A respected UK-based investment advisory has thrown cold water on the promise of 5G mobile technology, finding that it is coming up short of the hype it is generating.
The technology promises gigabit mobile broadband capacity, but New Street research on Tuesday night warned Australian telco operators, investors and regional broadcasting authorities to ignore the breathless excitement coming from vendors and their lobbyists.
The technology has generated excitement because it has the potential to unlock vast tracts of higher frequency spectrum bands for commercial use bringing down license costs for carrier and thereby increasing mobile broadband capacity.
It also has the potential to do something engineers once thought impossible — give a mobile phone its own dedicated beam of spectrum capacity making dizzying speeds faster than 1Gbps a potential reality regardless of how many others are nearby at the same time. It would only be a factor of the spectrum capacity dedicated to the tower equipment.
However, at an event hosted by Australia’s communications regulator, ACMA, in Sydney last night New Street senior analyst Andrew Entwistle laid down a long list of 5G technical limits threatening its economic viability.
He said that 5G wasn’t a genuine generational step change in mobile technology as 2G, 3G and 4G had been. Furthermore, he said 5G was only likely to share the stage with them in a supporting role, even if it were to meet the most realistic expectations of radio spectrum boffins.
Perhaps 5G’s greatest obstacle of all was that, if it succeeded, New Street expected it to kill off the traditional cellular model bringing a world of pain to carriers that have remained safely insulated from the need to cooperate with rivals.
The problem, Mr Entwistle said, was not the technical strides that wireless engineers were making — even though 5G commercial services were still at least five years away. Rather, he said, it was 5G’s endemic economic resistance to fitting into current carrier business models.
“This was put very nicely just a couple of weeks ago at a conference we ran in the US. A wireless engineer said that he visualises the 4G (spectrum bands) as farmland that we know how to farm, we know how to use productively, we’ve been there for a while and its possible to make a good living with that.