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65ft phone mast will be built by homes in Wakefield because 'government doesn't have a clue'
United Kingdom Created: 24 Nov 2021
The government has insisted on a 5G mast being built on a busy road in Wakefield, just months after the local council rejected such plans.

Campaigners thought they’d successfully seen off a proposal to build a 20 metre (65 foot) mast on Dewsbury Road in Lupset.

Planning officers at Wakefield Council said the structure would be an eyesore “at odds” with the surrounding area when they turned the plans down in June.

Click here for more news and updates from Wakefield

But government officials, who looked at the case after the developers appealed, have disagreed with that assessment and overturned the decision.

In their findings, the Planning Inspectorate described the mast as “essential” and said the need for “an electronic communications system should not be questioned”.

The mast will be 15 metres – five shorter than originally proposed – and be placed near the small Sainsbury’s store in the area.

But Wakefield West councillor Michael Graham, one of 86 people to object to the original application, said he was deeply unhappy with the result.

He said: “It makes you think, what is the point of the planning process here if the decision is just going to get overturned?

“Clearly they (the government) think local people don’t have a clue about their own communities.

“I know the people living directly facing where it’s going to be aren’t happy about it and I just don’t think it’s the right place.

“With all the street furniture that comes with it it’s going to be so prominent.”

In their report, the Planning Inspectorate said the mast will “not unacceptably harm the character and appearance” of the area.

They cited street furniture such as speed cameras, street lights and bus stops already on Dewsbury Road as evidence it will not be overly intrusive.

Dismissing concerns that people’s house prices may be affected by the move, the report said: “The planning system does not exist to protect private interests such as value of land or property.”

Councillor Graham said he disagreed with the findings and added: “I know some people are happy with the extra signal it will bring, but for me, on balance I don’t think the inconvenience of having this there is worth it.

“I think they could have found somewhere else for it.”

A number of objectors had cited health concerns in relation to 5G, many of which have no scientific basis in fact and have been peddled by Covid conspiracy theorists.

The council said these played no part in its decision to reject the proposal, as it was not in its remit to decide on “health safeguards”.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Yorkshire Live, David Spereall, 16 Nov 2021

Telecom behemoths slash phone mast rent by 90%, sparking outrage
United Kingdom Created: 23 Nov 2021
SMALL landowners who host phone masts are demanding a fair deal from telecom behemoths, who are threatening to slash rents by up to 90%.

A change in the law has resulted in a massive drop in income for sports clubs, farmers, charities, churches, hospitals, and community groups all over the country.

Telecom companies have taken advantage of rights granted to them under the 2017 Electronic Communications Code to reduce funding at a time when many community organizations are already struggling.

Some operators have been accused of employing aggressive tactics, including bullying, to compel landlords to accept the new terms or face legal action.

Anna Turley, a former Labour MP, is the chair of the Protect and Connect campaign, which is calling for a thorough review of the 2017 code’s impact.

Since its inception earlier this year, the organization has gathered the support of over 1,000 website owners.

“These large corporations, who make massive profits every year, have been given the power to essentially slash these rents,” Ms Turley explained.

“There’s actually a principle here, which is that there’s a real imbalance of power, aside from the financial cut and the impact on their ability to run their services or continue the sports facilities.”

“Through this code, the government gave these companies complete control in 2017, allowing them to pay whatever they want.”

“That’s a very unequal power balance.”

That isn’t a debate or a market negotiation; it is simply handing over complete control to the major corporations.”

There is also growing concern that the rent cuts will stymie the rollout of 5G across the country, with many small landowners threatening to demolish masts.

Protect and Connect claims that the mobile operators’ alleged aggressive behavior has already slowed the adoption of faster mobile connectivity, causing £2 billion in annual productivity losses.

The campaigners are concerned that the new Product Security and Telecoms Infrastructure Bill, which is expected to be passed before Christmas, will force sites to continue hosting masts despite rent reductions.

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Kathryn Bradshaw is outraged, calling it a “complete and utter disgrace” that community facilities will lose thousands of pounds in rent as a result of hosting masts.

