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Mobile interruptions caused by new 5G kit

Report by Peter Laverock

There have been interruptions to mobile phone and data links on the islands during the past few days because of the installation of new equipment at the big mast on Halangy Down on St Mary’s.

The work will deliver 5G mobile radio to the islands in due course. Test transmissions have begun using very low powers.

Vodafone customer services told one customer on St Agnes that there will be compensation for the days of interrupted service – at least two days, March 28th and 29th between 10 and 4pm.

Vodafone is the biggest 5G pioneer in the UK market, having paid £378m in the latest round of radio spectrum auctions by telecoms regulator OFCOM. 5G allows for much faster transmission of data to mobile phones and, when they go on sale, to other ‘smart’ devices, such as domestic appliances, cars and healthcare tech. It also cuts the wait for data (latency) to negligible levels. 5G will reduce the demand for home broadband delivered via an old fashioned telephone line to a WiFi router.

Services will improve because of advances in the antenna design. So called ‘Massive MIMO’ splits into 64 segments the direction in which radio signals are sent. This means that the data needed for an individual phone can be directed straight at it and the frequencies can be reused for phones in other locations. This technology is already working commercially in Japan and China, and Vodafone say they are the first to bring it to Europe. It reduces the amount of signal in a location like Scilly which is in effect wasted transmitting out to sea. It would also help when sudden surges in demand for data slow down the network, such as during the Gig Championships.

The upcoming launch of 5G is not without controversy. A petition from campaign group Villages Against Masts aiming to stop the rollout in Cornwall and Scilly due to health concerns currently has more than 3,000 signatures.

Photo by Sam Mallon

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