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July 22, 2016

The Negroponte Switch and My 5G Aha

5G is such a marketing term that while I am committed to writing about the adoption of new technology, I feel like I might as well be saying “Banana Skin” when I put the term “5G” up there.

Banana Skins are…

  • a great cover for a piece of fruit
  • an early detection system for food quality
  • a hazard when left on the floor
  • an aggregation interface for bunching.

5G on the other hand is….

  • a term used to describe better coverage
  • an early detection system for optimization
  • a system for reporting hazardous situations and support first responders
  • an aggregation interface for caching and media distribution

That last point is my most important one. You see, Nicholas Negroponte suggested

It was his idea that a better use of available communication resources would be if the information going through the cables (phone calls) were to go through the air, and those going through the air (television) were to be delivered via cables. As more mobile devices need connections to the data network and bandwidths required and deliverable in wired or fiber-optic systems grow, it becomes steadily less sensible to use wireless broadcast as a way of communicating with static installations. At some point, the switch takes place, as the limited radio bandwidth is reallocated to data service for mobile equipment, and television and other media move to cable. 

And here is the dilemma: 5G represented the bringing back of video to wireless and the elimination of wired solutions as last mile aggregation points. So I think we should call this the Negroponte Switchback, or Negroponte’s revenge.

While TV as broadcast had spectrum efficiency, the growth of on demand video indicates we are not about to use multicast strategies for video services. In fact, we are probably going to find limited value in broadcast services and, like the death of the PSTN, the broadcast world is increasingly under attack.

The bottom line is that 5G is about high speed, on-demand delivery.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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