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4G arrives in the UK as 5G appears on the horizon PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Saturday, 27 October 2012 21:31

With Everything Everywhere’s launch next week of a 4th Generation mobile service in selected parts of the UK – and the promise of an ‘early’ spectrum auction for other operators to follow in the new year – we may at last be on route to start alleviating our 3rd G world status.

Head of CommunicationsInvestors will hope that the infrastructure spend on 4G will not take as long as 3G to reach the target of 98% of the country.  Business users will also hope that this time around the overhyping of expectations seen in previous generations will not lead to similar disappointments.

Speed of deployment will be key because last week the government granted £11.6m towards the development of the next mobile generation, 5G.

The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund has backed a bid from Surrey University to create a 5G Innovation Centre in conjunction with a consortium of mobile infrastructure providers and operators who between them will contribute a further £24m.

When people think of the evolution of mobile services they might imagine that each successive generation bears some passing resemblance to its forbears.  In the mobile world each successive generation has, increasingly spun off in a different direction – and 5G is unlikely to buck the trend.

Back in the days of 2G GSM standards we had telephony with a marginal option for text messages.  With 4G we will have a data service with options for Voice over IP – Skype-like computerized ‘phone’ calls, practical film downloading and thousands of fast ‘apps’.  Small wonder that folks already suggest that mobile phones are now less of a phone and more of a personal remote control for your own individually-tailored version of the digital economy.

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Head of the University of Surrey’s Centre for Communication Systems Research (CCSR), says, “The University’s industry partners have identified this proposal as the single biggest opportunity for the UK to regain a world leading position in the development of 5G and for the development of vibrant businesses around the technologies.”

We should wish him luck.  The pursuance of standards and design for this global sector has previously been fraught with difficulty – not least the precompetitive battles (and scurrilous tactics) between global giants in standards bodies such as IEEE.

Speculation is rife amongst researchers who are trying to envisage the shape of the many mobile things to come.  Maybe, in the 'Internet of Things', where sensors abound, light-bulbs are controlled by WiFi and your ‘doctor’ eHealth agent texts to say your blood pressure is alarming, we will be living in a world beyond the smartphone where ‘chipping at birth’ might well be the norm.

Of course all these mobile services – with many more much smaller localized base stations – need ever-greater backhaul links into the Internet and are thus inevitably dependent on the more granular deployment of local fibre networks as well as a more efficient use of spectrum.

So don’t worry too much if 4G (or even 3G) hasn’t reached you yet.  There will sure to be another one along before too long and, by then, maybe, the fixed network will be up to the job.


This editorial also appeared as an opinion piece in Bdaily - the business news network - and at 



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