5G is for the benefit of telecomm operators, not us as consumers

this article is a translation from https://titan.uio.no/teknologi/2020/5g-nettet-er-til-fordel-teleoperatorene-ikke-forbrukerne, created by Bjarne Røsjø, 29Apr2020 in Norwegian

Professor Josef Noll, who helped develop the 3G network, is very critical with respect to 5G: «Designed to increase telecom operators’ revenues», he says.

Professor Josef Noll at UiO’s Institute of Technology Systems (ITS) is not enthusiastic about the five-generation mobile network (5G) which is being introduced in Norway – and many other countries. In mid-March, Telenor opened 5G networks in Kongsberg, Elverum, Bodø, Askvoll, Fornebu, Kvitfjell, Longyearbyen, Spikersuppa in Oslo and Trondheim – and more to come. Both Telenor and Telia have big plans to continue the 5G network roll-out in 2020.

Where do we have coverage? UiO professor Josef Noll measures broadband coverage in a rural area of ​​Tanzania. Photo: Elibariki Mwakapeje

The upcoming 5G network has already received criticism from several sides, both serious and junk. On the serious side, we find, among other things, the Police Security Service: They have warned that the growing number of connected devices that come when the 5G network makes “Internet of Things – IoT” a reality, will also increase the risk of network attacks.

On the other hand, we find the conspiracy theorists trying to link the 5G technology to the coronavirus, or that the radiation from the 5G network is carcinogenic. The Korona claim has been rejected by faktisk.no, and the Directorate of Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety has rejected the cancer claim. The radiation from the new 5G antennas is otherwise weaker than from the old 4G antennas.

Willingness to pay is small

Now that the 5G network is about to become a reality, Professor Josef Noll says that the technologies and business interests have gained far too much space in the development of the network.

«At the same time, the needs of consumers and society have been prioritised. In practice, this means that it is largely the telecom operators that will reap the benefits of 5G», Noll believes.

The 5G network does not offer great benefits to most people, says Professor Josef Noll. Photo: UiO / ITS

Telecom operators have experienced a growing demand for mobile networks, but at the same time the willingness to pay has remained fairly constant. In Norway, today there are only a few who will pay more than € 40 a month to be on the mobile network. Most people are not interested in paying much more than € 20 a month, Noll points out.

According to Noll, the lack of willingness to pay has been a major challenge for telecom operators, but now they hope that 5G and the “Internet of Things” will solve the problem and give them increased revenue. The technology should make it possible to have up to one million units connected per unit square miles, according to Wikipedia.

This could mean that TVs, toasters, refrigerators, cars, light sources, smoke detectors, children’s toys, kettles, thermostats, cameras and much more in the thousands of homes can be on the mobile network, allowing you to remotely control them via a smartphone. The lights in the apartment can turn on as you approach the house, the refrigerator says if you run out of milk and so on.

«This is a fantastic business model, seen from the telecom operators! But the downside of the medal is that all these things must have their own SIM card if they are to be on the 5G network, and then of course you have to pay a monthly fee. If you pay 1 € a month for each SIM card and have 100 “things” in the house, you suddenly pay € 100 per month, just because your devices are connected to the mobile network. This becomes a goldmine for the operators, because you pay a lot of money for a network traffic that in practice is very small», says Noll.

«Smart consumers can fortunately dispel much of this by connecting the “things” in the home to the wireless network they already have. We already have solutions like ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that take care of this, and several solutions are on the way in the home network», Noll advises.

Not for ordinary users

Professor Noll does not believe that the 5G network will offer great benefits to the majority of people. «Most people are already doing well with 4G or wired internet for example when streaming movies or TV shows. You can also switch on the light even when you get home»

Facts on 5G
– The new 5G network will allow for speeds in the mobile network that are far above what is possible with today’s 4G network.
-The delay in the network should be significantly lower than in today’s 4G.
– The network should be three to four times as efficient at utilising frequencies as 4G.
– The network can also be “shared”. For example, the emergency network can be an integral part of the 5G network and take priority over all regular users.

«In the first instance, the development of 5G will be more important for industries and companies of various kinds. The operators want to enter the process industry, among other things, where the factories can pay well to use wireless sensors to monitor the production processes. The 5G network is also a prerequisite for the introduction of self-driving cars. 4G communication between cars is not reliable enough», says Noll.

Professor Noll is also disappointed that the 5G network is in the process of being expanded while the old 4G network still has holes.

«I really expected that 4G would bring us mobile broadband everywhere and that “broadband for everyone” should be one of the main drivers of 5G. But now the operators boast that 5G will deliver a network that gives you a speed of 100 Megabits per hour. seconds (Mbps) anytime you need it, but the strategies say nothing about delivering that speed anywhere you need it. 5G nights will mean that the digital divide – the gap between those who are online and those who are outside – is getting even bigger than it is today», he points out.

