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O2 UK Claim Economic Benefits of 5G Mobile to Beat Fibre Broadband by 2026

Thursday, February 16th, 2017 (2:15 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,278)
5g mobile broadband

Forget FTTC, G.fast, FTTH/P and other forms of fixed line “fibre broadband” connectivity. According to a new report from mobile operator O2, the economic benefits of future 5G based Mobile Broadband technology will overtake “fibre” by 2026.

At this stage it’s perhaps a touch premature to be boasting about 5G becoming a wonder drug for UK digital connectivity, particularly as the technology is still very much in the Research & Development (R&D) stage and regulators have yet to finalise what spectrum it will be able to use. The first commercial deployments aren’t expected to surface in the UK until around 2020.

Never the less O2, which much like Three UK (here) is also calling on Ofcom to cap BT’s (EE) spectrum ownership in order to stop them dominating the market (Three UK wants a cap of 30% and O2 UK wants it to be set at 35%), has forecast that 5G will overtake “fibre” by 2026 and deliver £7bn of annual economic benefits to the United Kingdom (plus £3b per year through secondary supply chain impacts).

Overall the combined value of 4G and 5G based Mobile connectivity could, it’s claimed, add £18.5 billion to the economy in less than a decade.

Mark Evans, CEO of O2 UK, said:

“Mobile is the invisible infrastructure that can drive the economy of post-Brexit Britain. The future of 5G promises a much quicker return on investment than fibre broadband, and a range of unprecedented benefits: from telecare health applications to smarter cities to more seamless public services.

For individuals, businesses and communities to use mobile connectivity to its full potential, we need to set the right conditions to ensure a competitive and fair mobile marketplace. We need a sophisticated spectrum auction that encourages the quickest and fairest deployment of mobile spectrum, with a regulatory environment that delivers a level playing field for businesses and supports a competitive market for customers.”

The comments are reminiscent of those made in a recent report from Communications Chambers (here), which suggested that focusing on pure ultrafast fibre optic (FTTP/H) connectivity was “backward looking” and that it would instead be better to adopt a more mobile-first approach.

Right now it’s still too early to know how 5G will pan out, although on paper the promises of peak speeds reaching 20Gbps (Gigabits per second) via high frequency radio spectrum in the 6-100GHz bands do sound very attractive.

Certainly there’s a lot of scope for mobile to replace fixed lines, but then we heard something similar before 4G launched and yet Mobile services are still struggling to offer the kind of “unlimited” usage allowances and connection flexibility that Home Broadband users desire. Not to mention issues with price, CGNAT and Traffic Management on some networks.

However the gap is closing and 5G certainly has the potential to deliver much.. much more than 4G. Much will of course depend upon whether any of the major mobile operators are willing to take on fixed line broadband ISPs with comparable packages. This also assumes that the fixed line market would give up without a fight (5G might even encourage more multi-Gigabit FTTH/P connections).

Either way we look forward to seeing what 2026 brings, assuming we haven’t all be wiped out in a nuclear holocaust, starved to death, overrun by a rebellion of highly intelligent Internet cats or been invaded by giant ant creatures from a rogue planet hiding outside our solar system.

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18 Responses
  1. adslmax Real

    5G mobile will never take over FTTC, G.Fast or FTTP because o2 5G will be capped usage allowance (not unlimited) if it was truly unlimited then it will be great but overall UK of 5G coverage with o2 the speed will be very limit.

  2. Billy

    5G with 500mb usage, hmm, i can see that working.

    unless networks over truly unlimited usage (which no network will ever be able to provide), then 5G will not replace fibre.

    • Adam

      haha! yes and then do that over giffgaff where you will be lucky to get 1mbps at best..

    • Chris P

      If you said 1 year ago I’d get 4gb + unlimited texts + unlimited minutes on a rolling 1 month plan for £11 I’d be telling you to pull the other one with bells on. Yet here I am with more data and calls than I can consume for less than 40p per day.

      Another few years and data will be the same, all you can consume across a number of devices for a fixed, reasonable monthly rate.

    • Doctor Colossus

      Chris P, pull the other one with bells on 🙂

      I hope you’re right, though. Also, you can’t use 4GB as month? I am struggling with 10GB, but I suppose I do use tethering as bit…

    • MikeW

      @DrC

      The ultimate conclusion of “fixed-mobile convergence” is that you just use data, by whatever means is most convenient at the time, and the “cheapest” to provide.

      Imagine a nationwide network, backed with lots of fixed-line backhaul, fronted with radio transceivers. Largely considered to be a shared resource.
      At home: Your own wifi, backed by your own fixed-line backhaul
      Down the street: Fon-like access via your neighbour, via his fixed-line
      In the coffee shop: Wifi access via the shop’s fixed-line
      In the street: LTE access via 4G cell and their fibre backhaul

      At the moment, lots of people are suspicious of FON-style sharing on their line. But there is an obvious social benefit once everyone stops thinking “I can’t let anyone share my 2Mbps,” and starts thinking “I don’t mind sharing a bit of my 100Mbps”.

      I’m not sure that thinking will catch on quickly enough.

      What place does 5G have in that? If it can be delivered at street level, and subscribers replace their current “fixed-line + wifi” setup, then it automatically brings in some of that “sharing” mentality, and definitely brings in a shared backhaul.

      I think we’re about 10-12 years away from that starting to become a practicable option.

    • gerarda

      @mikeW

      The mobile-fixed convergence seems to be driven by consumers generally rather than most previous technologies which have been driven by early adopters.

      FTTP has its roots in a world where everyone had a desktop computer, a landline ,and watched TV on a box in the corner of a room. Now that world has largely been supplanted by mobile devices but the technology/infrastructure has not kept up with the change.

