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5G? Pff, don't bother, says one-time Ofcom man's new book

Bronze badge

Tech semantics

The reality is that 4g is really 3G++ and 5g is really 4g.

5g promises lower latency, lower power usage for iot, and higher concurrent throughput. We may not have a need for it now but when it's ubiquitous we will moan like hell when it's not available.

We won't be wanting FTTH/P when cheap 5g is available to most, leaving the rural not spots to B4RN et al.

Backhaul becomes king in the 5G space which makes BT's EE and Vodafone's Cable & Wireless gobble, strategic and another reason for Three and O2 to merge or Telefonica to leave.

Interesting times.

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Re: Tech semantics

4G, let alone good 4G is far from being ubiquitous.

5G needs a lot more base stations than for 4G so if we cannot manage ubiquitous 4G what chance does ubiquitous 5G stand?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tech semantics

We agree on one thing, if you want ubiquitous 4G/5G data speeds everywhere, you have to have a way of getting all that data to/from all parts of the UK, including the remotest locations, where there often isn't a power Grid Network to power G.fast type 'active devices' rollout v passive fibre optic. It's a level of backhaul infrastructure that doesn't currently exist.

Where we don't agree is Openreach FTTP rollout, it would make BT/EE 4G Mobile current data speeds obsolete overnight. Why would you use circa 4G 10Mbps-25Mbps, when you have true fibre and real 1Gbps in every property/office around you, in terms of a fixed lan connection.On the plus side, it would take a lot of mobile traffic away from congested per MB priced Mobile Networks, back to the fixed network but alternatively, it might actually increase mobile usage, because people sync data across various devices (dropbox / cloud services etc).

Even with 5G, 50Mbps is a more realistic real world target that it will achieve, not theoretical Gigabit speeds over mobile in terms of average throughput, where over optimistic headlines are helping no one.

Cheap Dark fibre/fibre optic backhaul becomes King and why it makes far more sense to build out the Openreach area with pure fibre optic FTTP, rather than continuing BT's lucrative Fault Finding/Copper maintenance merry-go-round. It's always going to be an abundance of Fibre Optic in the ground that lowers prices/increases choice, in the long term. You build the equivalent of Motorway, it will fill up with cars. You leave the narrow BT toll bridge in place, in terms of that copper bridge betwen BT and property..you get the point.

The Openreach network has to be upgraded from Copper at some point (Maybe it doesn't in BT's eyes, but from those outside it does, we need a Motorway not a toll bridge), start now, slowly, where end of life cabling needs updating/new builds.

Fundamentally Data connectivity is all about getting Fibre in the ground to the most outlying areas of the UK, the more fibre in the ground, as bi-product of connecting/upgrading the local loop helps those fibres carry other backhaul data cheaply to/from future/new 4G/5G femtocells/4G/5Gmasts right into the heart of all {remote/urban} Openreach (local loop) areas.

To the argument that upgrading the Openreach network to FTTP is a waste/not necessary/that these fibre can only carry domestic traffic, is missing the origins of Virgin Media as a domestic cable TV company, developing into a Fibre/Coxial Broadband Company and now uses this previously 'domestic' cable backhaul to carry commercial backhaul contracts too, as their network grew.

Any other rollout (of more copper) favours Entrenched BT, i.e. Pointless G.fast, leaving BT to run the gouged obfuscated 'upto' pricing on legacy copper carcass {effectively a toll} bridge between you and your property. G.fast is obsolete before its even out of trial.

G.fast rollout pretty much restricts you to take one product at a time, from one company (which favours BT/BT Wholesale) without multiple £18.99 Line rentals/line rental install (subject to local capacity).

True FTTP {with redundant fibre} rollout allows multiple companies to compete on your doorstep bypassing BT, by having true multiple Fibre wholesale products. BT lose control of the loop.

Having redundant Fibres isn't expensive in itself, and BT are failing to calculate the true cost of FTTC infill cabinets to extend/speed up the network 'upto' Ultrafast ubiquitous-ness.

