Now we know the cost of 5G – and how much spectrum is needed!

In a recent report published by the European Commission the cost and societal benefits of a future deployment are estimated.  The report comes to the conclusion that 56B€ is the cost of deploying a 5G infrastructure and that this will create 2.3 million jobs and at least 60.5B€ in societal gain by 2025(!). Amazing result, while most of us are still trying to assess what 5G actually will mean, what parts will be just a straight-forward evolution of 4G/LTE and what is the relation to evolved Wi-Fi.  In any case first standards for a new radio interface are not settled until maybe next year. But that’s not all – in the report we learn that even in the most favorable scenario there is at least 15-20 GHz of spectrum needed to make 5G happen – clearly a showstopper.  How on earth is it possible for 150 5G-PPP experts to come to all these strange and seemingly precise conclusions?

Well, as usual the “devil” is in 5g-mobile-tvthe assumptions you make. In the report, the performance and spectrum limiting application for 5G is that thousands of viewers are watching 4K/UHD-TV in their cars on every mile the motorway. As this is realized by a macro-cellular system and not by a dense infrastructure at the roadside, of course we end up with a system with moderate cost, but with outrageous spectrum requirements.  Wait a minute – mobile TV as a “killer app” – doesn’t that sound familiar ? Do we really need a new 5G  radio interface to make this happen ? And how will 50 Mb/s to cars in the motorway contribute to  create millions of jobs in Europe ?

Jens Zander

About Jens Zander

Professor Jens Zander is professor in Radio Communication Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He has been among the few in Swedens Ny Teknik magazine's annual list of influential people in ICT that have been given the epithet “Mobile Guru”. He is one of the leading researchers in mobile communication and is the Scientific director of the industry/academia collaboration center Wireless@KTH. His research group focuses on three main areas – the efficient and scalable use of the radio frequency spectrum, economic aspects of mobile systems and application and energy efficiency in future wireless infrastructures.
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  • jzander

    Jokes aside, the report actually brings up verticals that could provide business opportunities and benefits to society (e.g. healthcare and transport) but it is hard to see that the described benefits and job creation are related to the “50 Mbit/s everywhere” target that is used to dimension the “5G system”.