Kathryn, 70, is the secretary of Fox Lane Sports and Social Club, which pays £7,800 per year for an EE mast.

This was predicted to drop to £780 two years ago.

Click here to view the source article.
Source: Brinkwire, Helena Sutan, 23 Nov 2021

Calling all payphone users: thousands of call boxes set for protection
United Kingdom Created: 10 Nov 2021
Thousands of vital phone boxes around the UK will be protected from closure, under Ofcom plans announced today.

With 96% of UK adults now owning a mobile phone, and mobile signal improving significantly in recent years, the way people make calls is changing.

As part of the move to digital phone lines, which will require investment to upgrade phone boxes, BT is currently assessing which ones are no longer needed and can be decommissioned. But under the current process for removing payphones, some that are needed by local communities risk being withdrawn.

So Ofcom is proposing clearer, stronger rules to safeguard a phone box against removal, if any of four criteria applies:

its location is not already covered by all four mobile networks; or
it is located at an accident or suicide hotspot; or
more than 52 calls have been made from it over the past 12 months; or
exceptional circumstances mean there is a need for a public call box.[1]

We estimate that around 5,000 phone boxes around the UK would be protected from removal by the new rules. BT and KCOM can propose to remove phone boxes that do not fall within this strict criteria, but would need to formally consult with local communities before any action is taken.

Some of the call boxes we plan to protect are used to make relatively low numbers of calls. But if one of those calls is from a distressed child, an accident victim or someone contemplating suicide, that public phone line can be a lifeline at a time of great need.

We also want to make sure that people without mobile coverage, often in rural areas, can still make calls. At the same time, we’re planning to support the rollout of new phone boxes with free Wi-Fi and charging.
Selina Chadha, Ofcom’s Director of Connectivity

Under our plans, BT and KCOM – which operates Hull’s unique white phone boxes – must also install batteries in some payphones, so they can still be used during a power cut.

Who still uses payphones?

There are currently around 21,000 call boxes across the country. For people without a mobile, or for those in areas with poor mobile coverage, these can be a lifeline for making calls to friends and family, helpline services and accessing emergency services.

Almost 150,000 calls were made to emergency services from phone boxes in the year to May 2020, while 25,000 calls were made to Childline and 20,000 to Samaritans.

At the same time, the services people need from public call boxes are changing. Call volumes from payphones have fallen from around 800m minutes in 2002 to just 7m in 2020. A new generation of street hubs being rolled out by BT offer services such as free Wi-Fi and free charging.

So we are also proposing to allow BT and KCOM greater flexibility in the range of services they can provide in their phone boxes, to keep pace with people’s needs.[2]

BT and KCOM provide around 21000 public call boxes across the U K. 5 million calls were made from them last year, 150000 were emergencies, 25000 were to childline and 20k to samaritans. Calls have decreased from 800m minutes in 2002 to 7 million in 2020. Since BT launched its adopt a kiosk scheme over 6000 kiosks have been converted into defibrillators and libraries.


Notes to editors

Exceptional circumstances: This category could include issues relevant to the geographic location of the phone box (for instance, a coastal location where mobile reception is less resilient); as well as the types of calls made from the phone, such as to helpline numbers.

For several years, BT has been decommissioning payphones that it has assessed are no longer needed. However, local authorities who want to retain the iconic red kiosk can use BT’s ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ scheme. Under the scheme, local bodies can purchase a red kiosk for £1 and use it for something else. Since BT launched the scheme, more than 6,000 kiosks have been converted to a range of different uses, such as community libraries, or to house life-saving public defibrillators.

We are also consulting on removing the requirement to provide a fax service.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: OFCOM, 09 Nov 2021

BREAKING! Fishersgate mast in Brighton, quashed at Judicial Review
United Kingdom Created: 7 Nov 2021
Finally, we now have the recognition that Local Planning Authorities need to address the health impacts of 5G mast proposals further, rather than blindly accepting an ICNIRP certificate. Thank you to all those of you who donated, without your donations this could not have happened.