G.fast costs rise exponentially the more you try to get blanket coverage with this distant dependant technology. You need upto 25 actively powered G.fast nodes in a 2Km2 area to get blanket coverage.

It over complicates the network in terms of fault finding, to a point it would have been easier to just pull out the copper, replace it with a passive fibre optic network, than continuing with the merry-go-round of time spent diagnosing faults with 'upto' G.fast.

Even with a single optic fibre to the premises its possible to provide Fibre Channel IP tunneling, so that multuple services can be offered per fibre. But reduntant fibres though, allow this without the need to have one company control the local loop, once installed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tech semantics

> We won't be wanting FTTH/P when cheap 5g is available to most

Really?

Which would I rather have: a rock solid 80M-1G fibre connection, error-free and with sub-millisecond latency; or a 200M radio link subject to interference and shared with hundreds of other people?

Of course the fibre link is ultimately contended with other users (on the same port in the case of GPON, or else on the backhaul link); but such contention is predictable and easily managed.

As for the relative price, that's mainly down to government policy: the cost at which they sell access to the spectrum, versus the business rates charged for lit fibre. But note that the spectrum space is finite and under-supplied (witness the high prices paid at auction), whilst the capacity for installing fibre is essentially unbounded.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tech semantics

"including the remotest locations, where there often isn't a power Grid Network to power G.fast type 'active devices' rollout v passive fibre optic."

And the cell towers will be powered by?

Regardless, and once again, mobile backhaul is not delivered using broadband.

"It over complicates the network in terms of fault finding, to a point it would have been easier to just pull out the copper, replace it with a passive fibre optic network, than continuing with the merry-go-round of time spent diagnosing faults with 'upto' G.fast."

Do you have evidence for that or is it something you just thought up? Have you considered the split between Capex for a fibre rollout which has to be borrowed versus Opex for maintenance that is generally funded from revenue? All pounds are not equal.

Operators like SwissCom and Korea Telecom that started with a primarily FTTP rollout are now pushing ahead with G.Fast because it makes more financial sense and can be deployed quicker. Chungwha Telecom in Taiwan has abandoned FTTP as unaffordable and is rolling out G.Fast.

What do you know that these telcos don't?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tech semantics

"Do you have evidence for that or is it something you just thought up? Have you considered the split between Capex for a fibre rollout which has to be borrowed versus Opex for maintenance that is generally funded from revenue? All pounds are not equal"

Nope not made up.

I think you need to listen to Verizon more, and less to BT propoganda regards Pointless G.fast.

http://www.lightreading.com/ethernet-ip/new-ip/verizon-saves-60--swapping-copper-for-fiber/d/d-id/715826?

You're pretty much admitting in a round about way by making that statement, that patching up BT's Copper carcass is a pointless exercise, but done soley for accounting purposes, as part of BT Wholesale/BT Openreach/BT Retail cross subsidy (at the expense of other operators) / internal paper shuffling.

Let's face it (though you don't want to admit it), we both know rolling out G.fast isn't in the best interests of the UK, its a biased technical decision soley in the best interest of BT and BT's legacy copper network. If you were starting from a neutral position making this decision (irrespective of any Incumbent), G.fast would be a none starter. Reason alone it should never be taxpayer subsidised.

"Regardless, and once again, mobile backhaul is not delivered using broadband."

If you lay true fibre FTTP (with redundant fibres) in Openreach areas i.e FTTP, there is nothing to say those redundant fibres per premises can't be used for anything you want in terms of wholesale fibre. Be that a 4G Femtocell / Wifi Hotpots in Council street lights. I don't agree with your wording (broadband is not what I said, you're adding a transport protocol), or even the sentiment.

It opens up a whole load of new opportunities, which help open up a very regulated 'stale' mobile market. You're comments are soley about protecting BT/EE interests, protecting the incumbent.

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Silver badge

Re: Tech semantics

5g promises lower latency, lower power usage for iot, and higher concurrent throughput.

