back to article If there's 5G connectivity but no 5G devices on it, does it make a sound? Wait, no, that's not right

Vodafone has proclaimed Birmingham New Street as the UK's first railway station to have 5G connectivity. There's just one minor problem – the lack of actual 5G devices necessary to use it. A tortoise catches an orange frisbee. Photo by Shutterstock Go, go, Gadgets Boy! 'Influencer' testing 5G for Vodafone finds it to be …

  1. ARGO

    Somebody needs to tell the marketing department

    "5G is all about the industrial uses of wireless networking and delivery of high-bandwidth internet,"

    So obviously you promote it using 4G handsets in a large railway station :-/

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Somebody needs to tell the marketing department

      Want to bet the next demo will be at some kind of sporting event?

      1. ARGO

        Re: Somebody needs to tell the marketing department

        EE already did one of those, but it was a bit more on topic - they connected all the outside broadcast cameras back to HQ using 5G rather than by cables to a control truck. Still not "industrial", but getting there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Somebody needs to tell the marketing department

          Oh good, so if enough people in the stadium are using data the camera feed will stutter and fail? I guess that's one way to make sure people keeping coming to watch the games in person instead of staying home on the couch!

          I fail to see how this would be in any way better than using a private wireless network if you wanted to avoid the "difficulty" of having your cameras connected by cables. At least then you could insure the band you are using wouldn't be tromped on by 100,000 people with cell phones.

          1. maxfalstein

            Re: Somebody needs to tell the marketing department

            EE stated they would use a specific segment of the 5G frequency range which would only ever be used for BT Sport cameras at events.

  2. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Most people probably don't need to download at 256Mbps that they achieve in the test never mind the 10Gbps they claim that it should be able to achieve on their phone. Especially when the phone companies still restrict the data allowance on most phone plans.

    Where you do need higher bandwidth for things like streaming 4K video, are completely pointless on a phone screen that is 4 - 6 inches across where you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between 4K and 720p video.

    1. HamsterNet

      Wrong

      People do need it. Some of us already get much better speeds from a 4G connection than BTs "boardband" internet. Some of us use 4G as our main home connection with an Unlimited data contract.

      Some of us are waiting for 5G to come along and will be upgrading the card in our routers to connect to it...

      5G could actually offer solid competition to landlines in villages, especially on Three as they have the most frequency allocation, but it does mean they will have to actually upgrade the towers.

      Im supprised this story is for Vodaphone, dint think they had 3G yet, sure dont anywhere I've lived.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong

        Yes, "Fixed Wireless Access" is one of the main short-term business drivers for 5G -- which is one reason handset availability and power consumption are not issues (this is about connecting routers -- they will continue to use WiFi in the home). It is particularly important in the US, which doesn't have a functioning, competitive broadband market. Most of the US carriers are investing in 5G primarily for FWA.

        It is less important in the UK, where the places dense enough to really make money from 5G are generally well served by broadband, but it might avoid some fibre rollout in smaller towns. Rural coverage, not so much: 5G cell sites are smaller and villages are less dense -- adding more towers is expensive, even if you use local schools and village shops.

      2. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Wrong

        "5G could actually offer solid competition to landlines in villages, especially on Three as they have the most frequency allocation, but it does mean they will have to actually upgrade the towers."

        Or they could just use that nice new fat fibre connection feeding the towers to give you decent fixed broadband to your village at a cheaper price perhaps? Having a connection not affected by environmental factors such as fog is a better option.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong

          "Or they could just use that nice new fat fibre connection feeding the towers to give you decent fixed broadband to your village at a cheaper price perhaps? Having a connection not affected by environmental factors such as fog is a better option."

          Not really - the fibre will likely cover a single path through the village and terminate at one location. You then need to have a method of providing decent speeds from that point to all the customers in the village.

          Depending on the quality of the existing cabling, if the customers are at more than 1000 yards i.e the limit of current VDSL2 to provide faster speeds than ADSL2+), the only real options are new last mile cabling (expensive to dig in in the UK) or some form of wireless connection.

          1. Caffeinated Sponge

            Re: Wrong

            Was going to post something similar, but points are covered mostly.

            The UK broadband market may be healthier than in the US but we still have real infrastructure problems, and unless the old cable companies that merged into Virgin built into a given area, your choices are basically limited to BT, companies leasing BT’s wires, something satellite based or something using the mobile phone networks with massive civils costs blocking anyone re-cabling. 5G has the chance to make a real difference in some places.

  3. JetSetJim Silver badge

    Manchester

    Err - wasn't their Manchester demo 2 months ago first?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Manchester

      Ahh! Birmingham is the first demo that they wanted to call the first, the the first demo in Manchester was only the first demo to test the first demo at Birmingham.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only...

