Will fibre broadband be obsolete by 2030 – and what about 5G?
A new report claims 5G tech will replace Brits’ fixed-line broadband connections, offering double the current average speeds.
Labour says its free broadband plans are ‘following the model of what’s happened elsewhere’
Labour has promised to give every home and business in the UK free full-fibre broadband by 2030 if it wins the general election.
Video: Jeremy Corbyn rolls out Labour’s ‘free broadband’ plan
The plan would see millions more properties given access to a full-fibre connection, though Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “a crackpot scheme”.
If the plan went ahead and was completed on time, would it still be useful in 2030?
What is full-fibre broadband?
There are three main types of broadband connection that link the local telephone exchange to your home or office:
ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) uses copper cables to a street-level cabinet or junction box and on to the house
FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) uses a faster fibre optic cable to the cabinet, but then copper cable from there to the house
FTTP (fibre to the premises) uses a fibre optic cable to connect to households without using any copper cable
The old landline telephone infrastructure across the UK used copper cables, but accessing the internet over copper cables is slower than over fibre optic cables.
Fibre optic cables are made from glass or plastic and use pulses of light to transmit data, offering much faster internet access.
Full-fibre broadband refers to an FTTP connection: the entire line from the telephone exchange to your home uses fibre optic cables.
How fast is full-fibre?
Currently, the UK government defines superfast broadband as having speeds greater than 30 megabits per second (Mbps). A megabit is the standard measurement of internet speed.
Ultrafast is defined as a speed greater than 100Mbps.
A connection using both fibre and copper (FTTC) can reach speeds of about 66Mbps.
But a full-fibre connection (FTTP) – with no copper – can offer much faster average speeds of one gigabit per second (Gbps) – that’s 1,000Mbps.
Full-fibre can also deliver very low latency: that means less delay between sending a request and getting a response.
That is not just important for video gamers. Low latency connections promise new opportunities for remote work, especially in fast-paced industries that cannot afford delays.
There are other types of very fast connection as well. Virgin Media uses a different type of cable for the last section that comes into your house, which in theory can offer speeds of up to 10Gbps.
There is also a service called G.fast, which uses a special pod to boost the speed of the standard copper cable connection.
Will full-fibre be obsolete in 2030?
Predicting what the future holds for technology is obviously difficult.
But full-fibre broadband, where ultra-fast optical cables carry data right into your home or office, is currently the “gold standard”.
“There is no doubt that we need fibre connectivity, in particular all the way to the home. That’s something everybody is on board with across the industry and political parties,” said Matthew Howett, an analyst at Assembly Research.
While full-fibre connections can currently promise speeds of one gigabit per second, future upgrades could potentially offer speeds in terabits per second. (One terabit equals 1,000 gigabits.)
That could be made possible by replacing the equipment at either end of the cables – in the telephone exchange and at home – without laying new cables.
If, come 2030, there is a new emerging technology and countries are thinking about replacing their full-fibre systems, the UK would start on the same footing.
Why invest in fibre rather than 5G?
Wireless connections can be a useful way to connect remote homes to the internet, but 5G may not be the answer for sparsely populated areas.
5G networks can operate on several different frequencies, but the higher frequencies do not penetrate buildings and trees as well as the lower frequencies.
Using those high frequencies requires many more transmitters, closer to the homes and offices that need internet access.
And those so-called nano-masts are typically connected to the internet backbone by fibre.
“Investing in fibre improves both fixed line services and helps to support connecting the many new nano-masts needed for 5G at its highest speeds,” said Andrew Ferguson from the news site Thinkbroadband.com.
However, the government plans to auction lower-frequency spectrum – freed up from the digital TV switchover – for 5G services.
“The 700MHz frequency band that will be auctioned is good at covering large rural areas,” said Mr Howett.
“Anything freed up from that switchover from analogue to digital TV means you can reach more people with fewer base stations.”
However, even if the UK focused on national 5G coverage, guaranteeing a stable connection to every home would be difficult.
Atmospheric conditions can lead to variation in latency with wireless connections.
“The problem with the final leg still being wireless is easily illustrated by the problems people have with existing wi-fi,” said Mr Ferguson.
“People often find they cannot cover their whole home without additional wireless repeaters.
“And in the worst case scenario, a double decker bus could park between you and the lamp post across the street.
“Full-fibre into the building technically gives a much better experience and avoids the variables that 5G cannot always overcome.“
Apple could beat Samsung and Huawei to become the leader in 5G smartphones next year, even though it’s late to the game (AAPL)
Apple could lead the 5G smartphone market next year, despite the fact that it’s one of the few major smartphone makers that hasn’t launched a 5G phone yet, according to Strategy Analytics.
Apple could surpass Samsung and Huawei to lead the market for 5G smartphones in 2020, according to a new report from Strategy Analytics.
The study reiterates the sentiment that Wall Street analysts have shared in the past about Apple’s 2020 flagship , several of which have said that next year’s iPhone could be the catalyst for bringing Apple’s iPhone business back to growth.
Apple is one of the few major device makers that has yet to release a 5G-enabled smartphone. Samsung, LG, Motorola, and OnePlus have all launched devices that are capable of connecting to 5G, even though such networks are still sparse in the United States.
But that won’t stop Apple from claiming a dominant portion of the 5G phone market next year, according to Strategy Analytics. If the three new 5G-enabled iPhones that Apple is expected to release next year match upgrade rates for this year’s iPhones, the company could very well take the lead next year, the research firm said.