    • Chris P

      @MikeW

      The concept of owning a BB connection will be turned on its head.

      The plans for 5g are “access control” which is similar in concept to FON or your mobile roaming onto a foreign network when abroad. No need to ask for someone’s wifi password if your network provider registered device is in range of a device it can roam on to.

      I think 5G will be here much quicker than many suspect will be the case. I think early 5G handsets with 3.5Ghz will be here by November, Certainly the next Samsung, keen to move on from the burning batteries, will feature 5G lite.

    • MikeW

      @gerarda
      You’re right in the sense of the driver being consumer behaviour … but that behaviour is driven by the consumer being set free ie mobile.

      Everyone stopped using wired phones, because mobile phones became ubiquitous.

      Same model for PC and fixed lines transferring to smartphone & tablet with wireless. Everyone being set free.

      But ubiquitous wireless, used by low power devices (long battery life is essential) needs ubiquitous access points, which need ubiquitous backhaul.

      You’re right that the concept of FTTP is falling out of date before it has happened. But fibre to the (wireless) access point is a must.

      This recent report is on-point, though I don’t recall it going the whole hog on convergence:
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/01/hybrid-fibre-optic-5g-mobile-solve-home-broadband-coverage.html

    • MikeW

      @ChrisP

      I think you are right on the direction 5G will go in. And the winners will be the telcos with a mixed fixed and wireless access network. Like the combined BT+EE.

      If Ofcom fail to prise Openreach out of BT, then I see future services being a fixed/mobile mix, and regulation requiring that to be wholesaled.

      (If Ofcom succeed in prising Openreach out, then I think they lose the ability to regulate BT at all, so couldn’t force a wholesale product. That might be the worst long term outcome)

      As for 5G arriving soon…
      I agree we’ll see experimental hardware soon.

      The Koreans seem to be happy to throw up, and subscribe to, trial networks that won’t last. Spending money on exciting gizmos. If Samsung are motivated, we will see it happen.

      But I don’t expect live public networks to turn up here soon. The UK operators just wouldn’t go for it. You might see trials running around Adastral park with BT, or around the Ericsson office in Guildford, or the Surrey University labs.

  3. Chris P

    @Doctor Colossus
    I have wifi at home and at the office, everyone i know has wifi. My good lady has a better deal than me, same allowances but £9 per month but on a 12 month contract. We can both use our allowances in Europe on 3’s roaming deals too.

  4. Carter

    Surely the real point here is not how much you can get now speed wise or what you think you will get on 5G from some networks, but come 2026 i would imagine things have moved on from 5G to something else (6G???) or getting towards moving on making O2s statement worthless anyway.

    • MikeW

      The next generation of mobile seems to come around once a decade.

      It seems to take around 5 years to get the standards developed, and start getting commercial products out the doors of the vendors. 5 years of “chat”, PR, hype, noise, but no new speeds for the public yet.

      It seems to take at least 5 years to get equipment deployed to give a relatively mature network, with high population coverage. It takes another 5 years to build that into proper maturity, with both higher landmass coverage and infill giving high capacity.

      The real point is that what you can achieve from one generation will start to be usurped by the next one around a decade later. But you can’t avoid deploying a generation because the next will be better … because you need the income from it to keep the whole circus going.

    • Data Analysis

      3G in the UK came out in 2003
      http://www.mobilephonehistory.co.uk/history/3g.php

      4G came to the UK around October 2012
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20121025
      A gap of 9 years

      4G has only been here for less than 5 years
      ——————————————-

      If 5G comes out in 2020 as Ofcom and other predict then come 2026 (six years later) the next follow up will be well on its way to the UK. If not available in some countries already.

    • MikeW

      Pretty typical response from Data Analysis there… He should use use a deed poll to change first name to “lack of”.

      Note especially the dates for deployment vs the dates for research. 5G is the latter, and a long way from the former.

      Some more details for you…

      1G – Analogue. 10 years to research & develop, deployed in early/mid 80s
      2G – Digital. First research early 80s, first deployed early 90s
      2.5G – Packet data. Research in early 90s, deployments late 90s
      3G – Wideband. Research in mid 90s, trials late 90s, deployments early 00s
      3.5G – HSDPA. Deployments 2007-8.
      4G – LTE. Research started early/mid 00s. Specs done 2009. Deployments early 10s
      4.5G – LTE-A. Trials in mid 10s.
      5G – ?. Research started early/mid 10s. Specs expected late 10s, deployments early 20s

      Note the gaps between deployment dates? Roughly 10 years each & every time.
      Note when research started? From 5 to 10 years before deployment.

      I’d happily say that 2G networks didn’t feel relatively mature until 1996, at least. With plenty of room to grow to fuller maturity for another 6 years. 3G didn’t feel mature until 2007/8, but still somewhat sparse until 2012ish. 4G until 2015. And I don’t think 4G networks could be considered fully mature for at least another couple of years.

      5G is following the same pattern as all those previous generations – it isn’t moving especially faster. Expect initial deployments 2020-2022, with urban maturity by 2026. I don’t know that 5G will ever aim for wide area coverage, so the improvements to see in the late 20s may just focus on higher urban capacities … where we’ll see more “fibre to the 5G”.

    • Carter

      No sure what you mean MikeW, if 5G comes out in the UK in 2020 then come 2026 we will be well on our way to something else. According to your self and what you have written research and trials happen every 5 years for new products. as far as i can see my statement of

      “come 2026 i would imagine things have moved on from 5G to something else (6G???) or getting towards moving on making O2s statement worthless anyway.” Is correct.

  5. Lee

    Elon musk and Google want a world AI, they already see smart phones as AI but not fully connected. A phone with a battery that last months without charge and deep mind able to connect to every device in the world at GPS.

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