UK PM's 5G Plan: Great If You Get the 'Best' Connection

On Monday, David Cameron announced that Britain and Germany would pool R&D resources to develop 5G network technologies. This collaboration will drive 5G research and promises to deliver high-speed mobile broadband that is even faster than 4G. But will mobile operators be able to overcome the fundamental issues affecting the quality and reach of their networks to deliver on the promise of 5G?

In the UK Ofcom is freeing up spectrum for the provision of LTE, LTE-A and 5G services; this spectrum could boost mobile data capacity 25 fold between now and 2030. However, it will take a while for new standards such as 5G to be commercially available and even when they are, operators will want to extend their capacity reach by seamlessly connecting their subscribers to high quality Wi-Fi hotspots in certain circumstances. In the meantime, operators will still need to enhance their existing network assets, including both 3G and 4G, to keep the airwaves clear for users to browse the web, stream video and access social media. In 2014 people expect to be able connect to the internet from their smartphones and tablet devices, and the majority don’t care to distinguish between home Wi-Fi, public Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G – they just want to be connected wherever they are.

Typically, operators have been focused on services that are constrained to the reach of their own networks, but now they can now extend their reach and impact the customer experience across both cellular and Wi-Fi. This change has resulted in a more satisfied data consumer and a better balancing of networks for operators, including Virgin Media in the UK. These operators are using a process that dynamically identifies the best network for each customer based on both operator policies and user preferences. This process of network selection provides operators with unprecedented network efficiencies and the ability to grow ARPU, and the system can adapt to real-time changes in network conditions to ensure users stay always best connected – defined by performance, cost or a careful balance of the two.

Wi-Fi was once perceived to be nothing more than a channel to offload mobile data traffic from congested mobile networks, but it has now become an integral component in a broader strategy to maintain a consistent and reliable user experience. Amenity Wi-Fi is fundamental to this approach, particularly as one in seven consumer-facing businesses in London now offer Wi-Fi to their customers. 70 per cent of this Wi-Fi is open and accessible, and the availability of Wi-Fi is now widespread in cities such as London. Oxford Street, for example, is the most connected shopping street on the planet.

 There is no longer any competition between Wi-Fi and cellular. They are now complementary technologies that combined can offer universal coverage and capacity for mobile operators. Today’s users can roam seamlessly between a variety of mobile and Wi-Fi standards without having to adjust the settings on their handset. This level of extended coverage also provides operators with the breathing space they need to gradually expand 4G coverage and invest in new standards like 5G, knowing that they will have a durable network proposition in place capable of delivering on the promise of 5G.


Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape


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Dave Fraser

Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape

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