So the government raised £1.36bn selling off 5G bandwidth to Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three.
It is a bit of a disappointing amount given the £22.5bn raised from the 3G auction 15 years ago. Even the 4G auction in 2013 raised a billion pounds more, still, as my dad used to say, a billion pounds is nothing to be sniffed at. I suppose the only question we have at the minute is, why bother?
First, what do we get from 5G that we don’t get from 4G.
Well 5G is of course super-fast (though I’m sure 4G was super-fast, come to think of it, wasn’t 3G super-fast too?) Theoretically however it will be 100 times faster than 4G. While that number is suspiciously round we will take it at face value for now.
That extra speed means you could download a full HD movie in as little as 4 seconds (or as much as 40 seconds, opinion is divided). At the minute with 4G (not even 4G+) it takes over 7 minutes. Now I’m not sure about you but my modern lifestyle, hectic as it is means I simply don’t have time to wait 7 minutes before I sit down and watch a full length movie.
Also, who’s downloading HD films using their data? WIFI people. Save yourselves some money. God.
Now I am being a little facetious but £1.3bn has just been spent by companies whose service we have to use (a mobile in 2018 is a must) so that they can charge us for a service that is completely superfluous. And they WILL charge us. One way or another they will get their pound of flesh and, according to the governments’ 5G plan, the UK won’t be ready to roll out 5G until 2020 (the US, Japan, South Korea and China will roll it out later this year) and coverage will not be widespread until 2022.
So to summarise where we are, £1.3bn plus the cost of rolling out the damn thing plus a wait of 4 years until it is properly usable for something we didn’t ask for and don’t really need. As Matthew Howett told the BBC “operators can do so much more (with 4G)” and OFCOM have required those purchasing 5G bandwidth to invest in their current 4G networks. So I ask again what’s the point?
Because. Because it’s next. Because we left the cave and settled in the valley. Because we climbed the hills, ventured into the forests and crossed the oceans. Because we took to the skies and when we ran out of that, we went further. Because progress is good, it’s always good, progress is its own reward. We as humans, as a species move forward. Always. I think George Mallory sums this concept up best. He was asked in an interview by the Ney York Times in 1923 after leading 2 failed expeditions to climb Everest and preparing for a third why he wanted to climb the mountain. His response, “because it’s there”