back to article Do Martians dream of electric Nimbys? Selling 5G needs steak, not just sizzle

Executive editor Andrew Orlowski was invited to share his thoughts on challenges to the uptake of 5G at a Westminster Forum event on Thursday 14 March. This is what he told the panel. Sometimes one can get so immersed in a subject we lose our sense of context and we overlook what's obvious. As a reality check, I sometimes find …

  1. fnusnu

    " And kids who use an antique phone tend to get beaten up more than kids who use modern phones"

    I'd have thought they would get beaten up less - who wants to nick an antique phone?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      > who wants to nick an antique phone

      No-one. I suspect it's more that they get beaten up for being perceived to be poor, and thus worthless, or for being too uncool for words, and so deserving of a punishment beating

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Childcatcher

      That's entirely likely.

      I used to get beaten up, not for not having a telly, but for the consequences. Namely, I didn't know the other kids' cultural references - especially football. Which is fine as an adult, but terrible below a certain age.

    3. Mayday Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      "I'd have thought they would get beaten up less - who wants to nick an antique phone?"

      Not quite it. They don't want the phone.

      Kids are cruel, and the schoolyard hierachy and social system is rather archaic and brutal. Having a "poor" or otherwise uncool phone, parents, ethnicity, physical stature or just about anything else can have consequences of ostracism and violence.

      Times this by about 1000 if one is unfortnate enough to land themselves in prison.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "I'd have thought they would get beaten up less - who wants to nick an antique phone?"

        In common with most parents at the schools where my kids are we don't let kids under 11 have a mobile phone, smart or otherwise. If nothing else my kids would simply lose them or break them by accident and I haven't got money to throw away on that too. It'(s hard enough keeping up with lost coats, scuffed shoes etc. I can't say the lack of phone has had anything but positive consequences.

        I let them use a smart phone at home, under supervision, from around 10.

        Once they're into their later teens it's hard to separate them from their smartphones although we try.....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spoiler Alert -- I've already been (correctly) called "clueless"...

    ....but even so, it seems that 5G plus IPv6 has led some to suggest that this will eliminate the need for NAT, and hence eliminate the need for any LAN technology at all.

    *

    Is this likely? I know......clueless!

    *

    And if it is likely, this means that most traffic which today traverses a LAN will be going over a public network. I can think of two groups who will just love this:

    1. The 5G network providers (more $$$$)

    2. The spooks in various places -- the NSA, that big building in Cheltenham, and no doubt may other bad actors out there.

    *

    ## End of clueless conjecture ##

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Spoiler Alert -- I've already been (correctly) called "clueless"...

      " led some to suggest that this will eliminate the need for NAT, and hence eliminate the need for any LAN technology at all."

      Those people are seriously overstating the case. It's true that it is possible for many use cases, but there's a limit. Also, whether or not you NAT does not determine whether or not you need to run a LAN -- those are two different things.

      If all you need a LAN for is to reach the internet, it is indeed be possible to just use the cell network to do that and not have a LAN at all. Of course, that's not special to 5G -- you can do that with 4G and 3G right now. As I understand how 5G is shaping up to be, whether or not 5G will be any better will depend on a lot of things outside your control (where they place the access point, how many neighbors you have using it, etc.). It will certainly be much more expensive, though.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      BYOD = no LAN?

      Or indeed WLAN...

      IPv6 may, does, allow every device on the planet to own an Internet address in the public range. But it doesn't make it obligatory.

      "Bring your own device", on the other handy may mean that the company (or household) has to accept different devices with different network connections that interact using public Internet. But still... there's VPN. If you feel you can rely on encryption...

  3. JohnFen Silver badge

    I'm not excited about 5G

    "But we're here to talk about the short-term prospects and 5G is not going to excite consumers like it excites us."

    I'm far from an ordinary consumer, being a techhead and all, but I'm not excited about 5G at all. What I see is that it will bring a bunch of disadvantages and a small number of advantages. The cost/benefit calculation doesn't come out positive in my view.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not excited about 5G

      Why should I be excited about yet another way to charge me more money?

