back to article If most punters are unlikely to pay more for 5G, why all the rush?

5G is a technical and economical miracle that you cannot help but admire. Soon our streets will be drenched in high-speed connectivity as all kinds of far-out radio boffinry get commercialised, productised, and deployed for something useful. Many billions of pounds of other people's money will be spent here. But the mobile …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Well, if they can secure it, then it's okay, I guess

    I'm certainly not going to be gunning for a 5G phone anytime soon. But if it is faster and more secure, people will certainly find a use for it.

    Some day.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Well, if they can secure it, then it's okay, I guess

      "More secure"

      Than a handset?

      Than a VPN over any public broadcast mechanism?

      I doubt it.

      If you worry about security, you don't care about the medium - you care about the measures necessary to secure it.

      5G, in that regard, like all its predecessors would always be an untrusted medium for data, and most definitely for voice. It can *be* secured. You just VPN/SIP over it to a trusted endpoint from a trusted handset. Same as anything else.

      Selling 5G on "security" is the worst idea possible. Nobody who cares would use it, nobody who uses it would care.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Well, if they can secure it, then it's okay, I guess

        5G may not offer anything to improve security, but we know for sure it will compromise privacy, at least for the high frequency high bandwidth part that's being pushed the most. The smaller the cell, the easier for the operator to know exactly where you are.

        Pretty much all carriers freely sell that information to whoever is willing to pay for it, and only look into what they might do with it after the big articles in the press about who it is abused (see Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for examples of the "how could we have known?!" lines they'll be saying)

        1. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: Well, if they can secure it, then it's okay, I guess

          @DougS, this remains at least technically possible even if you don't buy a new shiny. Your current handset will be vomiting out your IMEI regularly, which the operator could intercept on their microcells to gain your location with much higher precision.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well, if they can secure it, then it's okay, I guess

          "Pretty much all carriers freely sell that information to whoever is willing to pay for it, "

          Well I guess you are American in which case your definition of carriers may be quite narrow and just apply to that small part of the world. Luckily here in the UK and the EU that is very unlikely. I would imagine it's probably not the case in the US now either but I don't know. However feel free to use actual evidence if most carriers in the world sell location data.

          If you're concerned enough about a carrier tracking your location then you wouldn't use a mobile phone at all, especially not a smartphone. So whether you have a 'more accurate' or 'slightly less accurate' location doesn't make much real world difference when the carrier can easily utilise GPS on your carrier customised handset to track your location anyway.

  2. Mage Silver badge

    it will be a genuine game-changer.

    Not really.

    End user is mostly about in-office femto cells and stadiums. Ordinary spectrum that actually works for mobile use can't go "faster" except with greater mast density. The 5G makes no difference to that.

    It's more about the infrastructure apart from the RF airwaves.

    Ignore the hype driven by Network Infrastructure sellers and gadget makers wanting to sell new phones. Indeed as the article suggests ultimately the Mobile Networks look at ROI on any extra masts and infrastructure. Where would extra customer revenue on either come from?

    Robots and IoT? No, we don't want those on Mobile or Internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it will be a genuine game-changer.

      Disagree. It will be a game changer, but not for networks. It will be for corporates and specifically large corporations.

      The BIG differentiator between 5G and preceeding releases is that 3GPP finally learned the concept of a VPN and service virtualization. 5G is designed to be virtualized at scale into smaller isolated networks reusing the same spectrum and physical infrastructure.

      That will be of little revelance to smaller companies, but it will change quite a few things for large ones as well as those who have additional regulatory constraints like banks. Yeah, sure, you brought a BYOD? Cool. It just checked in (at any time of night) and it will never leave.

      1. David Shaw

        5G: it will be a genuine game-changer?

        just a reminder here folks that the very first release of 3G had allegedly no correction for doppler.

        Above about 30 kilometres/hr you saw a lot of data collision, perhaps it was an accidental attempt to stop users messaging instead of driving their cars - but it also meant that 3G on a train didn't work.

        I did hear this over beer(s) in Karlsruhe with several professors of technology, so it might be hard to prove as a fact, from the time of Nokia, that far back indeed

        1. ARGO

          Re: 5G: it will be a genuine game-changer?

