Blurred Lines Between Fixed and Mobile

The acceleration towards total mobility is eliminating the distinction between fixed and mobile communications to become just ‘connectivity’, according to Professor Jim Norton, Chair of the UK Spectrum Policy Forum, addressing an audience of over 120 telecoms industry experts, entrepreneurs and academics at the Cambridge Wireless (CW) Founders Dinner last week.

“With wireless already displacing fixed networks as the final link in many areas of communication, it is essential that the next generation of mobile services are able to deliver the ubiquity, reliability and resilience that users now expect,” said Jim Norton. “Anything that customers currently do tethered to a fixed infrastructure – whether communications or power – they have grown to expect to be able to do with complete mobility.”

In his address at Downing College in Cambridge, Jim Norton pointed to the spread of wireless in the home and office with DECT for old style telephony and Wifi, Bluetooth and Zigbee for data and the emergence of wireless energy transmission, which will further reinforce this trend. Meanwhile outside, wireless communications is delivered through 2/3/4G and WiFi hot spots.

“The question is really, how long is the radio link into the fixed network backhaul and what implications does that have for the fixed networks?” said Professor Norton. “Given the growing critical dependencies – once just the domain of fixed networks – mobile networks need to be highly resilient against overload and power failure.”

Moving forward, Jim Norton also stressed to his audience the need to define carefully what the real customer needs and requirements are for 5G mobile including in-building as opposed to wide area: “We must be careful what we wish for. The fact is that blistering speed is not necessarily the dominant requirement compared to other factors such as performance to the cell edge, latency, spectrum efficiency and battery life.”

Appropriately, Professor Norton, who has been chair of the UK Spectrum Policy Forum since 2013, addressed the spectrum challenges of ‘total mobility’ and invited CW members to contribute to the work being carried out under the guidance of the Forum. “Before anything else, the most important thing currently is to identify new spectrum for 5G in the UK and mainland Europe along with the need to ensure that high bit rate coverage is ubiquitous across urban and rural areas.”

“We were honoured that Jim came to address the CW Founders dinner with an audience that represents a cross section of the UK wireless and telecoms industry,” said Dr David Cleevely, chair of CW. “The topics covered not only reflected the critical role wireless technology plays in today’s mobile ecosystems but presented the challenges ahead for our industry if we are to deliver a vision of total connectivity without barriers.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine