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Joined up mobile, the empty thrill of 4G and the fragile promise of 5G

October 10th, 2012 by Tim Greenhalgh

Image of South Korea map showing 5G plan

Business is suffering in the UK, and we are suffering because there is no visible joined up mobile strategy in this country … only the empty thrill of 4G and the fragile promise of 5G.

This is unacceptable.

It’s a given that connecting people and places has driven economic expansion in every country in the world, whether sustainable or not, so why do we not have a coherent and visible strategy for the deployment of fast mobile connectivity in the UK?

I was writing about fast broadband in 1989. I was one of the first people in the UK to test it in 1999-2000. It changed my life and the lives of my children. But why did it take so long?

I had a brick mobile handset and then a smaller version by 1995 but it took a decade or more before I was offered faster mobile connectivity.

Even now, seven years on, my mobile connection speed is a bad joke. I run regular speed tests (on speedtest.net) and these show me that the average download connection speed is 0.02Mbs and the upload speed around 0.01Mbs.

This means that it is impossible for me to conduct business on mobile in the content-rich way that I need.

I think that the mobile network providers boast multiple-megabit connectivity on 3G but this has never been my experience. or that of my sons and friends. It amounts to one stop short of a Big Lie.

Now, we have the joy of 4G, coming to one of 16 cities in the UK sometime over the next six months (or there about). I’ve already written about this so will say no more for now.

Then, just when we thought mobile news could not get any better, 5G is on the horizon.  Surrey University has been awarded £35 million from mobile operators, infrastructure providers and the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund to fund research into superfast mobile broadband.

We will see the first flutter of 5G in eight years’ time – 2020. I’ve just realised that I might not be around by the time this technology is deployed everywhere in the UK (my bet is 2030-ish).

We deserve better than this from the mobile network providers and the Government. If you want to build a British Tiger Economy, you have to deploy the fastest mobile connectivity. Without it, we are choking on our competitors’ dust.

The map image at the top of this post tells me everything I need to know about how far we are behind. Click and weep (the story is from 2008…)

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