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5G rollout had better be better than 4G or we’re stymied

5G is on the way. It doesn’t take a great detective to work that much out, since 3G has given way to 4G as the standard means of mobile data and obviously the aim is to get as close to broadband speed as possible when on the move.

This has clear implications for corporates whose technology is increasingly in the cloud and based on apps. That’s not a universal thing, claims that all corporate IT is now cloud- and app-based have been exaggerated. It’s a trend, though, and an important one.

And according to a new report called “Connected Future” from Lord Adonis of the National Infrastructure Commission, the government needs to handle 5G much better than it did 4G or the UK will remain in the slow lane for business communications for a good while yet (he ranks us 54th in the world at the moment).

5G will be a necessity

The report makes a number of declarations, most notably that rapid communications is no longer a “nice to have” but a business necessity. “The Commission’s central finding is that mobile connectivity has become a necessity,” says the preamble. “The market
has driven great advances since the advent of the mobile phone but government must now play an active role to ensure that basic services are available wherever we live, work and travel, and our roads, railways and city centres must be made 5G ready as quickly as possible.”

Worryingly, it also identifies that three per cent of people, chiefly living in rural areas, do not have any access at all outside their homes because coverage remains so poor. 17% of A and B roads have no coverage at all and the figure jumps when it comes to poor coverage.

The report calls for complete coverage by 2025. There are people who don’t think that’s going to be enough.

Five years behind

Dave Millett of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox, for example, pointed to other countries: ” It proposes 5G should be in the UK by 2025, whereas Japan plans to have it ready for the 2020 Olympics,” he said. If we are to be a global trading country, we need the best global infrastructure.”

It could be that Japan is a one-off driven by the Olympics as a single event. Millett also criticised the previous administration of 3G and 4G licenses: “The sale of the 5G licences should focus less on raising money and rather be linked to providing coverage the quickest. If winners of the spectrum auction don’t meet their targets they forfeit the licence.”

There’s been a lot wrong with the UK’s Internet coverage so far. For a small island we have a remarkable amount of so-called notspots. 5G offers the chance to get the arrangements right this time; IT support staff looking after mobile workers will be hoping connections can be genuinely universal this time.