Siting and Appearance, are still ‘material planning considerations’ under Prior Approval. As such, NPPF policy para 118 must still be treated, along with other policies, by weighing evidence of ‘compatible and incompatible use’. A self declared ICNIRP certificate is just one factor, and not sufficient on its own. This may not be the technical reason for the judgement, but is an important area to keep pressing. Para 185 contradicts 118. Councils COULD be helping us, there are enough considerations to refuse masts as pollutants.

Brighton Council conceded on all 3 grounds in the Judicial Review Challenge including:

“the Council failed to address the health impacts of this particular proposal and to obtain adequate evidence of the assessment of the proximity to the school and the amended proposal”

The High Court of Justice issued the Consent Order today and Brighton Council have to pay the costs. A massive thank you goes to Karen Churchill, Carol Springay and her partner Spencer who put a lot of time and effort into this along with Carole Ward and Councillor Les Hamilton.

You will notice the ground says “for this particular proposal”. The mast was 27m from a school and no exclusion zones were provided (normally up to 50m). If you have an equivalent situation or a mast very close to homes with children then the parallel with the case could be argued tightly. But you could also use the precedent to argue that health affects within 500m should be addressed.

Keep it simple with just one or 2 references. The planners and councillors do say they are not scientists and can be overwhelmed by “science”. The latest Spanish paper (LOPEZ et al 2021) could work well. also the JD Pearce paper:

What is the radiation before 5G? A correlation study between measurements in situ and in real time and epidemiological indicators in Vallecas, Madrid

Lopez https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33434609/ shows headaches and sleep disturbances.

Limiting liability with positioning to minimize negative health effects of cellular phone towers

JD PEARCE paper states “There is a large and growing body of evidence that human exposure to RFR from cellular phone base stations causes negative health effects, including both i) neuropsychiatric complaints such as headache, concentration difficulties, memory changes, dizziness, tremors, depressive symptoms, fatigue and sleep disturbance, and ii) increased incidence of cancer and living in proximity to a cell-phone transmitter station.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337624982_Limiting_liability_with_positioning_to_minimize_negative_health_effects_of_cellular_phone_towers

Councils need to know that they could face a Judicial Review if they don’t address the information and evidence you present them. Keep asking them where the exclusion zones fall and don’t accept any decision where you suspect there is a residence within the zone. If health impacts need to be assessed by a school then by deduction one could argue that equally children need to be protected at home and information you present about health impacts should be addressed. If there are homes very close to the mast which house children, you could point this out and then link to the Brighton precedent. (ref planning app no. BH2021/016)

Link to ruling, here: https://rfinfo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Consent-Order-02.11.21.pdf
Click here to view the source article.
Source: RF INFO, 04 Nov 2021

Bramley: ‘Overly dominant’ mobile phone mast refused permission by planners
United Kingdom Created: 20 Oct 2021
Plans for a 15-metre high 5G mobile phone mast and cabinet have been knocked back by council planners.

CK Hutchison Networks (UK) Ltd wanted to site the new mast on Ganners Way, opposite St Margaret’s church, in a bid to boost mobile phone coverage in the area.

But a report from a council planning officer raised concerns over siting and its appearance and said:

“The proposal will be highly visible within the locality and appear overly dominant within its context of two-storey buildings (residential and ecclesiastical). Moreover, it sits within a wholly residential area and directly adjacent to housing.”

The plans can be viewed in full here:
https://publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=QYOWRIJBM9100
Click here to view the source article.
Source: West Leeds Dispatch, 19 Oct 2021

"Eyesore" 5G mobile pole plans in Bridgwater refused
United Kingdom Created: 20 Oct 2021
Three UK said there was an 'acute need' for the new facilities in the town.

Plans to build a new 5G mobile phone mast in Bridgwater have been quashed after residents described the proposed pole as an "eyesore".

Proposals were submitted to Sedgemoor District Council in August this year by mobile phone provider Three UK to build a 17-metre-high pole providing improved 5G coverage on Whitfield Road, Bridgwater.

The plan would also see three further equipment cabinets to serve the mast built in the surrounding area.

