5G – What is it?

With BT announcing EE will launch its first 5G network next year, the hype is going to start increasing and big marketing campaigns rolled out. But what is 5G and is it as much of a technology innovation as its being made out to be? This post explains what it’s all about and how it differs from our service.

The Basics
You may have read in the news about all the major operators bidding on the spectrum auction by Ofcom, this multi-billion pound auction with only a handful of customers enables the operator complete control over their allotted frequency and attached networks.

This means rather than sharing the frequency with other operators, each operator can have their own clean frequency to serve their customers. Prime real estate in terms of setting their own service quality, pricing and usage allowances. You also get licensed and free to use shared frequencies used by multiple operators and individuals. This includes things like your home 2.4Ghz wireless network or your 5.2Ghz wireless doorbell or our 5.5Ghz WestWiFi Service. 

Over time, with every generation of mobile technology, speeds are increasing with demand, as seen below.

Network TypeDesigned
Download Speed (Mbps)
Actual
Download Speed (Mbps)
Actual Upload Speed (Mbps)
3G7.230.4
3G HSPA+4263
4G LTE1502010
4G LTE-Advanced3004225
5G1000??

Many phones and dongles still use 3G technology either as primary connection or as backup when 4G isn’t available, even now as operators start lowering the cost of 4G in the build up to 5G. 

Operators have historically over-hyped new innovations with the actual speeds being far less than marketed. 

For 4G services, tested by users of a free app called OpenSignal, during Sept 2017, all 4 operators provided , on average the following

Network

Download speeds (Mbps)

Latency (ms)

EE

28.99

43.75

Three

22.31

50.38

Vodafone

18.94

43.64

O2

15.06

45.38

This is due to the nature of radio spectrum and caused by a number of factors like local environments and interferences, distance from mast, power levels and line of sight etc. The difference between mobile and fixed access, is that the fixed access option is engineered for optimum performance, as opposed to the omni-directional mobile phone, engineered for mobility. 

Speeds
Historically, the speeds of mobile networks have under achieved due to the distance between customer and mast. New innovative technology is being degraded by an aging network designed to support lower frequencies, as with higher frequencies used will travel less distance, meaning the new 5G services will require a lot of new masts to be built for a blanket coverage. This may mean in areas with no new masts, 5G signals won’t have the coverage for full speed services, much like its predecessor, 4G.  

5G will however benefit from the MIMO technology being used, aiding capacity levels and latency across the network. It’s being marketed as a game changer but without massive investment of infrastructure on top of the auction fees already paid, might lead to huge pricing or patchy, sub-standard expensive services. It’s being marketed to innovate the whole IoT industry (internet of things, like smart meters, fridges, toasters, bins, etc) however other technologies are currently being used and will continue to be used. 5G might benefit the industry, its certainly not the enabler its being marketed as. 

So why is WestWiFi different?
This is the most important part of the blog, with all the hype and bad marketing, you might be tempted to wait for 5G? In our opinion, this technology will be over-priced and under-achieving and the market for WestWiFi will still be there. 

To compare, Our current MIMO network is designed for 50 Mbps with customers seeing on average 37 Mbps, the technology we use can support 1000 Mbps connections with an average 860 Mbps. As you can see, this matches current offering and will be able to match 5G speeds. 

The Technology?
WestWiFi uses 40Mhz in the 5.5Ghz shared-spectrum as opposed to 3.4Ghz dedicated spectrum being used for 5G. So our signal won’t travel as far as 5G and we’ll need more mast. However as you can see, our cost savings means we’re able to dedicated our spending on rollout out a network designed for its purpose. 

  • WestWiFi spends £1 per terminal plus £50 per licence per year. 
  • Vodafone paid £378.2m for 50MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum
  • EE paid £302.5m for 40MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum
  • Three paid £151.2m for 20MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum
  • O2 paid £205.8m for 40MHz of 2.3GHz spectrum
  • O2 also paid £317.7m for 40MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum

    The total auction spend across all networks was  £1.3b

Using this cost saving, We will design our network not for blanket coverage, but for targeted coverage, so homes and businesses who need us will be able to obtain the best signal strengths. 

Click here for more information about our network, how we’re building it and services we offer. Thank’s for reading!