Downvote for making things up. Technically there is no such thing as "5G mobile network specification", so it can not promise nor deliver anything.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tech semantics

"Downvote for making things up. Technically there is no such thing as "5G mobile network specification", so it can not promise nor deliver anything."

You need to catch up.

There is a collective 5G mobile network specification, its just there is no ratified 5G mobile network specification at present. Draft Wifi 802.11ac was in Netgear/Broadcom chipsets "Draft 2.0" well before it got ever ratified/became fully compliant. There are two actual {system on chip} 5G chipsets for mobile devices from Qualcomm in Oct 2016 and Intel (announced at CES yesterday)

https://newsroom.intel.com/news-releases/intel-accelerates-path-to-5g/

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Silver badge

Re: Tech semantics

"you have to have a way of getting all that data to/from all parts of the UK, including the remotest locations, where there often isn't a power Grid Network to power G.fast type 'active devices' rollout v passive fibre optic."

If you don't have power at the base station site I think power for the backhaul is a secondary problem.

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Silver badge

Re: Tech semantics

"What do you know that these telcos don't?"

Which side his bread's buttered?

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Unhappy

Re: Tech semantics

"You need to catch up." with what exactly? The only one which matter is ITU and they have nothing to say about 5G. The link you provided does not mention Qualcomm, which is heading towards different standard, from the same organization which developed LTE. But then again, since ITU keeps schtum there is nothing to talk about, anything to do with 5G is at this time purely speculation (or marketing talk, which is the same).

It is really embarrassing that government gets involved into this whole hype and someone needs to talk them out of it - just shows how clueless they are.

EDIT: on second thought - if someone explained that 5G is expected to be nothing else but incremental improvement on 4G, that would be lovely.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tech semantics

"Which side his bread's buttered?"

Is this some slimeball subtle reference telling me to tow the BT/Ofcom line on things?

Thanks for walking into that one, because BT don't have grid power either, for upto 25 'actively powered' G.fast Nodes that need to be carpet bombed into remote places every 2Km2 area across the UK to provide ubiquitous Ultrafast 'Pointless G.fast' Broadband.

BT haven't solved that one at all.

But of course, BT have no intention of blanet coverage, its a selective obfuscated, bamboozled 'upto' technology, that maps 1:1 with existing FTTC cabinets (where there is an existing FTTC cabinet is where G.fast is rolled out first). G.fast leaves large coverage gaps in between, more so than FTTC.

Due to its narrow focus/quick dropoff over distance/coverage only very close to the cabinet itself, the exponential infill requirements of G.fast are just not practical in any sense to ever achieve blanket ubiquitous ultrafast coverage and crucially if you went that route, its more expensive than rolling out passive fibre in the first place.

Pointless G.fast rollout is biased technical reasoning, biased to favour BT legacy copper carcass network.

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Bronze badge

Re: Tech semantics

Tel:dr

On LTE at 21:30 ish I'm getting 45mbs down 25mbs up on Three with 3 out of 5 bars on my iPhone 6, I usually get ~ 60mbs during the day.

You can get any speed connection anywhere in the uk you want providing you pay the install fee. All the hundreds of business circuits I've had installed over the last 10 years have been on resilient fibre rings, some in commercial business parks others in the middle of nowhere (several miles from the main road etc), most with 10's of thousands of install costs and thousands in monthly fees. It's the going rate for provision of those types of services.

Every exchange in the U.K has fibre going to it. Every mobile provider considering 5g is considering fibre backhaul for each of their masts, the rate per connection will be vastly cheaper than to the current masts as there will be more masts closer together with more masts sharing the same aggregation nodes (suitable provision for resilience and failover etc).

FTTP / g.fast / vdsl does not apply to mobile mast backhaul of any generation.

5g means isp's don't have to enter people's homes or deal with their dodgey cabling to install, do maintenance or repair flakey systems. No missed engineer appointments, no waiting in, take you bb when you move, take your bb when you travel.

