A different approach to mobile data services

A different approach to mobile data services

VodafoneZiggo, Vodafone’s Dutch Communication Service Provider, (CSP) is launching 5G with Ericsson Spectrum Sharing and Ericsson 5G core. The surprising factor here, is that it is not using any 5G spectrum initially. It is however, using the flexibility Ericsson’s Spectrum Sharing has provided it, to tap into some of its LTE/4G spectrum and data across its 5G network.

This is because the Netherlands has yet to auction any spectrum, specifically designated for 5G, meaning that this solution is necessary for the time being. It claims to give users a real 5G improvement.

In June, there is supposed to be an auction of new 700MHz spectrum, but the currently used 3.5GHz band, which is being utlilised by the country’s defense satellite system, will not come up for auction until 2022. The Ericsson Spectrum Sharing Kit therefore enables VodafoneZiggo to introduce 5G over a wide area using its existing frequency bands.

From a technical perspective, this is very normal, as it is simply what the spectrum sharing technology was originally designed to do.

However what is happening is a very delicate disaggregation of the telecoms services. Instead of a ‘G’ hierarchy, service elements (network type and spectrum) are increasingly being mixed and matched depending on their spectrum situation, network readiness and user requirements.

The VodafoneZiggo innovation is just one display of this. At the moment, we are already witnessing 2G and 3G spectrum being reframed under 5G. As an example, lower spectrum bands are able to permeate walls and reach further.

Seemingly, the most important aspect of this disaggregation, is to make speed tiers ‘G’ (generation) independent, except in the highest tier, which can go along at whatever speed it manages to extract.

In July of 2019, Vodafone announced three ‘unlimited’ tiers of speed in the United Kingdom, which were designed to operate over both 4G and 5G connections. They are rated at 2Mbit/s, 10Mbit/s and whatever the network is able to give out, which assumingly, is many tens of Mbit/s.

For most smartphone users, there is generally minimal requirement for extremely fast speeds unless, for the downloading or uploading of files. Mere browsing and messaging hardly takes anything from the network. More surprisingly so, neither does video streaming, which is more than content at 10Mbit/s.

The idea of selling tiers, rather than buckets of data, can be appealing for both operators and users. The user receives the benefit of unlimited data straight away (using 4G), the phone will then automatically transfer to 5G – as Vodafone launches more 5G in the UK, in the future.

What needs to be acknowledged however, is that there is no pretense of 5G actually being that different from LTE, especially when dealing with speed tiers. The difference is that the capacity will increase thus enabling the operator to slowly accommodate the three unlimited speed tiers as more users adopt the new tariffs.

This works away at the core of smartphone marketing as it highlights that speed is not everything. It just depends on what you want to do.

The overall effect on this disaggregation is to merge the ‘G’ hierarchy when it comes to marketing and selling phones and subsequent services. Instead of ‘G’ being a simple speed and latency improvement scale, which assists in the sale of new phones and services, the ability to mix and match is closing the previously big performance gap between the generations.

This is certainly a change, however time will reveal if is going to change the way in which services are marketed.