Three said in its application to Sedgemoor District Council that high-speed connectivity was "the lifeblood of a community" and that improved mobile coverage and 5G would bring benefits to everyone in the community, where it says there is an "acute need" for new equipment to improve coverage.

The planning statement said: "In these unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is recognised that high-speed mobile connectivity is the lifeblood of a community; facilitating educational benefits, providing access to vital services, improving communications with the associated commercial benefits for local businesses, enabling e-commerce and facilitating the increased need and demand for working from home, as well as enjoying access to social, media and gaming for leisure time activities.

"There is an acute need for a new base station to provide effective service coverage and in this case, the height of the proposed street pole is the minimum required to bring the benefits of 5G to this area.

"The very nature of installing new 5G mast infrastructure within such an urban setting requires a highly considered balance between the need to extend practical coverage reach with that of increasing risk of visual amenity intrusion."

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However, the council stated in its judgement that prior approval would be needed to construct the mast and that such approval would not be given.

The council's decision said that it would refuse approval for the construction of the pole, for the fact that it "would result in a detrimental impact on the visual amenity of the street scene and residential character of the area".

Residents of the surrounding area also objected vehemently to the proposal.

Michael Horsell described the proposed structure as an "eyesore" and stated that it would cause visibility problems for motorists coming through the area.

He wrote through the council's planning portal: "I object to the proposal of placing a new 5G mast on Whitfield Road, Bridgwater. Having seen the plans it will be a disgusting eyesore.

"There must be a better position for the mast - it will cause obstructions to motorists not being able to see people approaching the crossing."

Simon Tottle, also objecting, said that there was "no need" for the pole in the area since houses around the site used broadband or Wifi for their internet connection rather than mobile phone coverage.

He wrote: "I do not feel there is any need for a 5G mast to be erected in a residential area, due to the fact that the majority of houses use broadband/wifi for their main connection to internet."
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Somerset Live, Jack Colwill, 18 Oct 2021

NO suspects identified in any mindless attacks on phone masts in recent years
United Kingdom Created: 12 Oct 2021
NO suspects have been identified in any attacks in recent years on 5G and other phone masts in Bradford, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Over 50 per cent of attacks between the start of 2019 and the middle of this year in West Yorkshire happened in Bradford, including four in one month alone.

Major concerns have previously been raised about attacks on 5G masts in the city, with Three taking the step of writing to MPs and the Council last year over the issue.

Peter Gilson, Director of Radio Access Networks at Three, told the Telegraph & Argus: “Clearly from a financial aspect, it’s a problem.That’s secondary from my perspective. The most important part is the health and safety of the people of Bradford.

“When you burn down a mast, it’s not specific to 5G, it’s one of our masts, what happens is you’ve got a large piece of metal there.

“Firstly it’s up in flames, it’s been attacked and damaged, which creates the problem of, potentially, some parts of the metal being loose and falling either during the attack and hurting somebody who’s actually involved in the attack, or later on, a passer-by walking past can get smacked on the head.

“The risk of death is there.”

West Yorkshire Police insisted all attacks are taken “very seriously” and said work is ongoing around crime prevention solutions.

Data from the force shows that between January 2019 and July this year, there was a total of 29 attacks, be it arson or criminal damage, on telecommunication masts in the county.

Just one of those happened in 2019, with a surge to 19 in 2020 and the first attack of that year happening in March.

In the height of the coronavirus pandemic, UK mobile network providers warned against the spread of “baseless” conspiracy theories linking coronavirus to 5G.

Nine attacks were recorded in 2021 between February and the end of July.

And of the 29 crimes recorded by West Yorkshire Police in the period the data covers, 16 happened in Bradford.

Others were recorded in Halifax, Huddersfield, Pontefract, Featherstone, Dewsbury and Leeds.

In May 2020, a mast was attacked in the Wibsey area where a fire was lit at the bottom which then spread further up and caused “significant damage”.

There was then an incident in the BD8 area of the city in June last year, where a screw driver was used to damage the door of the mast. The data then shows a spate later in the year.

In September, there were four arson attacks on masts in Bradford alone, with three of those in the BD3 area of the city.