  4. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Let's be honest here. Not many people, mostly here give a flying f*** about 5G. It's pure marketing bull and people are getting sick of the shite they're touting. We have reached peak smart phone and now we've reached peak 'G'.

  5. J27 Bronze badge

    Try to find a 5G nimby who doesn't own a Wi-Fi access point or mobile phone. There are none, bunch of hypocrites. There is a mobile phone mast on the top of my apartment building and I'm no more worried about that than I am about AM radio signals frying my brain.

    P.S. I don't care about 5G either, it's more about communications providers than us end users. I'll get a 5G device when the technology comes bundled in with the new smartphone I'm buying anyway. But the techno-hypochondria is starting to get to me.

    1. Fazal Majid

      WiFi or 5G radiation is minimal compared to TV

      The typical WiFi AP has radio power of 1 watt. The typical cellular base station will be under 100 watts. The typical digital TV broadcast emitter has power in the *hundreds of kilowatts*, e.g. 1.3MW total for the Crystal Palace transmitter that covers most of London:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Palace_transmitting_station#After_switchover

  6. doublelayer Silver badge

    The martians don't understand, then

    I'm not excited about 5G at all. Let's discuss why, though. The main reason that the companies want it is because it increases speeds and capacity, clear wins for them, as customers will stop complaining for a bit about congestion. That's well and good, and I have no problem with it. However, it requires them to grab all the radio spectrum from the regulators again, which is kind of annoying, and it requires them to put a mast in many more places. I don't have sympathy for people who make up stories about nonexistent health problems, but there is a relatively good argument that a system that requires very close spacing of equipment to work properly may not be sufficiently engineered, especially given the large expanses of empty space where coverage is important, but 5G speeds are not.

    You are right that speed is not an important thing. Unfortunately, you seem to believe that the upgrade in speed will cause the companies to start caring about other things. Why? They haven't changed anything else, and they can easily have the mindset that "We just provided you a massive speed boost. Why do you want anything else?". I'd be happier dealing with a trustworthy mobile company that hasn't provided the 5G speed boost than the kind we have now, even with increased speeds in urban areas. Among other reasons, I don't really need fast mobile traffic much of the time because I use WiFi for most connections and don't use high-speed applications on the data connection.

    What I do need is coverage, an understandable plan and bill, and some freedom with my connection. For example, a connection that allows me to connect lines that aren't receiving much data most of the time without paying a massive premium for the capacity I don't use. 5G does very little for me, and even for those who need faster speeds, it is only a minor help. It's a nicely engineered solution to the problem that is not a big problem. Giving it credit for solving a problem that it hasn't solved yet and might not solve at all is making it overhyped.

  7. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Nah, I'll wait for 6G!

    It has been at least a decade since I actually worried about the specs of anything tech that I've bought. OK, in fact the last time that I built a new desktop PC I did take the time to futureproof it to a reasonable degree, but even then it was a couple of years behind whatever was new and shiny. I'm confident that as long as I can add more RAM, more drive space, or the inevitable power supply it will last me at least a decade. I'm not a gamer so my needs have become fairly stable.

    Beyond that though, if I need something I buy what fits the budget and it seems to work just fine. Cel phones, routers, printers... pretty much any mid-range off-the shelf brand name will do a fine job without a lot of time comparing specs.

    That's the challenge for the guys flogging 5G: 4G is mostly perfectly fine, and the complaints are seldom about speed or capacity, they're about areas with crappy signal, or about the extortionate prices being charged. (I speak as a Canadian who just got a new, better deal on wireless - $50 a month which includes a whole 4 gigs of data. Woohhoo! I can even update my podcasts once in a while without hitting the data cap!)