          As someone who was involved in designing the physical layer of the first 3G products, I can say for sure that Doppler correction was present at that point.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: it will be a genuine game-changer.

        "It will be for corporates and specifically large corporations."

        That's fine, then. I don't care what they do for their own communications needs.

      3. gnarlymarley

        Re: it will be a genuine game-changer.

        5G maybe awesome from the phone to the tower, but the big problem with all 5G, 4G, and 3G networks is the limitation on the back haul connection. Sure, they can add spectrum on the front end, but while the current business model of the limited back haul connections (where businesses only buy as much as they thing they will need) will always be the bottleneck of the issue. Which businesses are not going to buy a large and fast if nobody is going to use it. The problem shows up when the "rush to" the next big thing comes, not all businesses are prepare for that "rush".

        This is why we may see regular trips for the vans with a constant pulling of new long distance cables.

  3. Jess

    2G generally does what I need mobile

    Instant messages, web pages without the crap, and the extra data my GPS program occasionally needs.

    Any multimedia can be loaded at home.

    A cheap 2g speed continuous connection is of far more interest to me than a much faster much pricier option.

    I can see ultra fast mobile could be a very useful alternative to home broadband for some, though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2G generally does what I need mobile

      How are WAP pages nowadays?

  4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge


    Whilst I value speed, 4G is generally plenty fast enough for what I do on the move.

    More importantly though...way above speed, I value availability. Knowing that my network provider can offer me an attractively-priced contract for 'x'G comes as no comfort at all when I'm sitting somewhere which I'd consider to be civilisation but can't even get a usable GPRS connection.

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Priorities

      I agree ... I got a really decent 2G signal last night as I was kneeling in front of the fire ... but bugger If I'm going to do that on a regular basis to have a conversation.

      Sorry to tout the current 'drive to the lowest" story from the USA but we need a better general coverage of existing technologies in the UK. Norfolk is a web of not-spots, 3G is a bonus most of the time - hell I can't even have a mobile-connected smart meter and I live less that two miles from the centre of a major town!

      As far as us 'non-metroplitans' are concerned, 5G is a pipe dream.

      1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

        Re: I can't even have a mobile-connected smart meter

        The words cloud, silver and lining immediately spring to mind.

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    The only reason I would pay extra for 5G is if they removed the annoying data caps that are present on virtually all 4G plans. Even the 4G contracts that do allow unlimited data usually specify that tethering isn't allowed which means I still have to have WIFI at home and data on my phone.

    If I could get unlimited 5G data I could then ditch the home broadband and just use my phone for all my internet as my router allows you to plug in a dongle or Android phone and use that data instead of the Adsl line.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      But you are on shared spectrum - you and everyone else in the locality the same network are using the same bandwidth. If you want more bandwidth you can pay for it: if enough people do the same there is the economic incentive to install more masts, make the cells smaller and thus create more capacity.

      But you don't want to do that: if you did you would have done so. Indeed, you explicitly state the motivation is to drop your DSL, presumably to save money.

      If you're using what is effectively a community resource why should you be entitled to more than your fair share if you are not willing to pay for improving things to compensate for your additional use?

      Mobile spectrum is always going to be finite and at a premium because of that. "Me wants and screw everyone else" does not alter that.

  6. 0laf Silver badge

    Depends on the use case. Right now people with 4G in crowded areas aren't getting 4G speeds due to contention. They might be persuaded to move to 5G although they'll probably be disappointed again when high contention 5G gives them slower than expected service as well.

    For people getting reasonable 4G service there isnt likely much of a push at least for now. I don't see many people really watching TV on phones right now so it doesn't seem likely they'll start doing that with 5G. Especially if 5G comes with punative data limits. What's the point of the speed if you only get 2Gb.

    I agree with the other commentards though that it could be of substantial benefit for bsuiness users with 5G providing links to networks in otherwise inaccessible areas.