    They could be a***d to put 3G or 4G in where I live. I guess they don't because no one else has either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If only...

      It's not that they can't be a***d, it's that they have a personal vendetta against you.

      You know why....

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Stop

    Why the comparison with wifi?

    since it outclasses Wi-Fi in almost every way

    Why the comparison? Wifi uses unlicensed spectrum which means you can set them yourself if you want. And with mimo they'll give you pretty good data rates.

    With 5G you're essentially paying for the network management (and guaranteed spectrum for less congestion).

    1. Dabbb

      Re: Why the comparison with wifi?

      Because it seems that the only real purpose of 5G is to make WiFi obsolete and put devices that are currently on private IPs behind NAT directly to the Internet.

      Think about swarm of IoT/smart devices each with own 5G "complimentary" connectivity you have no control over, unable to turn it off or possibly not even aware they're connected to the Internet. Right now they need WiFi which dramatically limits incoming connectivity and spying opportunities, 5G and IPv6 will fix that particular problem.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Why the comparison with wifi?

        This. As bad as consumer IoT devices are now, they're a whole lot worse with 5G.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Why the comparison with wifi?

        News just in: lots of cars have had SIMs fitted by the manufacturers and reporting back to base for years. Don't need a new networking technology for that.

        There are lots of situations where running wifi over a large area is a real PITA (think crop or animal sensors) but possibly the only choice due to the lack of network coverage. Difficult to see 5G helping there, unless you can buy lease the kit from the networks…

        Where 5G might make a difference is where you've got an awful lot of devices in a small area that need to be online a lot: every item in a supermarket. Yeah, I'm not that convinced that 5G is anything other than another marketing excercise for the mobile networks.

        1. Another User

          Untrue argument that supermarkets will use these.

          It’s is not true that every item in a supermarket will be tagged with 5G devices. This claim had been made before with RFID tags.

          Every item would be automatically scanned when you left the supermarket. Except that it was too expensive and it did not work as expected.

          The too high price for RFID tags is 7 cent per tag. This already exceeds the profit margin for most food products up to 5 US$.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why the comparison with wifi?

        Yup.....two groups of folk are just salivating at the idea of pervasive 5G and IPv6:

        1. Mobile providers (more $$$)

        2. GCHQ/NSA and all the other bad actors out there who will be able to see much of the traffic currently behind a NAT.

        *

        About item #2 -- how long before laptops and tablets and printers and televisions are being sold "5G-enabled" -- so no one ever needs a LAN again?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sincere comment

    How many of us would have been able to make a reasonable forecast of all the fantastically life enhancing uses that current Smartphone bandwidth delivers, even a mere 25 years ago?

    I see not only pedestrians, but also horse riders from nearby stables fondling their slabs, heads down, as they wander along my street.

    We should not be so foolish as to doubt the unprecedented benefits that massive and ubiquitous connectivity will bring to our lives.

    And I mean that most sincerely folks.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Sincere comment

      The question isn't whether or not there are increased benefits. The question is whether or not the benefits exceed the increased costs. Our current tech already presents a cost/benefit ratio that doesn't make it an obvious win for everybody.

      With 5G, at least consumer use of 5G, it's very far from clear to me that the cost/benefit ratio is reasonable. Particularly if they're talking about 5G as a WiFi replacement.

      The cost/benefit ration for industrial uses seems more favorable.

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: Sincere comment

      I see not only pedestrians, but also horse riders from nearby stables fondling their slabs, heads down, as they wander along my street.

      The horse riders are probably one up on the pedestrians in this scenario, so long as the horse isn't using Magic Leap.

      1. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: Sincere comment

        "Magic Leap" - that'd be a great name for a horse!

  7. Lance-Corporal Obvious

    Hey!

    I could use my month's data allowance in 2 seconds! Far out!

  8. JaitcH
    Happy

    VietNam Has Live Demo 5G Systems

    HuaWei has at least two 5G demo systems (Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City / SaiGon) that have at least two base stations in each system.

    There are several demo mobiles (buses) in both cities, emblazoned with information.

    One base station in Ho Chi Minh City / SaiGon is located about a kilometre from the River SaiGon in the Thủ Thiêm New Urban Area in District 2. The station is fed through a fibre optic cable. The antennae are relatively low in height (demo system) but are pumping out an RF signal measured in hundreds of watts. The system is active, and can be seen on a spectrum analyser.

    Security is a ring of two chain-link fences and floodlights.

    There are several different style handsets that can be seen in the demo buses.

    Fibre Optic feeds shouldn't be a challenge since feeds extend even to small villages.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: VietNam Has Live Demo 5G Systems

      "The station is fed through a fibre optic cable. The antennae are relatively low in height (demo system)"

      No - this is the challenge of 5G. MUCH shorter masts and more of them. Existing mobile towers are likely fed with fibre anyway (i.e. 1Gbps ).