In one, the suspects are said to have attacked the rear box of a 5G tower, prised it open and place panels of wood inside before setting it on fire and making off from the scene.

Yobs then unleashed another arson attack the following month in the BD8 area.

There was then another in November in the BD5 area, plus two criminal damage incidents in the BD4 area.

December then saw another arson attack in Bradford, where a rag was torched and then thrown inside the bottom of a 5G mast, forcing witnesses to attempt to extinguish the flames by pouring water on the fire.

There was then a further four criminal damage incidents and two arson attacks in 2021 in the period the data covers.

Mindless vandals struck again last month, when a 5G mast on Trinity Road, Little Horton, was torched in a late-night attack.

Detective Chief Inspector Fiona Gaffney, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “The deliberate damage to these types of masts can be very dangerous – for nearby residents and those committing the serious offences.

“Attacks can also pose a significant risk to the road network and we treat these incidents very seriously.”

She added: “We ensure that every attack is promptly and thoroughly investigated and we are working with our key partners in industry to explore crime prevention solutions.

“Work also remains ongoing in the community to prevent attacks and ensure robust action is taken against those responsible when attacks do occur.

“I would appeal directly to anyone with information about any such attacks to contract police.”
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Telegraph and Argus, Felicity Macnamara, 04 Oct 2021

Plans for tall 5G mobile phone mast "taller than trees" and near homes in Sheffield rejected
United Kingdom Created: 12 Oct 2021
A mobile network company is appealing after its plans to erect a 5G mast on a busy junction were refused.

Cornerstone, which provides coverage for Vodafone and Telefonica, wanted to erect a 17.5m high pole with six antennas and two equipment cabinets on a grass verge on Ecclesall Road South, near the junction with Brincliffe Edge Road.

But planning officers were unhappy as the site is within a busy built-up area and the mast would be towards the bottom of a rising hillside and next to a bus stop.

Officers refused the plans using delegated powers. They said: “The proposed mast is significantly taller than the limited surrounding street furniture, and around 5.5 metres taller than the surrounding street trees.

“It is located in a prominent position and would be viewed from some substantial distances.

“The monopole is inappropriate due to its height and siting. The importance attached by the Government to the provision of a high-quality telecommunications network is acknowledged, however in this instance it does not outweigh the negative implications.”

Cornerstone said the way people use phones and other technology has changed over the past 30 years and base stations must be located where the local demand exists.

It said: “5G uses higher frequency radio signals that have a shorter range and will require more base station sites than the existing networks.

“Wherever possible, existing installations will be used to accommodate the necessary infrastructure.

“In certain cases the upgrade of service will require a dual pole solution for sites which currently have a single pole design.

“Due to the technology required for 5G service, the antenna height in many cases must be greater than that for previous generation technology.

“It is very important to note that mobiles can only work with a network of base stations in place where people want to use their phones or other wireless devices. Without base stations, the technology we rely on simply won’t work.”

A planning inspector will now make the final decision.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: The Star, Lucy Ashton, 05 Oct 2021

5G Mobile phone mast proposal thrown out after councillors heard (traffic) safety fears
United Kingdom Created: 12 Oct 2021
CK Hutchison Networks (UK) Ltd, made an application to erect a 15-metre high pole on the junction of Ashtree Lane and Hookergate Lane, in High Spen, but it was voted down by the committee on Wednesday evening.

A report to the committee stated that the scheme would provide 5G signal and coverage for the 3 mobile phone network.

However, the authority received five objections raising fears about traffic, the impact on the street scene, saying the technology would be an "eyesore" and "intrusive".

These were backed up by ward councillor Marilyn Charlton who attended the meeting to speak against the plans.

Coun Charlton raised fears for the safety of pedestrians, pointing out that it would be on the only footpath.

She said: "It is far too close to Ashfeild Court and High Spen Court, which is just 3.5m from where the mast is.

"It is just a small country lane and High Spen Court, which is not occupied yet, is opposite.

"Regarding the path; this is the only path on Ashtree Lane. Ashtree Lane is recently being used as a rat run because we have got a 20 mile per hour at Barlow and 20 miles per hour at Rowlands Gill and quite a bit of travel is going up and down Ashtree Lane which is very small.

