UK gov says nothing much about 5G in 23 page document

The UK government has released another update to its 5G strategy which, once again, doesn’t really say anything of value or that we didn’t know already.

Coming from the aptly named Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the report essentially summarises all of the existing developments, without adding anything revolutionary, and, once again, emphasises the need for the 5G rollout to begin in 2020. This is of course assuming auctions can take place after Three and EE have stopped bickering with Ofcom.

“We want the UK to be a global leader in 5G so that we can take early advantage of the benefits that this new technology offers,” said Minister for Digital, Matt Hancock. “The steps we are taking now are all part of our commitment to realising the potential of 5G ,and will help to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone.”

Is anyone particularly surprised the government is once again crowing about the benefits of better technology without offering any contribution to the digital economy? Your correspondent often looks out of the window and comments on the weather to anyone who will listen, which adds pretty much the same amount of value as this report.

Work which has been undertaken so far includes a £25 million competition to fund an initial series of 5G testbeds and trials (starting next year), Ofcom’s work to revitalise spectrum policy (on-going), a meeting to discuss whether existing regulatory frameworks adequately support commercial investment in 5G infrastructure and services (it doesn’t), a Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (is this the seventh or eighth edition?), and also a call for evidence to understand what makes investing in fibre and 5G attractive (faster internet).

The update to the 5G strategy follows political posturing from PR point-scoring bureaucrats, as Ofcom and  Lord Adonis, the Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, decided to have a moan about mobile coverage across the UK. The reports were seemingly nothing more than a stick to beat the telcos, as the evidence supporting claims is questionable.

Ofcom has said there are more not spots in the UK than previously thought or claimed by the telcos. A not spot is measured as one where a user cannot complete a 90 second call interrupted, or stream a mobile video (needing 2 Mbps throughput). The coverage statistics and not spots are here for you to have a look at, but you have to question whether Ofcom has the personnel to cover every inch of the UK and test out this connectivity. Unless it has done this, how does it know whether you can watch a good cat video or not?

The 5G strategy might go some way to address these concerns, planning to extend mobile coverage to 95% of the UK, while simultaneously ensuring that mainline rail lines, major road routes and connectivity hotspots are 5G-ready. This is a very bold ambition, but considering trains are unable to run on time right now (or even turn up in some cases), we wonder whether 5G on these routes is an achievable aim, or even an affordable one. Consumers are constantly subjected to increasing prices on the railways of the UK, how much will the price increase when you start to make everything 5G ready?

As with most areas it doesn’t understand, the UK government has made another set of generic, shallow statements, which say nothing much in a couple of thousand words, but promise the world for a penny. Is it any wonder no one trusts politicians?

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