      The real challenge is will 5G offer what carriers/customers want or is there a slower 4G+/6G solution that offers a 5G-like experience without the significant increase in mobile real estate. ie. Verizon's LTE Advanced which is deploying some of the 5G features (increased MIMO and QAM) with a small increase in towers

    2. farvoyages

      Re: VietNam Has Live Demo 5G Systems

      how is it that even a small village in an Asian communist country can have a fibre optic feed while most small villages in our democratic free first world economy called the UK don't even have 4G ?

      please tell me what I'm missing here ?

      1. TechStar

        Re: VietNam Has Live Demo 5G Systems

        The spectacular inefficiency, bureaucracy and under investment that is BT Openreach.

  9. sed gawk Silver badge

    Bristol has a 5G testbed

    SIL @ Bristol Uni has a 5G testbed, with KCL and Bath University.

    There have been a number of tech use cases, the most recent of which was http://www.bristol.ac.uk/engineering/research/smart/news/2019/orchestrating-the-orchestra-5g-enables-musicians-to-perform-across-locations.html

    They are doing some interesting stuff with the spec..

    Kit is deployed from multiple vendors including Voda..

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Bristol has a 5G testbed

      It *must* be close to COB friday, I read that last line as 'including vodka'......

      1. sed gawk Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Bristol has a 5G testbed

        Well if your having one, I'll join you ;)

    2. ProfessorBlockchain

      Re: Bristol has a 5G testbed

      The Surrey University 5G testbed showed remote driving of an Audi Q7 around the Guildford campus, over 5G from London in 2017. This and the live orchestra demo at Bristol show the main value/promise of 5G - low latency not high download speeds. I believe 5G aims at sub millisecond latency.

      https://www.surrey.ac.uk/mediacentre/press/2018/university-surrey-shows-europe’s-first-5g-controlled-car

      1. Dabbb

        Re: Bristol has a 5G testbed

        "I believe 5G aims at sub millisecond latency."

        Within one cell - maybe. Over the Internet - not possible, because of you know, speed of light thingy.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Bristol has a 5G testbed

          London to Guildford is 50km (well, a little less), so ~0.17ms as the photon flies. About 2ms to Glasgow.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bristol has a 5G testbed

            Distance is a good approximation over thousands of km's although the speed through fibre is approx two thirds of the speed in a vacuum.

            Over shorter distances where actual cable paths maybe significantly longer and you have protocol translation (typically Ethernet-SDH-Ethernet) and routing/switching/repeating latencies, the accuracy is much less.

            Finally, load on the circuit may also contribute to delays that area higher percentage of overall latency on short circuits.

            So London to Guildford is likely to be 0.5ms +/- 0.5ms as an estimate before it goes in and you can test.

            1. ibmalone Silver badge

              Re: Bristol has a 5G testbed

              I don't disagree, merely pointing out that the speed of light is not really the limiting factor here. Since all these latencies add up you do want low latency protocols, a few steps of 1ms are going to contribute significantly more than a few extra 0.1ms steps.

              Good point about fibre speed, overlooked that, though if you are using something like a microwave link (and for the 5G portion) it doesn't apply. I understand that some of the high frequency trading people now use (or are moving to) microwave links for that reason. (Some days the differences between that industry and trading bitcoin are less than obvious...)

  10. Cuddles Silver badge

    Impressive

    "To be fair to Vodafone, the company managed to reach impressive download speeds of around 268Mbps"

    The 3G standard allows data rates up to 337 Mbps. 4G was originally defined to provide 1 Gbps. Forgive me if I'm somewhat less than impressed by 5G at this point.

  11. Flak

    Real life uses for 5G

    Good on them and I like hearing about innovation and technological progress. However...

    As I walked through the halls at MWC at the end of February I could not help but think that the economic case for carrier deployment of 5G (in terms of higher speed mobile connectivity) is simply not there. One display boasted of multi-gigabit connectivity to your handset. For what please?

    Now over time I am sure this will happen and some real clever augmented reality stuff and immersive technology may tickle the bandwidth capabilities of 5G, but building a case for it with the use cases I saw will be difficult due to the significant increase in base station locations that are required.

    5G factories - why? Use indoor wifi or wired connections

    5G remote surgery - over my (dead) body...

    autonomous cars - should do edge processing and have their own awareness of surroundings rather than relying on external feeds (i.e. kind of like humans) and are still some time away from mass adoption

    real time gaming - let that happen in fibre connected homes

    Let's see what Trump's 6G will bring ;-)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    4G+ ??

    The picture is not super clear, but I would go as far as saying it's WiFi on the left (as you say), but the right looks like 4G+, not a 5G signal lcon at top (is it even a 5G phone?! :) )

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