"What you couldn't see from the designs that have been put up is this is a very dangerous junction.

"It's a four way junction. If you come out in your car you have to creep out there.

"The idea of people trying to avoid this mast and these cabinets and cars trying to creep out at the same time and people coming along on their route to and from school I don't think its a good idea."

Coun Charlton is not a member of the planning committee and has no voting rights.

Three expressions of support for the proposals were also sent to the authority, with backers saying that mobile signal is poor in the area and that the mast is needed to "modernise" it.

The planning committee unanimously voted against the application.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Chronicle Live, Herbert Soden, 08 Oct 2021

How 5G rollout became such a long, hard slog
United Kingdom Created: 10 Sep 2021
Traverse the leafy neighborhoods of southwest London and the 5G connection flickers on and off like a faulty streetlight. Thankfully, for the zone's commuters and smartphone zombies, there is still no application that depends on 5G connectivity. And 4G is everywhere.

That technology spread rapidly across the UK after it was first switched on by EE in October 2012. When Ofcom, the UK regulator, got around to publishing its communications market update for June 2014, it celebrated the fact that more than 70% of homes were covered by a 4G network. There have been no such plaudits about 5G.

Launched in mid-2019, the latest generation of mobile technology gave Ofcom nothing to cheer in the latest May report. "We are still in the early stages of 5G rollout, so we will not be reporting on 5G coverage in this update," said Ofcom. "We continue to work with mobile operators to establish how best to evaluate and report on 5G coverage."

The few figures that have been squeezed out of service providers highlight the gap between 4G and 5G. In July, BT, EE's owner, revealed that it covers just 40% of the UK population with 5G more than two years after launch. Its 4G network, at the equivalent stage of rollout, was available to more than 80% of people. Nor can most consumers expect a 5G service to arrive soon. BT's target is to reach only half the population by 2023.

Rivals are even further behind. Vodafone is not disclosing the percentage but says it is "a bit less" than BT's. Three, the smallest of the UK operators, says it has made 5G available to 30% of the "outdoor" population. Virgin Media O2 is not for sharing details.

The stunted development of 5G is not just a UK phenomenon. By April this year, 5G services running over important "mid-band" spectrum were available to fewer than 10% of people living in European Union countries plus the UK, according to Ericsson, a vendor of 5G equipment. And in lower-band airwaves, 5G is no better than 4G.

Heavy lifting

The equipment looks partly to blame. The relatively lightweight network boxes that came with 4G were often easy to hoist into position. Streets did not have to be shut down, nor masts reinforced. EE, which re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum, was able to rely on the same antennas it had deployed for older services, according to an industry source close to the matter. "It was a doddle," he says.

By contrast, the radio units that Vodafone initially bought for its 5G rollout each weighed about 60 kilograms, says Ker Anderson, Vodafone UK's head of radio and performance. "Big, lumpy heavy objects require steel work and quite a lot of plant on site to install in a safe manner," he told reporters at a media roundtable last week. The physical process of upgrading has been "a lot more work than with 4G."

Fortunately, the 5G boxes are getting lighter. The units Vodafone now buys from Ericsson weigh less than 30 kilograms each, says Anderson, and can be installed more easily. Those could speed up the rollout of more advanced 5G networks for all operators. Until now, BT says it has had to fall back on less capable 5G units, incorporating fewer transmitters and receivers, to overcome the city planning obstacles it has occasionally faced with heavier gear.

Harder to fix is a shortage of mobile sites. The grid of European masts is adequate for services that operate in spectrum up to and including the 2.6GHz band, previously awarded for 2G, 3G and 4G technologies. But the distances between sites may be too great for the mid-band frequencies in and around 3.5GHz, licensed for use with 5G. Signals will not travel as far in higher ranges, fading at the cell edge like runners in need of refreshment.

This largely explains why mid-band 5G is far more pervasive in Asian markets that already had a very dense mobile network grid. The outstanding example is South Korea, where mid-band 5G services now cover more than 90% of the population, says Ericsson. For every 10,000 people, South Korea currently has more than 57 sites, while Germany and France have fewer than ten.