  7. Buzzword

    Capacity, not speed

    5G offers higher capacity. With wireless networks reaching saturation point, especially in big cities, higher capacity means actually being able to use your phone when you need it. Next time there's a train delay and you're stuck in the crowds at Clapham Junction, try using your phone to pass the time. Your phone will display five bars of 4G but you'll struggle to download even a text file, let alone modern web apps with their multi-megabyte payloads.

    The capacity-not-speed argument also applies to the High Speed 2 railway line. The same arguments are made (people aren't willing to pay more for faster trains); but ultimately it's about increasing capacity, not about going faster.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Capacity, not speed

      The capacity-not-speed argument also applies to the High Speed 2 railway line. The same arguments are made (people aren't willing to pay more for faster trains); but ultimately it's about increasing capacity, not about going faster.

      And there's a similar parallel that the additional capacity can be delivered far more cheaply with existing technology. Convert the Virgin Pendolino's to 100% standard class and you'd increase West Coast line capacity by 25% in a matter of months for a few million quid. Stick in two more carriages and extend the platforms and you'd get another 23% of original capacity. Longer platforms would cost several hundred million quid due to the challenge of extending platforms at constrained stations, but lets assume it costs a billion all in - I've just given a plan that costs a billion but doubles the intercity capacity of the WCML, and can be delivered in two stages, rather than the £80bn and rising cost of HS2.

      Coming back to mobile telecoms, the benefits of 5G don't address any of the problems most paying customers really want addressing, and those problems would be most cost effectively met with a more ambitious HDSPA and 4G build out, plus some sensible regulation to permit domestic femto or picocells to reduce the problem of poor internal coverage (and I don't mean by just letting any Tom Dick or Harry sell crappy, poorly designed, network disrupting junk).

      1. Andy629

        Re: Capacity, not speed

        Sorry, based on my experience yesterday toy need to add a few travelators (moving walkways) at Euston so that I don’t have to walk half the way home given the length of the trains slready, but broadly an excellent plan.

  8. DCFusor Silver badge

    5G will only ever work in those dense cesspools called cities. In the case of SF, literally a cesspool.

    I will never live in a city again. Moved from DC in the '70s and never looked back. The only good thing about DC was free heat - abundant hot air.

    FTTP for the win. You can always lay more fiber, but only push so many bits through a given RF bandwidth - and those high frequencies don't propagate well at all.

    Since it's easier to get permission to lay fiber in rural areas, we may have the last laugh. No one here is going to mind another ditch to get better service. No sidewalks to dig up.

    Surely no one here thinks that there will ever be any better deal on bits/$ unless and until the regulatory environment changes from "the best rules money can buy" do they?

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Since it's easier to get permission to lay fiber in rural areas, we may have the last laugh. No one here is going to mind another ditch to get better service. No sidewalks to dig up.

      Easier and cheaper to dig trenches, you are correct. On the other hand, in most situations the lower cost per foot of rural trenching is more than offset by the lower customer density. Which is why cable has been laid in cities far more commonly than in rural areas.

      As indicative numbers (given the vast range in the real world) it is four times as expensive to lay trenches and ducts in "made up" ground compares to road verges and fields. But the customer density in a town or city will be twenty times that of rural populations, making the cost per rural customer five times greater.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Surely no one here thinks that there will ever be any better deal on bits/$"

      I think that the only sure thing about 5G is that it will be a worse deal in those terms.

  9. Mage Silver badge


    Be suspicious of any operator offering high caps or no caps. Contention is really bad on mobile spectrum used as real mobile, due to lack of mast density.

    High caps or none encourages use of Mobile for fixed use and dramatically affects speed and ability to connect at all.

    Mobile isn't a competitor to broadband and shouldn't be. It's complementary. There should be fibre or cable or at worst fibre to cabinet everywhere and then Mobile would work MUCH better, for people that actually need mobility.

    The 5G doesn't change basic physics and mathematics to influence Caps. The only way to have VIABLE higher caps is x3 to x9 higher mast density.

    The really high speed stuff hyped on 5G is all Line Of Sight bands, so as to have wider channels = more speed. Also Shannon Nyquist law says you need x4 power every time the distance is doubled and about x2 power every time the speed is doubled (both directions!). Hence higher speeds only masts at stadiums and femto cells on ceilings of open plan offices.

