A few weeks ago, I attended a TMForum local event which had a number of different tracks for different topics. While I’d normally be attending the fulfilment track that my CEO Greg Tilton was running, I opted for the 5G track to check out an area I don’t normally get too involved in.
There was a lot of discussion on 5G slices. If you’re wondering what a 5G slice is, you can think of it as a subset of the bandwidth that’s dedicated to a particular purpose. That might be for a specific enterprise, or Emergency services or for a device type like IOT. If a enterprise customer wants to guarantee that they’ll have bandwidth no matter how busy a cell tower is, a 5G slice is the way to do that.
Lets take the example of an enterprise customer buying a 5G slice for themselves, then lets say that they also buy from cloud compute and storage – perhaps resold through the Telco that’s also providing the 5G slice and lets say that same Telco is also providing an e-WAN to connect their headquarters with their branches all over the country, with a fail-over to the 5G slice that they bought. The e-WAN fibre network could be completely software definable (SD-WAN) for greater flexibility and resilience. The Telco might also resell Office 365, Dynamics CRM and other cloud applications … more and more, the Telco in this scenario is providing what in the past has been provided by the Enterprise’s IT department.
Are we seeing Telcos becoming the new IT department of the enterprise?
Over the years, many internal IT departments have shrunk, particularly in terms of the services that they provide in house. More and more, those departments are outsourcing software services to cloud providers like Salesforce.com, ServiceNow.com and (of course) inomial.net. As we see them also outsource infrastructure services to to the likes of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and IBM Softlayer, that’s less and less for the IT departments to manage (particularly in terms of the in-house server rooms).
If I compare the current IT world to my first job in the sector way back in 1994 where I was responsible for day to day running of:
A DEC VAX mini-computer
A Lotus Notes collaboration platform
A Lotus cc:Mail email platform
A bank of 36 modems for remote staff to connect back to the core systems
Changing backup tapes and taking them once a week to a bank safety deposit box for offsite storage
We didn’t have any other offices, so no real multi-site connectivity required, but if we did, back then it would have most likely been a leased ISDN line between the different sites.
Let’s compare with what I see in IT departments today…
Remote staff connectivity over the internet
Outsourced software platforms (providing capabilities like billing, CRM, Ticketing etc)
That doesn’t leave a lot of in-house services that the IT departments are providing.
That doesn’t mean that the Telcos are replacing the IT departments, but if a Telco is selling advanced services such as compute, storage, software and networks as a service, we could get to a situation where Telcos are providing more IT department services than not – it’s an opportunity for Telcos to elevate themselves up fromt he networks that they traditionally provide…
I see some Telcos reselling SaaS products of other cloud providers, but not a lot of them are tying it all together in a comprehensive offering to Enterprise customers in an effort to take over from the in house IT departments.
I watch some of the Internet’s stupidest conspiracy theories; chemtrails, jets don’t burn fuel, flat earth, hollow earth, moon landings were faked, vaccines cause autism (and apparently every other childhood ailment), naturopathy, chiropractic, HAARP weather modification etc – they all provide a bit of amusement to me when I consider how easy it is for some people to get sucked in.
Recently, I’ve been hearing more and more conspiracy theories around 5G mobile networks. Some more ridiculous than others:
5G causes cancer and other cellular mutations
5G causes headaches
5G causes weather problems such as storms
5G causes COVID-19 (SARS-Cov-2 Coronavirus)
5G cause trees to be deformed, losing branches and leaves
One of my family members has been spreading these conspiracy theories, trying to convince the rest of my family to sign some protest web site to prevent the roll out of 5G. She has been seeing conspiracy memes blaming 5G for bird mass death events, for headaches (allegedly causing nausea, headaches and other wellness issues at the Glastonbury Music festival – I’ll cover this one separately).
Lets get a basic understading of the facts first.
5G is the term used to identify the fifth generation of mobile phone technology – moving beyond 4G (generally Long Term Evolution (LTE)) which itself is an evolutionary change from 3G technologies which did not require telcos to completely rebuild their networks, rather just add some components to each cell site and turn it on. I know that’s a rash generalisation, but in simple terms, that’s what needed to happen for the 4G rollout and adequately explains why 4G was so quickly rolled out in comparison to 3G around the world.