Building new sites today would be costly, and hardly any European operators have announced plans for such "densification." To overcome signal propagation challenges, they are relying on a technology called dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), which splits lower-band spectrum between 4G and 5G. Even Germany's Deutsche Telekom, one of the few European operators constructing hundreds of new sites each year, looks heavily dependent on DSS. Only 2,400 of its 55,000 5G antennas currently use mid-band spectrum, it said last week.

DSS has come in for heavy criticism from Nick Read, Vodafone Group's CEO. "Some operators are taking DSS, which is effectively giving you a 5G symbol but 4G performance," he told analysts on a call in November. Yet Vodafone UK appears to have gone down the same path. Gabriel Brown, a London-based Heavy Reading analyst who has been monitoring 5G rollouts, tweeted in June that he rarely encounters a Vodafone service that operates in 3.5GHz spectrum.

"The DSS you are seeing is a precursor," said Anderson last week. "That is just about getting more footprint out there. That is not necessarily the end game for us." But it remains unclear whether operators can provide blanket mid-band coverage without adding sites. France's Orange believes it can avoid much 5G densification by using more efficient technology. Ericsson is unconvinced.

Demand gap

Service providers are in no apparent hurry while there is no compelling reason for consumers to upgrade. "I don't think 5G to consumers, in terms of the magnitude of the step from 3G to 4G that we had, is even close," said Anderson. "You can get 100 Mbit/s, whereas on 4G you got 30 Mbit/s, but – in reality – what does that mean for a consumer?"

He is not the only technology executive who questions 5G's immediate appeal. "3G and HSPA [a high-speed version of 3G] was a poor substitute for 4G and 5G," said Neil McRae, BT's chief network architect, in July. "Moving from 4G to 5G is not that kind of packet-based improvement and we've done that piece of it."

The metrics bear this out. Of Vodafone's roughly 17 million mobile customers, only about 3 million have a 5G SIM card and plan, and not all of those have a 5G-compatible device. BT has stopped providing details of total customer numbers but says only about 4 million are "5G-ready." At about the same stage of its 4G rollout, EE had nearly 8 million customers.

The 5G launch has not provided any revenue uplift, either. Vodafone UK's average revenue per user (ARPU) has fallen from £14.10 per month before the 5G launch to £13.70. For contract customers, BT's ARPU has dropped from £20.70 to £18 over a similar period. Competition has whittled down prices.

No doubt, the coronavirus pandemic and a UK government-mandated swap-out of Huawei kit have also had an impact. In Vodafone's case, the controversial Chinese vendor is making way for new suppliers of open RAN, an immature technology that appears to have slowed Vodafone down. One problem is a lack of open RAN support for 3G, a technology still in widespread use among Vodafone customers. A need to maintain 3G for several years is "holding us back from introducing open RAN," said Anderson last week.

With revenues under pressure, finance departments are reluctant to commit additional funds to 5G rollout. And there is no shortage of other projects consuming attention. Anderson reels off a list that includes mobile edge computing, investment in optical transport and the launch of standalone 5G, a new variant. BT is spending billions on the rollout of full-fiber networks to UK homes. Under pressure from rivals and regulators, it aims to cover 25 million homes by the mid-2020s.

A 5G problem in waiting?

It all explains why cutbacks and efficiency have become telco priorities. Besides selling assets, shutting down older platforms (such as 3G) and automating processes, operators are spinning off towers and sharing infrastructure. BT aims to reduce annual costs by £2 billion ($2.8 billion). Vodafone slashed operating expenses by 7.5% in its last fiscal year.

Few denizens of southwest London and other European cities will care about spotty 5G coverage. Most would not even notice the yoyoing between 4G and 5G that inevitably occurs. Not, that is, unless a mobile application arrives that is simply too advanced to run on any 4G network. If that day comes, the 5G gulf between South Korea and Europe will suddenly be a much bigger deal.

Click here to view the source article.
Source: Light Reading, Iain Morris, 09 Sep 2021

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