It’s all about 5G right now, and it’s clear that 5G is generating interest – our tech-hungry brains are feeding on it like a hungry Stone Age man
sinking its teeth into a freshly fallen game. 5G is an easy way for operators to get into the media spotlight. But even in the best of worlds, 5G is a long way off, and it makes more sense to dig where we stand and expect operators to be entirely focused on improving what we have today and not just what’s coming.
The operator that says it will be first with 5G is likely to be pulling a big and heavy financial load. As interesting as the new technology is, you should listen to the operator who says we will look at 5G eventually. Being number two or three means little in the long run. It’s just the cost for the network that will be lower for these operators.
Maxing out the 4G-range
Instead, we should focus on how to maximise the range. The range of LTE to provide better coverage for everyone in Sweden. Today, around 84% have access to LTE in some measure from mobile phones in the real world, which means that 16% of the time, nine years after its debut, we cannot use LTE technology. If we assume that this 16% live where they relatively often do not have access to LTE, the figure is around 1.6 million Swedes with inadequate 4G connectivity. You only need to take the bus between Stockholm and Norrtälje
to be struck by the fact that mobile coverage on 4G is becoming non-existent pretty quickly, and you’re down to GPRS coverage along a road like the E18, with the operator in Sweden most keen on 5G rollout.
It’s getting close to the broadband targets that Sweden was supposed to reach in 2020, and it’s an election year. How are we doing on these?
Yes, in Sweden, we still have speeds of around 25 Mbps. We are stuck in a “lagom”* belt where we are not the fastest in the class. Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Norway are all faster. Denmark as well. We in Sweden have chosen to have a large part of our broadband strategy via mobile connectivity, yet we have not reached the top.
Last year, Huawei cut resources in its development department because many investments were a bit on the fence about what would happen in the 5G area. Operators were reluctant to invest in older technologies and instead jumped on the 5G bandwagon.
Voices were raised when new 5G frequency bands were announced in late autumn. Ericsson argued that Sweden would fall behind in 5G development as frequency bands around 3.4-3.8 GHz would not be available nationwide for a few years. I think it sounds like a good opportunity for us to be the best in class on 4G for the time being. Let’s not get left behind while we go and wait for the future. Let’s be the best in class on 4G.
*) Lagom is only used in Swedish and is hard to translate. It could mean just the right amount. Lagom could originate from the Vikings. When the Vikings sitting around the bonfire were drinking from the same mug, if each one will drink just the right amount, there will be enough for all around the table.