BT will HATE us for this one weird 5G trick

Ready to hear our bright cycle safety idea?

I cycle in London. It halves my journey time to the office and being nicer than sweating on the tube lets me substitute muscles for my Oyster.

It also gives me a chance to think. One of the things I think about is how much I hate buses . They don’t mix with bikes. Having something which weighs twelve tonnes share road space with something which weighs a twelfth of a tonne is gross stupidity.

As I cycle along in fear of Metroline and Stagecoach I look at the pavement and see how few people there are on them. Taking a bit of space from that for cycle lanes would remove the danger and help the flow of busses. It’s win-win.

But not quite. Mixing cycles with pedestrians is almost as mad as bikes and buses. But there is a solution: Street Furniture. When you look down the pavement it’s littered with bus stops, poles for road signs, rubbish bins, all kinds of poles with things on and street lights.

What if there were only street lights? All the other things – bus stop signs and traffic signs, dustbins and so on could be hung from the street lights. Having them in a neat row would tidy up the pavement to a level which would easily allow pedestrians and pelotons to have their own space.

The question then comes. Who is going to pay for this? And the answer is The Mobile Phone companies. And the reason they should want to do this is 5G. The networks will want millions of lampposts if they can be connected by fibre optics to make them base stations for a 5G mobile services.

It comes down to physics. In the old days of 2G where all you wanted to do was shout at people from the train or snd txt mssgs the mobile cell sites could be up to 35km apart. That’s because they were using lower radio frequencies of 900Mhz and 1800Hz with little data.

Today with a simple web page needing many hundreds of kilobytes of data there is a need for more bandwidth. If you want more bandwidth you need more radio spectrum, and that’s limited. Particularly at the lower frequencies. They are all occupied, many by things which today, thanks to digital electronics, would only need a small pipe but under the old analogue technology needed lots of megahertz. In the search for more spectrum we’ve seen a move to higher frequencies. These don’t work as well. The quality of the signal isn’t as good. You need faster and more sensitive electronics and the signal doesn’t travel so far. Think of it as the difference between throwing a rock and a similar weight of gravel into a pond.

The way to counter the problems of higher frequencies is to have more cell sites. With 4G this has heavily been accommodated by the mobile phone networks sharing cell sites. This has given them more locations but coverage is still patchy.

With 5G the world is looking at a MIMO – (multiple input multiple output) – which combines signals over lots of different frequencies to get more bandwidth. This means the phone has to work at all those different frequencies and so do the base stations. It also means a move to very much higher frequencies. The plan is to have vast numbers of very small cells working at the short distance high frequencies with the long range low frequencies used to control the cells and not carry customer data.

This is why the mobile networks will pay for street lights. If every light was a compact cell site, the authorities could happily populate the cities with the kind of infrastructure needed for 5G.

The mobile networks would run power and fibre from lamppost to lamppost, and may then also choose to offer fibre-to-the-home services to those houses it passes. BT would have no problem with that whatsoever, of course.

The local authority should be happy to give the phone company permission to do this because not only would tidying up the pavements be a social benefit there would be a financial one.

Companies like Ericsson and Philips have been working together to build combined mobile antennas and street lights. The designs they have use LED lighting. These have a brighter white than the sodium or halogen street lights of today and use vastly less power.

So, better infrastructure at a lower cost. Mobile phones will connect at faster speeds and I’ll be even more mobile on my bicycle. ®


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