5G radio frequencies are higher on the electromagnetic radiation scale than previous generations of mobile phone networks but still much lower than radiation we’re exposed to from numerous other sources. 5G mobile network frequencies are split into two basic bands – the lower frequencies which are within the same range of previous generations and the higher frequency band in the 26-39 GHz range.
5G is not just about more bandwidth/speed for consumers, it’s also about supporting a much greater density of devices – this is key for the Internet of Things (IOT) becoming pervasive – more and more small devices connecting to improve our lives in lots of different ways.
The higher frequency and corresponding shorter wavelength has much less penetration power that longer wavelength frequencies.
Because of the lower penetration power for (the higher frequency) 5G networks, the range of the network will be significantly reduced compared to previous generation networks. This means that a 5G network will need to have many more cells to cover the same geographic region. The distance between cell towers will be much shorter as a result.
So, should you be freaked out by 5G mobile networks or not?
The short answer is no. The long answer is that it’s complicated; long term testing of a 5G network’s effects on humans has not been conducted, so some caution should be exercised. That said, you should also consider the following:
We are constantly exposed to EMF radiation at higher frequencies and higher power than a 5G network could ever deliver and we don’t suffer any significant consequences from that.
As unlicensed ElectroMagnetic Field (EMF) spectrum, the 5GHz band is widely used by Wifi networks, Microwave Ovens, Refrigerators and others items around the house) – this is very close to the higher frequencies of the 5G bandwidths.
Incidents of brain cancer have not increased in the past 20 years as mobile phones have become more and more pervasive. Experts consider brain cancer to be the most likely cancer if mobile phone usage did have a causal effect because of the proximity to the head of mobile phones when on a call – which also coincides with the maximum power output of a mobile phone – when on a call)
Because of the weak penetration power of the 5G radio signal, it cannot penetrate more than 5-8mm beneath the skin of a person.
5G enabled phones have between 1-3 watts of transmission power – that’s very little power.
EMF radiation in the tens of GHz range does have the ability to excite molecules and apply a warming effect, however because of the weak power levels a human would not be able to detect such warming of their skin or sub-dermal tissue.
EMF below 750 THz (7.5 x 1015 HZ)does not have the power to knock electrons out of their orbits and is called non-ionising radiation. Non-ionising radiation is not considered harmful by the health community. 5G has a much lower frequency (3.9 x 1010 Hz) than this.
Don’t get freaked out by the term EMF radiation – you’re not going to grow extra eyes or get super powers!
The diagram below illustrates the EMF spectrum – from non-ionising all the way to harmful Gamma Rays (which are Ionising – do you remember that from High School – that’s when I first learned about them).
With all the paranoia surrounding the 5G rollout, I’m constantly amazed by the lack of critical thinking skills being exhibited by so many people. For instance – the alleged health impact of the 5G trail at Glastonbury. With about 10 minutes of research online – being careful of sources, it seems that BT were planning on running a 5G trail at the Glastonbury music festival in 2019. These mass gatherings provide telcos with a unique test that they cannot achieve in a lab with a handful of 5G handsets. A local committee called Villagers Against Masts (VAM) who seem to have swallowed the 5G conspiracy theories hook line and sinker petitioned the local council to prevent the 5G trial. Frightened of the bad press they would get from VAM for allowing the 5G trial, then prevented BT from running the trial. There were no reports I could find from reputable news sources that indicated anyone attending the festival suffered from headaches, nausea and other mysterious health conditions. It didn’t happen. Despite this and the fact that the 5G trial didn’t even happen, there were still memes published suggesting that the 5G trial caused all sorts of health issues for the festival goers.
So – a lack of critical thinking prevented all these conspiracy theorists from getting to the bottom of the real situation – instead they chose to accept a meme they saw on facebook or instagram as the truth.
Another instance of 5G damaging life I’ve heard of is the supposed mass bird deaths supposedly as a result of 5G. Again a little bit of research online reveals that the locations of these mass bird death events are never where there is a 5G deployment. One example given to me as “proof” was a mass bird death event that happened in the Welsh countryside at Angelsey – follow the link, you’ll see how far Angelsey is from major cities in the UK. Where do you think UK telcos are deploying 5G networks first? yep – where their customers are – in the major cities. Nowhere near Angelsey. A lack of critical thinking is preventing people from dismissing these crazy conspiracy theories with a minimal amount of thought or effort.