However, that spot at the top could be short-lived, as the report also notes that Samsung is expected to reclaim the lead in the long term following 2020. That’s largely because Samsung is already the biggest smartphone maker in the world by market share. And as 5G networks become deployed more widely in the coming years, 5G will probably become the standard across most of Samsung’s smartphones.
Samsung currently offers its flagship Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 phones in both 5G and non-5G variants, with the 5G versions being more expensive. Apple, comparatively, is expected to implement 5G across all three of its new iPhones next year, according to projections from TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
Chinese tech giant Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, will have trouble expanding outside of China next year since it remains banned from working with US companies like Google, the report notes. The US government placed Huawei on a trade blacklist in May citing cybersecurity and national security concerns, which prevents American companies from doing business with the Shenzhen-based electronics maker without obtaining a license. That also leaves Apple in a position to thrive next year.
“Regardless of its long-term prospects in terms of 5G smartphone market share, 2020 will be Apple’s time to grab bragging rights in 5G,” Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, associate director at Strategy Analytics, wrote in a release announcing the study results.
Wall Street has high hopes for Apple’s 2020 iPhones, which are expected to offer an upgraded three-dimensional camera system in addition to 5G support. Analysts from firms such as Morgan Stanley, Raymond James, and Canaccord Genuity previously said in August, before the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro were even announced, that the company’s 2020 iPhones will be what Apple needs to rejuvenate its smartphone sales.
That being said, the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro appear to be selling well, although Apple no longer releases information on the number of iPhone units sold. Apple CEO Tim Cook said on the company’s fiscal fourth quarter earnings call that the iPhone 11 has become the company’s best-selling iPhone.
Wedbush Securities also recently said in a note written by analysts Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe that overall iPhone 11 demand is trending much better than expected heading into the holiday season. The firm predicts that 350 million of the 900 million iPhones in Apple’s installed base are poised for an upgrade in 2020, and that Apple could sell 200 million iPhone units next year.
That’s as important as ever for Apple as iPhone revenue continues to decline. Apple’s burgeoning services and wearables businesses have played a big role in offsetting dropping iPhone sales, helping the company reach record September quarter revenue in 2019. But the iPhone still remains Apple’s most profitable product.
Who is really driving investment in 5G technology?
Is 5G driven by consumer markets or industries? And what about automation? How will these markets ramp up? Our research tells us that consumers expect 5G to automate many areas of everyday life, yet we still do not know how.
However, categorizing some countries as consumerized and others as more industrialized could give us a clue. Read on to find out why.
The year is drawing to a close. Our tenth and final trend in this year’s consumer trends report is 5G automates society. Based on data from over 72,000 smartphone users across 50 countries, the research found that people expect 5G to support automation in a variety of ways.
For example, 23 percent of respondents believe 5G will benefit self-driving cars, and in a follow-up survey of advanced urban internet users, self-driving cars were ranked second among future-oriented devices thought to become commonplace.
But just saying “self-driving cars” is much simpler than making them a reality. To get there would require great change across many other aspects of society, including laws, streets signs, and lane systems. The question which interests me is: will consumers be the first to sit in the self-driving seat, or is it more likely that industry will drive the investment in this particular 5G technology?
More than 1 in 5 respondents also believe 5G will enable internet connected electricity, gas and water meters. That means replacing an incredible number of existing meters. Again, this is easier said than done.
To answer these questions, we should think about how different countries are structured economically. Take the US, the UK, Germany or Japan. Do you think of them as industrialized countries? Think again: the official terminology is “developed nations,” since, technically speaking, they are post-industrial.
But defining something by what it is not is never a good idea; so I suggest we call them consumerized countries instead. Not only do their service sectors provide more wealth than the industrial sectors, but more than half of their GDP (a staggering 68 percent in the US) comes from consumption, outweighing both exports and government spending.
In countries like these I predict automation will be consumer-driven; for the simple reason that most things are. Given that cellular networks are integral to consumerization today – with everything from entertainment to groceries to insurance being purchased via smartphones – it would be strange if this didn’t increase with 5G.
But there are other places in the world. Right now, I’m writing this in Sweden. Sweden is well-known for its welfare state and its higher than average government spending. But Sweden is also export-oriented and has a positive trade balance.
However, only 43 percent of GDP is generated by consumption in Sweden. That is the lowest in Scandinavia and is only lower in a couple of other European countries. So, when 5G automates Swedish society, some of that will be driven by government investment in 5G technology, and some of it will be driven by export-oriented Swedish industries.
Since they don’t have a large home market to fall back on, Swedish industries will need to remain on the cutting edge of productivity and digitalization in order to remain innovative and competitive.
But as I am sure you realize; this concept is heavily over-simplified. For example, we tend to divide markets into business-to-consumer (B2C) and business- to-business (B2B), whereas most markets are probably business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C). So, while I initially categorized Germany as a consumerized nation, it simultaneously has a more positive trade balance than Sweden, and as such will also be quite B2B oriented.
So, when 37 percent of the smartphone owners surveyed predicted 5G will better enable home alarms and 21 percent expected 5G to enable mobile use of AR/VR headsets, there will likely be a mix of both consumer and industry applications.
Still, looking at how GDP is generated in different countries might give you a surprisingly good idea of how things will play out.
There are many other future-oriented and highly relevant topics in this year’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends. Head over there and take a look!