    The 5G also can't be "always on" any more than 2G, 3G or 4G, except on "in office femto cells" more cheaply served by WiFi. Either needs fibre to Internet to have high speed. So no real advantage for remote access, VPNs etc even over high speed versions of 2G* and 3G.

    [Basic 2G is 14.4K, even in 2002, you could aggregate channels. Edge is usually 0.2Mbps by using QAM if signal is good, but technically 2.4Mbps is possible with ERMES version of EDGE and multiple channels. Ermes would have been superior to original 3G, as 3G uses CDMA, it's capacity drops to about 50% efficiency as more users connect. The 3G was political to get in USA CDMA-1 patents (Qualcomm etc). A GSM allocation may be several MHz, but the channels are only 0.2MHz. This is real reason 3G is faster, 5MHz channe, and 4G can use 2MHz, 5MHz, 10MHz or 20MHz. Only the higher frequency Mobile bands have enough space for many 20MHz channels]

    1. David Shaw

      Re: Caps

      x3 to x9 higher mast density


      or better still, adopt the terminal to terminal decentralised ad-hoc networking concepts.

      With the quantity of 3G, 3.5G, 4G & 5G mobes around, and a bit of a tweak in their waveforms, can easily build an autonomous system- but sadly not very centralised/slurpable/PRISM etc capable...the world would then end, or not. The existing mast infrastructure would be fine, but you'd probably be able to bring the average TX power down for both BTS and terminals by a factor of ten, battery life would go up quite a bit.

      sorry as this is more beer related data, this time an esteemed RF prof from Sweden, his idea not mine

      Watch out for the grey & black nodes from Gloucestershire that would then proliferate, but you'd be able to vote most of them away . . . certainly end of the world stuff, or not.

  10. Dwarf Silver badge

    Reliability and coverage - not speed

    Having speed is fine, but it means nothing without reliability or coverage to match.

    When travelling on the trains, you have to pre-plan what you are doing before getting to certain places on the trip - both for voice and data services. 4G is nice one minute, then 3G, Edge and then nothing...

    App vendors need to better consider the unreliability of coverage in their apps. Why for example can't the Youtube app download locally so that I can watch later, rather than having to be on-line all the time ??

    Why does Spotify decide that if I open the app after 30 days of not using it on that device and I happen to be in a not-spot at that point, then it drops ALL the locally cached music. Why not keep the cached content and just not let me access it, its the same effect at that point, but far easier to recover once I'm connected again as I don't have to waste loads of my monthly quota re-obtaining what I already had.

    The other concern is that it appears that the mobile networks take bandwidth from yesterdays technology to make space for the new ones - this is nice in principle, up to the point where it makes an existing device that is on-contract go slower or less reliable than it did when you brought it. Presumably this is done to simplify things for the network provider and to try and force people up to newer devices.

    Backwards compatibility matters more in my book than the latest whizz bang technology that nobody has yet since its price loaded by the manufacturers. I'll generally only buy it when its at sensible prices, so if you want earlier adoption and customers to move over faster, then don't price load the technology. We've already been paying monthly charges for a service, so fund it from that instead.

  11. se99paj

    5G Alternative to Wi-Fi

    Would 5G provide an opportunity for large companies to ditch their Wi-Fi?

    Our offices with Wi-Fi look neat and tidy without all the network cables on the table, but we still need Wi-Fi access points to be installed & they need to be wired up, so we still have cables but they are hidden.

    With the speeds of 5G how feasible would it be to connect to make Wi-Fi redundant?

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: 5G Alternative to Wi-Fi

      "Would 5G provide an opportunity for large companies to ditch their Wi-Fi?"

      I believe so, but I think that's the wrong question. The right question is "what is the advantage the 5G gives that would justifying using it instead of WiFi?"

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: 5G Alternative to Wi-Fi

        Most larger buildings need cellular repeaters, or coverage is only available in the exterior sections. Please tell me how you benefit by "eliminating wires" for wifi APs and installing wires for 5G repeaters? Just because they are antenna wires rather than network wires doesn't mean they aren't still wires.