Amid our current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, I see the same lack of critical thinking skills being applied to 5G supposedly causing COVID-19. Radio waves cannot cause a virus to develop. Wuhan, China was not the first city in the world to have 5G coverage, in fact it’s 5G coverage is quite spotty – London, England has much more coverage than Wuhan.
Think about it:
The virus may have started in Wuhan, but it has spread worldwide and the 5G deployments have only just begun in most countries – there is a distinct lack of a causal relationship.
Radio waves (EMF radiation) cannot cause mutation of viruses let alone magically create viruses or damage human cells.
The majority of COVID-19 cases in Australia find their roots in the Ruby Princess cruise ship that docked in Sydney with multiple infections – the ship does not have a 5G network aboard and did not visit cities with 5G networks prior to arriving in sydney with infected people on-board.
I see the same pattern among flat earthers, moon landing deniers, anti-vaxxers and 5G conspiracists – a lack of critical thinking and an eagerness to accept these crazy ideas because that’s all they’re getting fed within their echo chamber bubbles on social media means that these insane theories continue to circulate and continue to drag in new people who fail to exercise critical thinking.
Well – this post has gone a bit longer than I had intended. Sorry for that. All I ask that you do is to use critical thinking when you come across these crazy 5G conspiracies and encourage others to do the same.
Over the years, I’ve worked with national broadband projects in Australia, New Zealand, Qatar and Singapore. More recently in Australia, the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Their Retail Service Providers (RSPs) – who sell the NBN services to end customers, have been up in arms about NBN approaching large enterprise customers directly. Today, they announced that they would no longer do that – and that has the RSPs like Vocus, Mactel and Telstra very happy. Arguably, the decicion for NBN to sell direct was in breach of the founding principles that the Australian government put in place when it created NBNCo.
Such controversy is not why I think the NBN and the equivalents in other countries are doomed, although it’s not helping their case in the eyes of the public and end customers.
No, I think the proliferation of 5G networks and more recently global players like SpaceX’s Starlink constellation could be the harbinger of death for NBN.
NBN has been copping a lot of flack lately in the media for taking too long to roll out. I get it, Australia is a HUGE country – even with most Australians living within an hour of the coast, it’s still a lot of physical ground that needs to be covered by the fibre and HFC networks that cover the bulk of the NBN end users. This has lead to a level of dissatisfaction with NBN as a whole.
Those end customers that do have a NBN connection are often complaining to the telecommunications ombudsman about the service they get – and while some of those faults are laid at the doorstep of the RSPs, some of it is due to physical breakages of modems and network termination devices and some are the fault of NBN – in all cases, because in Australia, we include NBN in the product offerings of the RSPs (ie – its customer facing), NBN cops the blame for ALL of the issues. As an example, my RSP (Optus) sold me a 100/40 HFC based NBN connection – which is usually fine. I often get 90-95 Mbps downstream and 30-37 Mbps upstream. However, so many HFC customers were seeing much slower than advertised speeds that Optus removed that speed combination from the market – the fastest they sell now is 50/20. (50 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up).
The 5G rollout in Australia is still pretty limited, but the 4G (LTE) rollout is pretty comprehensive and on 4G, I often see speeds approaching my home NBN based connection. Assuming 5G will bring a significant boost in speed (along with many other advantages including much great density of connections per cell) – which means that a 5G connections promises to deliver faster connections than NBN and without the need to tie the end customer down to their home boundaries.
If you add unlimited plans (in terms of Gb to be transferred up or down) to such as 5G (or even a 4G service) then you have a strong competitor to the NBN.
Some local mobile network providers and even MVNOs are already talking about selling fixed mobile services instead of selling a NBN based home (or office) connection.