Digital divide also in Norway

The digital divide is a phenomenon that most people associate with the poorer part of the world, but Professor Noll emphasises that Norway is also affected by this.

Prerequisite for sustainability: Josef Noll’s partner, Rashid Ally, installs the Internet at a school in Tanzania. Photo: UiO

«As late as 2018, it was still true that 8 percent of the population in Norway did not have Internet at all, and 26 percent did not have mobile broadband in their telephone subscription. If you are thinking about, you probably have an uncle or a grandmother who is among them», Noll suggests.

But there is no denying that the digital divide – not to mention the digital abyss – is much worse in many other countries.

«The latest survey shows that there are still 3.9 billion people in the world who are not on the internet. So they are not on the digital train at all. I have also seen some very recent numbers from Ericsson, which has estimated that as much as 45 percent of all communications in sub-Saharan countries are 2G based. I can understand this from a business perspective, but it is catastrophic from a social perspective that these places have neither 3G nor 4G», says Noll.

He points out that Ericsson’s numbers refer to real traffic. Although there would be 3G networks in these areas, many only have 2G phones. That is why the share of 2G traffic is so high.

Dreaming of Internet Lite

Professor  Noll has solid professional background for criticising the 5G network, because he has worked with telecom technology since long before the turn of the millennium. Among other things, he was involved in the development of the 3G network in Telenor’s research department in the late 1990s. When Telenor moved to Fornebu in 2001, he began to look for new challenges. In 2005, he started as a professor at UiO with the University Studies at Kjeller (UNIK) as a workplace. UNIK later became the Institute of Technology Systems (ITS) at UiO.

In 2014, Noll was one of the initiators of the establishment of the Basic Internet foundation, which develops technological solutions and a business model for a world in which everyone should have free access to information on health, education and opportunities for self-development. He calls this “freemium” (free + premium) model “Internet Lite“, and according to Noll’s research, this model should be profitable for both telecom operators and society.

Pedestrians can use the road for free

«The main principle behind “Internet Lite” is that everyone should have free access to information on the Internet and pay for the use of broadband. This is not just for poor countries», says Noll.

«In Norway, such a freemium model can give you free access to public information, such as bus times and the purchase of a bus ticket, while paying for YouTube, TV 2 and streaming services. The parallel is that it should be free to walk or cycle on a road, but you have to pay toll if you want to drive at full speed. This can easily be solved on the Internet by using network protocols such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which simply says you can read simplified web pages with only text and images without paying anything», says Noll.

This development is already underway in India, where the giant’s richest man – Mukesh Ambani – is a major shareholder in the giant Reliance Industries group. That group again owns the telecom group Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, which Noll visited in 2018. Then he discussed the use of “Internet Lite” with Jio. But Jio was not interested, they already offered their customers a subscription that gives access to 1.5 GB per day for about € 2.5 per month, an insane low price. «Think about: an amount of 1.5 Giga Bytes for just € 0.80 a day, what an insane low price», Noll repeats.

«Here in Norway we pay a lot more for such access! Mukesh Ambani and Jio do this because they believe that the money should not lie in access to the Internet, but in the services that the Internet provides access to. This is what the Indian authorities agree with, because they believe that digital inclusion is an important part of social security», Noll analyses.

Want stricter regulation

Now, Professor Noll hopes that the authorities in Norway and other countries will step more strongly into the regulation of telecommunications operators to ensure that everyone has free access to information. «It is questionable that private actors should develop the community’s infrastructure with a purely focus on earnings and not with a focus on our Norwegian values, such as “everyone should be involved”», he says.

In that case, this will not be the first time authorities intervene, because most people still remember the soaring roaming fees we had to pay once we left Norway. But in 2017, the European Commission set foot and introduced new pan-European rules on the use of mobile phones while traveling abroad. The new rules meant that users should not pay extra for calls, SMS or data traffic when traveling in other EU / EEA countries.

«Ultimately, Internet Lite and Freemium model are about sustainability. The Freemium model means that everyone has access to information, while also providing revenue to expand access to the Internet. We will not be able to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals if not everyone is given free access to digital information, and I do not see how 5G contributes to increased social benefits and a sustainable future», says Noll.

Josef Noll is not alone in that criticism. He relies, among other things, on Kate Gilmore, who is the United Nations Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights.

«Internet had the opportunity to dismantle the digital divide. Internet has failed miserably, the divide is bigger than ever», Gilmore pointed out in a discussion on human rights in the digital age.

Contact:
Professor Josef Noll, Department of Technology Systems

More information:
Basic Internet Foundation Wiki Page
Basic Internet Foundation Scientific Articles on Digital Inclusion

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