The possibilities of 5G don't fit into the traditional internet service provision strategies we are currently used to. There are more possibilities that are just not possible currently with LTE.

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Bronze badge
Megaphone

Re: Tech semantics

@Bronek,

Yes I made it all up.

Anyone interested can have a read here

http://www.ngmn.org/5g-white-paper/5g-white-paper.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tech semantics

"Thanks for walking into that one, because BT don't have grid power either, for upto 25 'actively powered' G.fast Nodes that need to be carpet bombed into remote places every 2Km2 area across the UK to provide ubiquitous Ultrafast 'Pointless G.fast' Broadband."

What does any of that have to do with 4G?

Mobile backhaul is not delivered using broadband.

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Silver badge

Re: Tech semantics

NGMN is nothing else but a large group of network operators, trying to tap into internet of shit hype. They have no ITU affiliation and do not actually set standards.

Well at least that's what it looks like from the sidelines, happy to be corrected.

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Pint

640K Ought to be Enough for Anyone

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Not really a luddite sentiment to want the existing tech to be commonplace before ploughing resources into a faster version for the minority. Get 4G reliably (almost) everywhere first and I would suggest the vast majority of people would appreciate it. (Actually, they probably wouldn't because when something "just works" it tends to go unnoticed.)

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Anonymous Coward

Would the personal computing revolution have taken place if everyone was forced to buy 8GB of RAM with their PC XT? Similarly, how useful would a 5G rollout that doubles everyone's mobile bill be?

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ENS

Think Laterally

BT will (incorrectly) argue that G. Fast is sufficient for internet and for 4G cell sites.

We need fibre 'everywhere' to eradicate a number of issues brought up by commentators on lack of BH for '4G' sites.

BT cannot possibly argue that copper can support <1ms latency and >>10Gbps that 5G will be able to offer, so supporting 5G is inherently supporting FTTP. Having 5G sites supported by 10GE fibre means fibre on every street corner, offering a real choice. I don't buy the unsubstantiated assertion that 5G will be a 'realistic 50 Mbps' Even the most ambitious 4G demo has been 2Gbps, 5G has been demo'd with vehicular mobility at >1Gbps and with Ped A mobility at >20Gbps. If you pick 1% as typical, you see 20Mbps as today's 4G benchmark, and 200Mbps as indicative 5G capacity.

Remembering a decade ago, we were watching VGA over DSL and mobile networks, now we are watching 1080P, and even 4K. I am on the 3rd generation of handset that can support 4K video-shooting, but could certainly not stream this on UL. So argueing that supporting 1080P is satisfactory 'today' is a pointless signpost for 2025 where a rock-solid 35Mbps may well be the benchmark for streaming 4K Up and Down.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Think Laterally

"BT will (incorrectly) argue that G. Fast is sufficient for internet and for 4G cell sites."

No they won't, because mobile backhaul isn't provided using broadband.

"We need fibre 'everywhere' to eradicate a number of issues brought up by commentators on lack of BH for '4G' sites"

You can order fibre to any point in the UK today. That's how existing cell sites manage to work. The fibre only needs to reach the cell site though, not everywhere. Nothing that BT or any other operator does or doesn't do with FTTC, FTTP or G.Fast will have any impact on mobile backhaul.

"BT cannot possibly argue that copper can support <1ms latency and >>10Gbps that 5G will be able to offer"

Speeds beyond the gigabit range are show-off technical trials. There is no use case and no device capability for anything approaching that in the real world. I find 10Gbps more than sufficient to link data centres together, I don't need it to an iPhone.

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Bronze badge

That's like saying we need high to perfect high speed rail before we look at space travel.

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Anonymous Coward

"like saying we need high to perfect high speed rail before we look at space travel."

Not really. It's more like saying I can afford the cost of a train ticket from London to Bristol. The same journey by space shuttle would, I'd imagine, cost a little more. Don't force me to travel by space shuttle when my budget and requirement is met by the train.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Think Laterally

"No they won't, because mobile backhaul isn't provided using broadband"

You keep spouting this line "because mobile backhaul isn't provided using broadband"

You're seeing this in a purely contractual, signed document, point of view.

