back to article Radical 5G rules proposed, but UK can address woeful coverage right now

The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has blasted the level of coverage achieved with 4G and urged early action to deploy 5G more effectively. The organisation’s report particularly highlighted the role small cells will play in providing good services in urban areas, and on roads and railways, where the NIC says …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT Home Hub 7?

    Is it me, or does this sound like BT pushing Home Hub 3G/4G Femtocells? (the backhaul run over FTTC infrastructure that taxpayers paid for), yet will be 'price gouged' per MB, mobile pricing.

    Those prices can upto £7.50 per MB on roaming for an American Tourist. It's all so fcuking predicable. This sounds like its been fed through the mouths of the Commission, by an audio stream generated by BT in the background.

    Local Authorities need a part revenue clause before signing up to this. Taxpayers paid for that infrastructure to be used soley for FTTC.

    Not for BT to exploit all the profit, by 'piggy backing' infrastructure, charging per MB prices, on top, for data transmitted via femtocells.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: BT Home Hub 7?

      Cast your mind back to the WiFi.v.LTE debates of a few years back. The operators were all for femocells and replacing WiFi with LTE because it enhanced their ability to charge for over the top services such as voice, text, video etc. So it isn't just a BT thing...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Femtocells / coverage

    The village I live in has some 200 properties. I don't know anyone who can make calls reliably (i.e. that don't drop) from indoors. Some (like me) can't even send/receive text messages indoors.

    We are only a few miles from a major town, significant areas of which only have 2G data.

    My provider (vodafone) offers "Wifi Calling", which allows them to use my internet to charge me for making calls. It does not support text messages (though the standard does) and they don't seem to want to provide that facility.

    I used to use a "Sure Signal", but that was useless as phones keep latching on to the weak mast signal (they say this is "by design") and only switch to the much stronger femtocell when the call drops.

    I think the providers should be told they can't use any 5G services until they get areas like this to the point where we can use 2G services without having to stand outside!

    1. leexgx

      Re: Femtocells / coverage

      your main issue is likely that a Very small group of people (probably 5 people) are likely your cause of your issues with mobile coverage

      they likely blocked a mast install and mobile networks only try once or twice

      orange used to be very sneaky and install concealed masts on top edge of buildings or churches even after locals tryed to block a 2 year old hidden mast in the center of towns due to health or fake Radio sensitive people, which obviously had 0 impact on them as they did not know it was there so made up symptoms did not show imagined symptoms until they knew it was there lol, i did have one customer who had an earthed bed covers to protect him from frequencies (and the stupid fake radio shield stickers you can buy from ebay) and most likely fake can't stand up problems as well pretending to be bed ridden (i did stop going after a bit as there is the point where you think radio affects you and then you're making it up)

      O2 place pole masts on the sides of roads where lots of houses there (they was very aggressive with installing them when O2 got 4G800)

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge


    Perhaps all of those *cough* industry experts, service providers, municipals, councils and .Gov will have agreed a way forward by the time 9G arrives.

  4. Anna Logg

    Wow the 5G bandwagon is certainly gathering momentum.

    Why all this talk about coverage? 5G is about capacity/bandwidth. not coverage; good luck providing any sort of coverage in the proposed 28GHz or 60GHz bands, for example.

  5. Anonymous Blowhard

    "Availability" <> Geographic Coverage

    "it currently lies below far poorer economies like Albania, and countries with far more challenging size and terrain, like Peru"

    Much as I'd like to join in the general moaning about 4G availability in the UK, I don't think that the UK is really behind Peru in 4G "availability".

    The measurement methodology used for these "statistics" is questionable at best, using self selection (existing 4G users) and no standardised signal testing. Instead they simply measure the number of times a user switches between 4G and 3G networks. This can be massively skewed in a country with only a few 4G users and one small area of 4G coverage; in this case most users won't be swapping between 3G and 4G, they'll either be in 3G all the time (or even no network at all) or in 4G.

    Here's a link showing that Lima has good 4G for Movistar (but not the other three networks) and little coverage elsewhere:

    UK networks certainly need to improve, but you won't convince them with shoddy statistics like the ones being bandied about in the news.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Availability" <> Geographic Coverage

      "UK networks certainly need to improve"


      "you won't convince [the networks] with shoddy statistics like the ones being bandied about in the news."

      I suspect no statistics of any kind will convince them, till it hits their wallets in a serious way. Unless anyone knows better, in which case please feel free to share.

      In the meantime, statistics like the ones being used here may be far from perfect, but they may also be the best we currently have.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "Availability" <> Geographic Coverage

        "In the meantime, statistics like the ones being used here may be far from perfect, but they may also be the best we currently have."

        Sometimes no statistics are better then poor or incorrect statistics.

        Also worth noting that some of the countries claimed as having better mobile coverage than the UK have different in-place infrastructure. eg it might be very old and so they are now installing the latest tech, or, as in some African countries, there is little to no land-line coverage to compete with the mobile coverage. It's a leapfrog effect. Early adopters need to recover their investments before making more investments in more upgrades.

  6. Roland6 Silver badge

    Ofcom missed an opportunity...

    In another recent proposal to the UK government, the British Infrastructure Group – a cross-party group of members of parliament - proposed compulsory roaming for all MNOs in rural areas, a suggestion which the operators have opposed vociferously.

    In rejecting the Three takeover of O2, Ofcom missed an opportunity to place such a coverage caveat on Three, as Three/O2 would be providing services across both of the UK's mobile consortium's national infrastructures and thus would have had a commercial requirement to facilitate interworking/roaming across the two infrastructures, plus an Ofcom requirement to ensure that one or both of these networks were extended to provide rural area coverage, which would have benefited the other MNO's and MVNO's and thus delivered real benefit to consumers...

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Ofcom missed an opportunity...