    For me the killer sales pitch wouldn't be 5G, it would a battery life of more than one slightly short day. It would be OS updates for more than twelve months. And OS updates that don't break what I using now. I'd actually pay a bonus if it could be guaranteed that the basic software on my phone didn't change from year to year.

    From an end user standpoint technology is pretty much mature and unchanging. You might be able to sell some bells and whistles, but a laptop or a cel phone or a router has reached the point where it's an appliance like a toaster or kettle. And no-one reads the specs on a toaster - either the bread turns brown, or it doesn't.

    Trying to convince people that 5G is superior to 4G is about the same as trying to make them believe that the AC power from your wall socket is better than what comes of of your neighbours'.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Nah, I'll wait for 6G!

      "And no-one reads the specs on a toaster"

      This does not counter your point in any way (I agree with what you've said), but my particular flavor of freakishness is such that I do read the specs and the manual for everything I buy, toasters included. I just had to say this as I recently bought a new toaster and got horribly teased for reading the "manual" (one small sheet) before even taking the appliance out of the box.

    2. Brangdon

      Re: Nah, I'll wait for 6G!

      Not reading the specs on a toaster is why so many toasters toast too small an area to cover a large slice of bread. My current toaster is about 30% faster than my previous one, which is nice, and worth reading the specs - before purchase - to find out. Other toasters I could have bought were slower.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed the mark... Twice

    So how does actually 5G look from space? Yes all that brain power is being invested in it, but, as I am sure the Martians would ask, why? What is the argument you would use to convince your Mother-in-Law to upgrade her 4G phone for a 5G phone? Some people might have said 'speed' but you have already (correctly) ruled that argument out. Now follow the logic; if she won't upgrade then she wont be tempted to change to an operator providing 5G, so from the operators point of view, 5G is not going to gain new customers or help retain old ones. So why invest in it? Network slicing allows operators to virtualise their hardware infrastructure and sub-lease it to others, but that implies that others are able to monetize the physical network in a way the MNO who built it can't, since otherwise the MNO would just monetize it them-selves. Possible, but not probable in my opinion.

    Your second argument that MNO (or MVNO's) should be full service providers instead of utilities ignores history and the tragedy that 4G wrought upon MNO's. In the (G)olden days, MNO's charged for mobile calls and texts. And they charged a lot and became staggeringly rich as a result. In 2010, Vodaphone made £8.6billion profit on £44billion turnover. Then came 4G and the curse of OTT. Over The Top services like skype, facetime and whatsapp meant people no longer needed to pay their MNO's for calls or texts. To make things worse, 4G offered users real benefits to the point that they would change from operators who didn't to operators who did so even the operators who saw the problems were still obliged to invest in 4G. In 2018, Vodaphone made €2.8 billion profit on €46 billion turnover and consider it a very good year.

    There are two arguments to be made in favour of 5G, 1) The economic provision of fixed wireless broadband among dispersed populations such as rural USA, 2) MNO's with 4G kit reaching EOL can get the same service levels at lower costs by upgrading to 5G kit.

    The real argument, and the reason for its invention, is that it was hoped it would turn around the fortunes of network equipment providers like Ericsson in the same way 4G did, but I suspect they have already lost that race.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Missed the mark... Twice

      "from the operators point of view, 5G is not going to gain new customers or help retain old ones. So why invest in it?"

      There is one serious problem that 5G addresses, and it is the one that operators justifiably care a lot about: increasing network capacity. In urban areas, there isn't much capacity to spare and demand for it keeps increasing.

      As near as I can tell, that's the only real benefit of 5G. The problem is that it's something that only operators care directly about (people who have bad service because of lack of capacity are most likely not aware that's the problem).

      Given that implementing 5G is outrageously expensive and will inevitably result in higher customer bills, carriers have to come up with some way to make people actually want it. That's why you keep seeing the cloud of bullshit on the topic.

      Personally, I think the whole thing is pretty much a boondoggle. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that there are other ways of addressing the capacity issue without burning heaping piles of cash.

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