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May 21, 2014

Is EE’s 5G jumping the gun?

More attention on small cells and patching 4G’s holes should be the immediate focus.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Over the last few days, EE has been describing to the UK media how it is going to bring its ‘5G’ network to the UK, promising a future of smooth, fast connections for all of us as the world around us becomes ever more connected.

According to The Register, the network will be built around small cells and a heterogeneous network, meaning near-complete coverage should be a possibility. This should also in theory lead to high bandwidth and low latency, meaning that users will be put on the download speeds appropriate to whatever they are doing online, whether it be watching a film or just using social media.

The amount of data we use and download every day will continue to grow as time goes on, especially as people switch from fixed data usage to mobile data usage. A spokesperson from EE’s strategy and forecasting division said that he expects a wholesale shift from fixed to mobile data usage. In 2014 data consumption was twice that of 2012 and is predicted to double again in 2015, and by 2018 should be around twelve times that of 2012

Although it’s good to see network operators planning for the future, EE’s descriptions seem a bit empty, given that none of the UK’s major networks can currently offer 100% coverage across the country, and most 4G networks often struggle to even provide decent coverage in the middle of London.

The budget and brain power dedicated to whipping up excitement for 5G could be used to overcome the issues currently facing 4G – the government is very keen to extend the digital capabilities of all UK citizens, but many of us still only use 3G connections, with some in very rural locations still stuck on dial-up.

Small cells would be an ideal solution to the situation, but until more of the big networks decide to invest heavily in the technology, we may be stuck with spotty 4G for a while longer yet.

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