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5th February 2021
I thought that this week I’d look at a real-world scenario that we’re seeing when it comes to the current state of play for 5G here in the UK.
As we all know, 5G is the much-hyped future of mobile communications and its deployment into the market hasn’t perhaps been the smoothest (at least so far).
The UK isn’t exactly leading the world when it comes to 5G rollout and, as mentioned before, the decision to remove Huawei from the mix clearly won’t be helping. To be fair though, it has still progressed despite COVID, so fair play to the carriers in that regard.
The Real World
So, we’re in a situation at present where UK 5G coverage is a long way from ubiquitous, but having said that, the patches of it are growing.
As many readers will probably know by now, we’ve been rather busy the last 12 months deploying our homeConnect service out to customers who want a secure, managed and performant network for home working delivered by 4G or 5G.
The deployment of this is (finally) starting to bump up against patches of 5G in the UK and it would seem logical to assume we’d be jumping at the chance to deploy 5G kit wherever possible. But, as is often the case, it’s actually a bit more nuanced than that.
The 5G Upgrade Paradox?
There are a couple of significant reasons why it actually doesn’t make as much sense as you might think to deploy 5G kit at this time:
1. The Availability and Cost of 5G devices.
This is a significant challenge at present. 4G kit has obviously been in the market for some time now and there is a wide range of solutions available and at a range of price points. Features like multi-SIM redundancy and high-gain directional routers, etc. mean that we have a broad range of devices to work with.
By comparison, 5G remains niche, with a very limited set of options in the market that are extremely expensive compared to 4G offerings. It’s basically still stuck in early adopter mode
2. 4G is More Than Good Enough.
This is where it gets particularly interesting. For most home working, there is a threshold where the speed of connection becomes less relevant… once it’s not noticeably slowing down work then it’s irrelevant whether you get 25Mb/s, 100Mb/s or even gigabit speeds. It just reaches a point of “Good Enough” and becomes a background item. 4G speed is comfortable enough for this!
What further complicates things is that the rollout of 5G is inherently linked to the upgrade of a cell tower to deliver 5G signal (well duh!), but also the connectivity into the cell. Makes sense when you think about it, that in order to deliver the shiny 5G speeds to the end-users, you need to make sure there is plenty of capacity/bandwidth going into the mast.
The ironic thing is that a cell that has been upgraded for 5G is also giving blazing fast 4G speeds as well!!!
And here is the challenge – if 4G gives you 100 to 150Mb/s, is cheaper to deploy and has a broader range of options, then the case for 5G spend just isn’t there. Not now, and arguably not for some considerable time to come.
Now, as with all things, this position will change over time. 5G devices will get cheaper and more plentiful, the rollout of coverage will gather pace and the need for higher speeds will likely grow over time.
But don’t kill off 4G just yet, it’s a hell of a lot more capable than you might think and will continue to improve for years to come as well!