5G Future Reality?
Last month saw Ofcom auction of part of the radio spectrum for 5G technology. Apart from raising almost £1.4Bn for the chancellor of the Exchequer you might be saying “so what”. But 5G has the potential to transform our daily lives but only if the UK is at the forefront.
So what is 5G? Firstly it will be fast – about 10 times faster than 4G meaning a high definition film should only take about a second to download. It would also enable much touted virtual reality games. Secondly there will be less latency than 4G, whilst this is not always noticeable, these brief lags between data being sent and received. Again so what – well imagine that delay when applying to a driverless car communicating with traffic lights or the gap between a surgeon remotely controlling a laser during surgery. Finally, 5G offers greater capacity which means more devices can connect and communicate at the same time. This is obviously important for the internet of things as we connect our heating, front door cameras and even BBQs to the web.
That all sounds great but then think back to the fuss made around 4G and we arrive at the point where the most recent report said the UK ranked 54th in the world for 4G coverage. There is no point in having great technology if you can only access it part of the time especially if it relates to driverless cars.
All this investment in the technology will need to be paid for at a time when network operators are facing revenue pressures from applications such as whatsapp which has seen text messages volumes fall by 40% over the last 4-5 years.
So there is the potential that 5G will cost more and certainly you need to buy a new phone which if the technology is available is to be available in the next two years means when signing your next phone contract do you actually want a phone or are you better being sim free.
5G represents a great opportunity for the UK to make up for the mistakes it made over 4G and broadband availability and become genuine leaders in Europe at least. But it needs to hold the operators accountable for failures to deliver and be radical about releasing the capacity within the spectrum.