.

    But it will never happen like that. How many billions did the 4G auctions make?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All driven by the manufacturers

    Consumers don't need 5G, network operators don't want it, spending vast amounts of money deploying it will preclude regulators forcing operators to improve 3G/4G coverage. In reality this is all driven by the manufacturers, and their need to insert as much of their own IP into any new standard as possible. None of them dares step back, because then they'd have no essential patent war-chest embedded in the next standard. This whole standards churn merry-go-round has become a self-sustaining monster that delivers ever-decreasing real-world benefit.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: All driven by the manufacturers

      That makes sense. Once again when something seems stupid and shitty at the root of it is usually caused by those who practice (and write) law.

  11. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Enough of the shiny

    There is a lot of work to be done on 4G, TDD for example is barely out the door in practice.

    It's all right for those squeezing money out of us, but in reality many promised 4G features aren't even specified yet.

  12. Adam Foxton

    Why does 5G have to be faster?

    Why not have the 5G specification focus on lowering power consumption, signal range, etc rather than just headline speed?

    Okay, they don't get to advertise it as "15,000,000x faster than wax cylinder" or whatever, but it does mean that the standard would be a valuable addition

    If it's backwards compatible- or at least can be implemented on the same silicon with a firmware update- then all the better!

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Why does 5G have to be faster?

      Well, then it would just be 4G LTE…

      5G is currently just marketing. The future is most likely going to be multimode – handing off to WLAN wherever it's available. This allows for a much more flexible deployment of infrastructure and will also support 4k cat videos most of the time. If the networks pursue 5G then they will risk losing out to disruptors such as Google's "Project Loon".

  13. Neil Hoskins

    2G around here would be a novelty.

  14. HackAndSlash

    5G? 4G? 3G? I would be happy with a good 2G signal !!

    Can't get a decent 2G signal at my house on any provider let alone a usable 3G signal. Yes if I go to a few major cities I might pick up a 4G signal, but that's rare. Fat chance I would ever see a 5G signal!

  15. Swarthy Silver badge
    IT Angle

    I'm of two minds here

    On the one hand, stalling 5G to enable/force the providers to roll out more 4G coverage would be a Good Thing™; however, speaking as a left-pondian, large-scale roll-outs of current tech can preclude large-scale roll-outs of new tech. One thing that set US data coverage way back (we never really had 2G, we pretty much went from 1G directly to 3G) was the prevalence of analog (1G) coverage, and it was "too expensive" to roll out 2G.

    What I would encourage would be to emphasize the "LT" part of 4G LTE - Long Term. Rather than a new standard, how about just working on getting the existing 4G up to where it was promised. On that note: Does anyone know what happened to VoLTE? Has that actually been sorted?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I'm of two minds here

      "What I would encourage would be to emphasize the "LT" part of 4G LTE - Long Term. Rather than a new standard, how about just working on getting the existing 4G up to where it was promised. On that note: Does anyone know what happened to VoLTE? Has that actually been sorted?"

      Not yet, primarily for the reason you describe: legacy momentum. The big catch is this: any VoLTE solution can't talk to the vast numbers of legacy tech without something in-between and vice versa. And as long as the legacy tech exists, devices will be built to use it, especially if the tech can't use LTE at all (which many phones still being built today can't).

      IOW, for VoLTE to have a decent chance of taking over voice communications, it has to wait for LTE to be the norm rather than the exception. That's not expected to happen on a worldwide basis anytime soon. VoLTE is basically too far ahead of its time.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: I'm of two minds here

        VoLTE is basically too far ahead of its time.

        ... and that is exactly why networks should focus on 4G, also extending it to lower frequencies and implementing all standard features.

  16. Tony Humphreys

    Whats the point of ever faster internet if the backhaul means it is limited. If we go faster, all we will do is hit the limit sooner.

    I still cant see the point of a 4G connection limited to 5GB - especially as they advertise watching movies etc (that would be gone in the first 3 hours)

  17. Tejekion

    Improving 4G Coverage is key! And I believe it's coming!

    I believe someone here in the US is going to do a full 4G roll out and with very detailed coverage. It will have to happen. I mean they're practically giving away smart phones now. So it's gonna come down to the NSA wanting to spy on everyone, no matter where they are. It's only a matter of time before it happens.

  18. Yugguy

    5g can get fecked

    I'd settle for some sort of 4g coverage. I sure as hell wouldn't stump up a lot of hard-earned cash for a massively-hyped and likely massively-priced 5G phone unless proper coverage was already there.

  19. I Like Heckling

    I live in a small town of around 25,000... and it's great for many things... Peace and quiet, decently low crime rate in my part of town... But it's hard to get a decent 3G signal, and 4G is just a pipe dream.

    But at least I have a fibre connection... close enough to a few more major towns that investment in the whole area happened.

    Expand 4G so everyone can make use of it... there are still way to many phones out there that don't even have it. Coverage is so bad that manufacturers put out 2 versions of the same phone with and without so that those who can't make use of it are paying a subsidy for those who can.

    Once coverage improves all manufacturers will switch to all 4G compatible phones.

  20. Bob H

    I've sat on dozens of standards committees for different subjects over the years and almost always the deployment has been a target but it has never stopped roll-out of the previous, well defined, generation. I don't understand why the standardisation of 5G has any effect on 4G roll-out?

    I think 5G is just a distraction and shouldn't be used by operators as an excuse for slow roll outs, especially when we are seeing so many software defined base-stations now!

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: I think 5G is just a distraction...

      Whilst I agree 5G is just a distraction, I think that the reason why we are hearing so much about 5G is that it is being used for chicken and egg marketing purposes by those with vested interests.

      In one area, we see that the industry has discovered Oftel's soft spot and have got them jumping to their tune as it rushes to re-allocate spectrum firstly for 4G and now getting it to consider further spectrum allocations for 5G, in the full knowledge that having allocated and freed up spectrum for 2G/3G/4G/5G there is little chance of such spectrum being easily reverted to it's former use and users...

      To aid in this the industry needs to create the impression that 5G is both imminent and will have sufficient capacity to support all those new and 'essential' applications, like driverless cars, and so stir up interest/demand and so justify why relatively large amounts of spectrum will be needed...

  21. Neiljohnuk

    4G FIRST!

    Having spent a week in Henley on Thames recently, a wild remote outpost of humanity apparently, we had no 4G or even G, and sometimes barely E, until the mobile infill cell mast went live for the Regatta, then it was 4G and full strength signals all the way. Time the current standards were put in place so users can actually use the tech they, or their employers, have paid for!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Higher/no caps

    What's the point of building 5G networks when you can't even properly use 4G networks with the ridiculous bandwidth caps? Unless it's providing something like higher density to cell towers, why bother? I don't need more speed, I need more bandwidth. 5G cap? I can burn through that in a day.

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