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Maybe 5G isnt better: Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast


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In October 1945, Arthur C Clarke wrote a paper, published in Wireless World magazine in the united kingdom, discussing a worldwide communications network

Arthur C Clarkes profound paper from 1945 presents the idea of geospatial orbit, making the declare that with three satellites at this orbit round the equator it could be possible to attain global communications.

Today, the expense of launching satellites has fallen dramatically, to the extent that it’s now feasible to use a constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, with the capacity of delivering broadband to anyone and everyone.

But is this technology overkill, especially as 5G mobile networking is well on the path to establishing itself because the next generation of mobile communications?

The 5G half-truth

Bill Ray, a vice-president analyst at Gartner, believes there exists a big problem with 5G. Ray may be the lead writer of among Gartners so-called maverick research notes, supplying a different perspective to typical concerning the adoption of 5G mobile networking.

Gartner has forecast that by 2027, 35% of large enterprises will gain nearly all their clients from areas that lack reliable connectivity. Rays research shows that 5G cannot deliver on its application promises outside small islands of commercial deployment and vertically integrated examples.

In this podcast, Ray speaks to Computer Weekly concerning the challenges of the 5G roll-out and just why he believes it isn’t delivering the connectivity required by businesses and consumers. 5G is really a technology searching for a problem to resolve, he says.

In accordance with Ray, 5G was created by mobile network operators that wanted grounds to expand their operations also to increase their revenue. It wasnt made to solve a particular problem. Nobody sat down and said 4G isn’t good enough and for that reason we have to make 5G, he says.

The overriding issue with 5G could it be is not much better than 4G it generally does not change the knowledge, it doesnt make 4G better also it doesnt improve access to the internet
Bill Ray, Gartner

With the operating on a 10-year cycle, well have 6G in 2030, Ray adds. We still dont know very well what it’ll be useful for, but we shall own it.

As the headline-grabbing figure for 5G connectivity may be the 20Gbps peak bandwidth number, Ray says that even the sustained bandwidth figure of 100Mbps offered over 5G exceeds the bandwidth that anyone can consume on a cellular phone.

I believe the overriding issue with 5G could it be is not much better than 4G it generally does not change the knowledge, it doesnt make 4G better also it doesnt improve access to the internet, he says. Even though youre streaming continuously, theres a limit to just how much it is possible to stream. As soon as you get beyond about 70Mbps or 80Mbps, theres nothing more that can be done.

While 5G helps it be technically possible to download gigabits of mobile data per second, Rays view is that folks cannot consume anywhere near this much data. Actually, he says, it is possible to barely put this level of data in to the phones memory at that speed, so youve got all of this data rushing in, nevertheless, you cant do anything with it.

While you can find applications that need extremely high bandwidth, todays smartphones require much less. Actually, research from Gartner shows that most enterprise applications, including streaming applications and video-conferencing, only require about 6Mbps, which falls well within 4G territory.

Regardless of the high-bandwidth headline figures touted by the mobile operators, Ray believes the advantage of 5G networking is its capability to provide ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC). Instead of being linked to a base station, your cellular phone, car or drone connects to 3 or 4 base stations simultaneously. This way, in case a base station disappears or the bond gets broken, your connection remains intact. It just decreases. This way, you could have completely reliable connections, he says.

However, although it is in the technical specification for 5G, Ray says URLLC is not deployed and we have been still years from having it.

The satellite era

In the study paper, Ray and fellow Gartner analysts Roger Williams, Alfonso Velosa and Marty Resnick discuss why satellite internet comes with an possibility to provide ubiquitous connectivity in a manner that puts 5G to shame.

The opportunity to use low Earth orbit has significantly reduced the expense of deploying satellites in space. Ray says these satellites may also be now much cheaper.

Ironically, the reason why theyre cheaper is due to cell phones, he says. We spent the final 20 years making antennas, sorting out radio frequencies, developing processors and batteries and everything that switches into a smartphone. This technology is ideal for satellites: it really is miniaturised, lightweight, robust and waterproof.

LEO satellites today are mainly launched using rockets. To cover the complete planet, a satellite operator needs hundreds, possibly thousands, of satellites. Fortunately, rockets have improved significantly, making deployment easier. Virgin Galactic has even tested launching a missile with a satellite as its payload, mounted on a Boeing 747 aircraft.

The Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX, the business founded by Elon Musk, recently launched 50 LEO satellites at once. Starship, the companys latest rocket, happens to be being tested. When it’s ready, Ray says Starship will be able to take several hundred satellites into low Earth orbit on each launch.

Because the amount of satellites which can be deployed per rocket launch increases, the price goes down. In accordance with Ray, SpaceXs Musk has ambitions to create the price of launching a satellite right down to an extremely optimistic figure of $10 per kilogram. So, while a huge selection of LEO satellites could be needed, the satellites being manufactured by SpaceX weigh just 260kg, meaning that it could eventually cost just $2,600 to launch them.

Why use satellite internet?

Ray says Starlink, the section of SpaceX specialising in satellite internet, has already been offering home access to the internet to half of a million people all over the world. You may get a Starlink dish, put it outside and obtain access to the internet between 100Mbps and 200Mbps for $110 per month. That is already happening in fact it is changing peoples lives today.

SpaceX isn’t alone. China has SatNet, a constellation of 12,992 satellites. The UKs OneWeb 648-satellite constellation has merged with EutelSat, which operates a 36-strong fleet of geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites. EUROPE has announced 2.4bn funding within a 6bn European satellite constellation. And through Amazons Project Kuiper, the e-commerce giant is likely to launch 3,236 LEO satellites using rockets from Arianespace, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Suddenly, says Ray, its beginning to make sense to possess these satellites in low Earth orbit.

Another significant chance for satellite internet is mobile backhaul. For example, Ray says KDDI in Japan is deploying 1,200 base stations with satellite backhaul via Starlink. You don’t have for high-speed fibre connectivity all that is required is really a satellite dish and power. The electricity could even be provided with a diesel generator or solar power panels, enabling operators to deploy mobile internet base stations almost anywhere.

It now becomes much cheaper to roll out cellular phone infrastructure, says Ray. Within the past, satellite communications could have been the only real option in remote locations, now, anywhere that will require fibre connectivity to a base station to be installed can avoid this unnecessary cost through the use of satellite connectivity instead.

Direct cellular phone connectivity

It is possible to go one stage further, just because a cellular phone can send a sign about 500km, says Ray, that makes it possible to utilize mobile phones for connecting right to a satellite with no need for just about any mobile infrastructure.

Satellite broadband company OneWeb launches 34 more satellites from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana

Actually, that is just what satellite mobile operator startup Lynk Mobile did. In April 2022, Lynk launched and deployed Lynk Tower 1. Charles Miller, CEO and co-founder of Lynk, says the business is positioned to begin with commercial service later this season and what he claims may be the worlds first true satellite-direct-to-phone service to citizens around the world.

Nokia recently signed a cope with another startup, AST SpaceMobile, where its AirScale Single RAN equipment will undoubtedly be used in combination with AST SpaceMobile to supply mobile services to new and existing subscribers in regions currently not served by terrestrial communications networks. This consists of connecting devices globally on land, at sea, or in flight, says AST SpaceMobile.

Discussing the partnership in July, Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer at AST SpaceMobile, said: In the coming months, we have been scheduled to launch our BlueWalker 3 test satellite into low Earth orbit, that includes a 64m2 phased array antenna created for direct-to-cell connectivity. With this particular satellite, we intend to conduct testing across the world with leading mobile network operators, leveraging Nokias technology solutions on the floor.

Challenges facing satellite broadband

The big question, says Ray, may be the economic viability of satellite broadband.

Starlink plans to deploy a lot more than 30,000 satellites. With 30,000 satellites, each having a lifespan of five years, merely to keep up with the network youre replacing 500 satellites per month, he says.

Considering that the existing Falcon 9 rocket is with the capacity of launching 50 satellites every time, Ray says Starlink would have to launch satellites every three days merely to keep up with the network. Needless to say, you will have larger launch vehicles, such as for example SpaceXs Starship, if this becomes operational. But they are unknowns.

Addititionally there is the chance of manufacturing LEO satellites in space, but that is in the realms of science fiction. We have been pushing the boundaries, Ray adds. We have been discussing manufacturing in space and flexible configurations. We have to do these exact things as the opportunities are so vast.

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