This morning, SpaceX launched another 60 satellites into orbit, bringing the total to 240 – that’s 120 new satellites within a month – well on the way to 12,000 satellites.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog post (see https://telcotalk.online/index.php/2020/01/09/starlink-a-global-csp-disruptor/), SpaceX’s Starlink constellation of communications satellites promise to deliver broadband (up to 10 Gbps) AND low latency (good for gaming) to 100% of Australia (other than the Australian Antarctic Territory). If SpaceX can deliver reasonable plans (in terms of speed, capacity and price) then SpaceX will be a strong competitor for NBN. If the plans are right, it could kill NBN.
Two NBN alternatives – either could kill NBN
Sure, NBN in Australia is facing some significant challenges, but these are exactly the same challenges that all national broadband networks/project face… Customers have zero allegance to NBN – and if 5G or Starlink will provide faster speeds at a competitive price, NBN is doomed.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T and several major international carriers and vendors threw their support behind an IMS-based approach to delivering voice and SMS services over LTE networks. The level of operator support–the approach also is supported by Orange, Telefonica, TeliaSonera and Vodafone–sits in sharp contrast to another approach, called Voice over LTE via Generic Access, or VoLGA, which is supported by T-Mobile International.
Vendors including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nokia, Samsung Electronics and Sony Ericsson also voiced their support for the initiative, dubbed One Voice. The companies said they concluded that an IMS-based approach “is the most applicable approach to meeting the consumers’ expectations for service quality, reliability and availability when moving from existing circuit-switched telephony services to IP-based LTE services. This approach will also open the path to service convergence, as IMS is able to simultaneously serve broadband wireline and LTE wireless networks.”
The companies said that the purpose of the initiative is to create the largest LTE ecosystem possible, and to avoid fragmentation of technical solutions.
Interestingly, both Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson also support the VoLGA approach, and Nokia Siemens has supported its own solution, called Fast Track Voice, which proposes having mobile switching center servers handle VoIP traffic over LTE networks. VoLGA proponents argue that their approach should be used as an interim solution. All three vendors said they do not see a conflict in supporting the different approaches.
Is it just me or when you read “VoLGA” do you think “Vulgar” – I think the ALu acronym police need to get out from behind their desks and make an arrest for that one!
I’ve drawn up a representation of the situation as I see it. NSN going it alone with Fast Track Voice, almost everyone else supporting VoLGA and planning to move to OneVoice.
The thing that I find really interesting is the inference by ALu that they will continue to stand by VoLGA as well as support it as an interim step to OneVoice while NSN seem to be saying that Fast Track Voice is only an interim step on the path to OneVoice. It’s also interesting to note that the VoLGA consortium seems to be mainly Network Equipment Providers (NEPS) while OneVoice is both NEPs and Telcos…. I suppose the most appropriate message is “watch this space”…
PS. On rereading this post, I imaging some of you are going ‘Huh?’ I apologise for the Telco jargon. Let me take a moment to try and explain some of the terms that appear in this post.
IMS – IP Multimedia Subsystem (not IBM’s mainframe database that helped put man on the moon). This is a specification controlled by 3GPP (a Telco standards body) to describe a next generation IP based telephony environment. Most telcos today still run a legacy switched environment based on very specialised protocols such as SS7 and Sigtran. These protocols are not IP based and as such require very specialised (read expensive) skills to work with them. The other thing is that they are not really standardised – each NEP has their own version of the SS7 protocols. IMS promises to bring much cheaper skills and shorter development cycles to the Telcos core platform – something they have not had before. IBM has a number of products that are targeted at telco’s IMS infrastructure (WebSphere IMS Connector, WebSphere Presence Server and WebSphere XML Document Management Server)
LTE – Long Term Evolution is seen by most NEPS as the next logical evolution step for carriers with GSM networks. That evolutionaty path goes something like this: GSM->GPRS->EDGE->UMTS->HSDP->LTE. LTE promises to deliver high bandwidth mobile connections. The main rival to LTE is WiMax which you may have heard of before.
ALu – Alcatel Lucent (a very common abbreviation for the joint company)
This post hasn’t really aged well. I’ve reposted it because it shows a historical perspective of the direction beck in 2009. These days, the acronym of choice is VOLTE – or Voice Over LTE. VOLTE has received a lot of traction in the past ten years with Apple, Google and others building support for VOLTE into their phones for a number of years now.