On the ground 'in practice', masts exist in residential areas, located within the Openreach local loop. In order to furfill those contracts BTWholesale have to liase with Openreach. How Openreach fulfill that part of the leased line/circuit is using cabling within the local loop area.

If you skip G.fast, rolling out new Openreach installs of FTTP, additional 'unlit' redundant fibres in the local loop become available to service those Mobile Masts, hence, in theory connecting the backhaul for the likes of Vodafone, EE, Three,o2 etc, should become cheaper as a by-product of FTTP rollout by Openreach. The contract might be commercial, but the availability of unlit fibre can be from any source within the Openreach area.

All infrastructure investment for renewal/new builds by BT/Government going forward should be FTTP. There shouldn't be another penny spent on Copper for renewal/new builds. Everything should be about getting more fibre in the ground, to more and more remote locations. Start now, its going to take a long time.

It's a far better plan to force all new BT installs / end of life copper replacement to be 4-6 core FTTP, getting control away from BT over the long term, giving the consumer the choice at the doorstep of real fibre optic provider, than it is to regulate for a USO of 10Mbps. A 10Mbps USO is a waste of time/money in terms of Ofcom regulation. Things have already moved past 10Mbps USO.

Apathy will mean no one will bother to go from 5Mbps+ to 10Mbps USO, paying for the priviledge. And of Course, BT will say, look there is no commercial demand for a USO of 10Mbps.

Have a 10%-20% target of renewal/new build installation of FTTP is what should be being done. This is going to take a long time, start now. Kill off Copper renewal/Copper to new builds.

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William Webb is correct, sort out what we have at the moment before going to new technology. My phone is not 4G, io do nto see the point in it at the moment, since they can nto even get 3G working correctly, so no point in buying a new phone for 4G, because in some places that is worse than 3G.

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Anonymous Coward

Except..

Every new mobile phone in 1-2 years will be using the 'system on a chip' 5G Qualcomm or 5G Intel module. The expectation will be there, rightly or wrongly, we live in a consumer society.

Are you going to break it to them that UK is not upto 5G speed? Crucially why the market is not working to provide 5G even though we have regulators Ofcom to supposedly make sure a competitive market exists, so 5G (in theory) should happen of its own accord (but doesn't).

To clarify though, 3G / 4G showing on your phone gives you no indication of a restricted bandwidth capacity on the microwave relay/fibre backhaul to/from the mast, to re-transmit 4G data, or the level of backhaul contention/number of concurrent users currently active with you.

Network Operators trickery can mean they can upgrade a mast to show 'were now 3G/4G' but without any underlying upgrade to the backhaul connection to the mast, to cater for the increased data throughput. Something that Ofcom should regulate but doesn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Except..

"Network Operators trickery can mean they can upgrade a mast to show 'were now 3G/4G' but without any underlying upgrade to the backhaul connection to the mast, to cater for the increased data throughput. Something that Ofcom should regulate but doesn't."

2G backhaul is mostly TDM, whereas for 3G and above it's IP / Ethernet. It's literally impossible to connect a 2G backhaul circuit to 3G kit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Except..

'mostly' (nearly as bad a 'upto' in my book), it happens.

Maybe I should have worded it better, it can/does happen in terms of upgrades from 3G/HSDPA-H+ to 4G. The microwave relay/fibre backhaul gets overlooked and that area is unregulated. An Network Operator can describe a mast as '4G', without revealing any of the underlying backhaul infrastructure in place for the 4G mast itself. That needs to change/be regulated.

3G/HSDPA-H+,4G describes the type of connection between the phone/device and the mast, nothing else in terms of actual speed throughput.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Except..

""It's literally impossible to connect a 2G backhaul circuit to 3G kit.""