        Besides, why would a business trade in wifi that's FREE to pay for 5G? If there was a case to be made for "they don't want to buy/manage all that gear" I'm sure network service providers would be happy to quote you a monthly fee for maintaining/upgrading your wifi infrastructure, and free install if you commit to 24 months.

        Of all the ridiculous claims for 5G, the idea it will make corporate wifi networks obsolete is the second stupidest (the stupidest is that industrial control systems on factory floors will use 5G instead of wired/wireless communication on the company's internal network)

        1. fibrefool

          Re: 5G Alternative to Wi-Fi

          surely the stupidest 5G claim is the "remote surgery" one.

          no way any remote surgeon gets to operate on me without fully redundant wired paths from surgeon to scalpel. And frankly I'd really rather those paths were called "left arm", and "right arm" (given an ambidextrous surgeon).

  12. Garymrrsn

    Cart before horse

    Under the current business model of technology first infrastructure last, 5G will be like putting a 4-lane speed limit on a 2-lane bridge and raising the toll.

  13. JohnFen Silver badge

    To be honest

    To be honest, I haven't heard a single thing about 5G that makes it sound like something I particularly want in the first place, let alone something I'd pay more for.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    5G is more about providing extra capacity for ISPs/Telcos. Most people wouldn't see any difference in their normal phone usage with 5G.

    of course now that the US government has shut out the un-hackable Chinese vendors, the NSA and FBI will have even easier "backdoor" access to the phone network as well, using the American designed and implemented backdoors.

  15. Slx

    It's incremental step forward rather than game changing

    In my opinion 3G was utterly game changing, in the sense that you had usable, ubiquitous mobile almost broadband for the first time. Previous technologies like GPRS were barely usable.

    Price was also a huge shift. Data became cheap enough for most of us to be able to use without thinking about it.

    4G enhanced that and made it genuine broadband service comparable to VDSL and even base level cable modem services and all sorts of interesting possibilities opened. I can comfortably stream music, upload and download to cloud services and use things like VoIP due to relatively low latency.

    5G means things get faster but I really don't see it being as game changing as what's gone before it.

    Right now, my biggest challenge isn't data speed. It's battery life!

  16. largefile

    I'm looking forward to watching 8k television on my cell phone. ;)

  17. myithingwontcharge

    At launch 3G had NO internet capability!

    "But when Three launched the first 3G network in the UK in 2003, it performed the most rapid "pivot" of all time. Instead of multimedia, it went for value. 3G had been so over-hyped, it easily disappointed."

    Actually when Three launched, despite all the hype of high speed internet, they had none. No internet connectivity at all at a time when the 2G networks were all pushing GPRS, WAP and "internet on the move" (even at a snails pace).

    Three having to go for "Value" was more because the network was so technically poor at launch (as a launch customer I would even say unfit for purpose). It was long after the other networks had caught up that Three managed to sort out internet access and even then they only managed to get their credibility back by launching "value" unlimited packages.

    4G launched without the capability to make voice calls!

    If 5G is mis-handled as badly as 3G and 4G, they'll probably forget to specify SMS capability.

  18. Jake Maverick

    appalls me that this article and a quick browse of the comments fails to mention two things.....1. being this gives state employees and any individual with the brains and enough money to buy the technology (which isn't much) the ability to view and record everything that goes on in your own home in full 3d holo porn....the concept of radar has been common knowledge for over a hundred years, right? It's just a question of acquiring the hardware (a smartphone) and the software....did hear of a company developing very limited software for sale for commercial applications...18 months back, so probably on market by's just a Q of tweaking that software a bit to get the really good full HD holos/ colour them in with relaistic flesh tones etc....2nd point being the health aspects. known to cause cancers and neuroligical impairments, damage to thyroid gland and other stuff....the full effects of which obviously aren't yet known and what is known is being suppressed....this really is the new asbestos and potentially a lot worse....everybody gets that inflicted on them regardless of whether they pay for it or not.....and it really is just not needed!

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