      You are speaking common sense. Two vital words that seem to be banned from being used inside OFCOM.

    2. Gio Ciampa

      Re: Ofcom missed an opportunity...

      Of course (and apologies to those who've seen me writing this before)...

      ...if OFCOM operated the 3/4/5/...G networks as a "National Grid" to which all operators have access (and are charged accordingly) - we wouldn't have this discussion every 5 minutes...

      1. Alistair Silver badge

        Re: Ofcom missed an opportunity...

        @ Gio Ciampa:

        NB -> personally agree in principle

        However the immediate response will be:

        OFCOM is GOVERNMENT. And Government can't do *anything* right, must be done more effciently by business.


        OFCOM need to build the *telecom infrastructure*, and lease portions thereof to businesses, but will that will result in everyone being gouged for the costs because government cant do anything efficiently.

        Sadly, this argument is circular and recurrent everywhere.

  7. MGJ

    Housing Control in 5G Standard?

    Given that large numbers of folk live in partial or complete Faraday cages, how is 5G going to sort that out?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small cells ? 5G ? Oh please, it is so much simpler than that

    Sigh, someone needs to go on a basic physics course.

    If you want coverage the answer is (and always will be) a low frequency band + high output power radios. It is that simple and the UK has a perfectly good low frequency band available, Band 20 at 800MHz.

    By the way, when people complain that all they can get is 2G or 2G data, then at that spot could easily be covered by 4G/LTE on band 20.

    2G/GSM uses band 8 for coverage which is 900 MHz and LTE on Band 20 has the same coverage grid.

    So there is no technical nor spectrum shortage for operators to provide LTE coverage on par with GSM, all they have to do is equip their 2G sites with 4G on band 20.

    So why don't they ? Economics. It is expensive to build out a site, it is expensive to bring high speed IP links to a site (via fiber or microwave) and often landlords raise the site rental when you add new equipment to the site.

    So operators do the absolute minimum to meet regulatory requirements and only add extra sites where it makes economic sense (i.e. where they can cover enough people who are willing to pay extra for a 4G subscription).

    If you want coverage, mandate a minimum geographical coverage in % and not a population coverage in %.

    Small cells provide capacity, not coverage. Pretty simple physics, a small cell covers a smaller area, a smaller area has fewer people in it and therefore the radio spectrum, which is a shared resource, is shared among fewer people, thus each person gets access to more bandwidth and thus more capacity.

    Simple trade off. Large coverage, lower capacity. Small coverage, higher capacity.

    However 4G/LTE is much more spectral efficient than 2G for delivering data, so even a "low capacity" but large coverage LTE cell on band 20 can easily deliver 20 to 50 Mbps of data connectivity Vs 0.2 Mbps (200 kbps) on 2G.

    And 5G ? 5G will be in high frequency bands and is all about capacity. The lowest 5G frequency band will be 3.5Ghz (3500 MHz) and the other bands will be up around 15, 28 or even 60 GHz.

    High frequency bands are fantastic for capacity, but hopeless for coverage. So about the only thing 5G won't be solving, is coverage.

    1. Adam Jarvis

      Re: Small cells ? 5G ? Oh please, it is so much simpler than that

      "2G/GSM uses band 8 for coverage which is 900 MHz and LTE on Band 20 has the same coverage grid"

      A bit misleading , maybe true in terms of Voice, but data throughput at the extremities of that coverage cell aren't going to anything like what you'd expect in terms of LTE Data speeds, they'll be more like 2G Data speeds and massively affected by the topology of Britain's landscape/line of sight to mast.

      Good to see the mention of the implementation practicalities of 5G though (coverage v capacity). Needs to be highlighted far more often.

      Let's be clear the UK needs full fibre backhaul rollout into a lot of very remote areas to achieve 'blanket anything' in terms of data speeds/coverage/capacity, whether it be 4K streaming, LTE/5G Mobile. Microwave relay links work up to a point, (which ultimately connect to a fibre backhaul), but not in terms of en-masse capacity.

      If Elon Musk wants to dig any tunnels, rather than tunnels for cars, micro tunnnels for fibre, with an automated GPS based 'rat run' tunnel digging machine for Fibre, covering the UK with a 1km square spacing grid of Fibre cabling, is probably a good place to start.

      My main reason for always advocating full fat pure Fibre is to allow the dismantling of Ofcom and all its merry men/reduce maintenace costs. Pointless jobsworths analysing and talking vast amounts of hot air and hype, when its fibre cables in the ground that is needed to shut them all up -

      Not hot air and hype of the so called 'good enough' benefits of Copper Carcass crappy overhyped, which is obsolete technology before its even out of trial (it's a fault finding/maintenance nightmare in the making). Constantly pushed as a solution by biased technical reasoning by (revolving door employment) BT/Ofcom Folk.

      Somehow, we've ended up in a siutation where an massively entrenched BT is sitting on their hands, pontificating, asking for more handouts, Ofcom/CMA have to take some of the blame for this, and be severely reprimanded.

      Regulation (both ofcom/ofgem) needs a complete re-think/overall, its not working for 'joe-public'.

  9. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

    What Coverage?

    I live in a 33,000 population town in Essex. We are 12 miles from the M25. Even here Vodafail couldn't provide adequate 2G coverage such that I could make and take calls from my sofa. The 3G coverage for all providers on Britains busiest motorway (largest carpark),...(the M25) is atrocious. So, if the incompetents,... sorry, incumbents cannot provide adequate coverage to their PRIMARY market, what chance is there for rural communities and other low usage areas. What is the answer? Dunno, but the current system has led me to lose interest in the latest/greatest phones as there is no point in having and paying for a super-dooper-whizz-bang phone with 10Gb data per month when you can never get anywhere near that usage due to inadequate coverage.

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