Literally? Hmm, so I imagined connecting Vodafone 3G to 1,2,4,8 and even 16 E1s in the mid-noughties then? Plus there's that little thing called SRAN where a 900MHz RU will be broadcasting 2G and 3G simultaneously!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Except..

"Literally? Hmm, so I imagined connecting Vodafone 3G to 1,2,4,8 and even 16 E1s in the mid-noughties then? "

Can you buy such things today though? The OP was talking about a current day upgrade from GSM only to something more modern. The last time I needed something new with a TDM interface was a decade ago, apart from in Russia where E3s are seemingly the height of fashion right now, even if they are used for encapsulated Ethernet. I'm not hugely familiar with Huawei's kit - does their SRAN support TDM?

All moot anyway as the OP has reworded their question slightly.

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FFS - Increase data caps before throughput

If I can watch a Netflix stream at 1080p on a HPSA+ connection, why do I need anything faster in the foreseeable future? Quite frankly there's very little else required on a mobile device that's time dependent, and everything else can be transferred at lower speeds on a device like my mobile that's always on. What limits my productivity is not-spots and data caps.

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Silver badge

What good is 5G when 1G doesn't even work?

I would much rather mobile phone companies increase their voice coverage so that I can send and receive calls wherever I am at. I have a cellular telephone, not a cellular tablet. Every month I drive down a highway that has a dead spot right by a river where the road dips. It has been this way for as long as I had a digital cell phone.

I realize the US is a very large place. I also realize their a legal radio blackout zones, such as around the radio telescope in West Virginia. But to have as many dead spots as I have is simply unacceptable. The transition to digital was a long time ago. The places where my signal does not work are not in the middle of nowhere either, these are fairly well populated areas. Before even investing in 5G, mobile phone companies need to have complete voice coverage first.

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Holmes

Re: What good is 5G when 1G doesn't even work?

On 2G->3G expensive, and patchy, infrastructural upgrade. I was chatting to a Swedish telecom professor a decade ago. He'd worked out that the upcoming smartphones could easily support a decentralised mesh network based voice, txt & more data than tetra; given the deployed density of handsets; the fact that a phone could drop down to milliwatt levels to communicate to the next white node; the fact that basically NO INFRASTRUCTURE would be needed, just a new waveform; no scary BTS antennas next to schools. It would have been very cheap to deploy, it would have relied on having neighbours.

For some reason the excellent hard-working telecom ITU etc standards consultants wouldn't talk to him then?

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Silver badge

Re: What good is 5G when 1G doesn't even work?

"smartphones could easily support a decentralised mesh network"

Presumably the phones would spend much more time transmitting in order to relay mesh traffic. How would this play against the lower power in terms of battery life?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What good is 5G when 1G doesn't even work?

"For some reason the excellent hard-working telecom ITU etc standards consultants wouldn't talk to him then?"

It has a number of flaws. The power requirement is one - not just constant transmission but the processing to determine what should be transmitted. There's a huge problem around signalling integrity and hand off - do you want your phone to trust the signalling it's receiving from someone's ropey malware infected Android? Latency, particularly for voice is going to be problematic and you'll need some kind of queueing and buffering capability and some method of prioritising the contents of those things. If you turn your phone into a combined PE router and SBC you're going to need the processing and electrical power of the real versions of those things.

The primary problem though is much simpler. The places where there are lots of phones are the places where there are lots of masts. If you're remote enough for there to be no masts, you're also remote enough for there to be no-one else within meshing distance *and* in reach of a mast to give you service.

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Happy

Re: What good is 5G when 1G doesn't even work?

Good reply, except why is there no 2G at Stansted airport? Lots of phones! No masts!

Specifically upper stories of the airport hotel, roaming with an EU Vodafone SIM, 2016.

No 2G network! not even hanging out the window

Mesh still has a future,

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What good is 5G when 1G doesn't even work?

Easier surely to increase capacity at Stansted rather than invent an entirely new networking standard?

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I suspect many cell towers lack full speed backhaul (wired connection to Internet), where cell congestion is not an RF problem. Improve backhaul wired to improve cell service!

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