2020 was supposed to be the year 5G started to pay dividends. Telcos have been promising financial rewards in the enterprise segments, enterprise customers have been envisioning connectivity-based business models and the vendors were supposed to be supplying the technology to underpin it all. But the party might have to be delayed by another year.
“At Omdia we are revising our 5G forecast,” said Omdia 5G Practice Leader Dario Talmesio. “There are many factors to be looked at, including consumer confidence, business confidence, disposable income, employment data, availability of networks, availability of devices, retail environment, marketing budgets. all these are converging to one direction which is very negative for 5G eMBB.
“We previously believed that 2020 was going to be the real year of 5G. This is no longer that case under the current circumstances.”
Speaking at a media briefing, Huawei SVP Victor Zhang said the telcos are prioritising projects to improve resilience in existing networks as more customers work from home. There is only so much which can be done to continue the 5G rollout as engineers are forced to prioritise the network strain which is threatening today. 5G deployments will slow down as a result.
This is not necessarily a huge consequence for some vendors, Huawei and Nokia for instance have fixed broadband business units, but it might cause headaches for those who are focused on mobile.
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However, the British broadcasters are being warned that they face sanctions from the media regulator if they give airtime to false health advice about coronavirus, after a Sussex radio station was given a severe warning for broadcasting baseless conspiracy theories that the pandemic is linked to the rollout of 5G phone networks.
Members of the public complained after hearing a broadcast on the community radio station Uckfield FM, in which a woman introduced as a “registered nurse” claimed, without any evidence, that the rollout of 5G phone technology in Wuhan was connected to the outbreak and that the virus had been created in a lab.
It later emerged that she was a practitioner of alternative medicines, while the media regulator said it was “not aware of any reputable scientific evidence to corroborate such a contentious claim which runs contrary to all official advice, both in the UK and internationally, about coronavirus.”
Ofcom confirmed it was actively monitoring television and radio stations that might be broadcasting potentially harmful views about the causes and origins of Covid-19 that have “the potential to undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information” during the crisis.
Baseless suggestions that coronavirus is linked to 5G have spread widely in recent weeks on WhatsApp, Facebook groups, and on the fast-growing community website NextDoor – all of which have the ability to reach vastly more people than a small community radio station in Sussex but are much less regulated.
The spread of baseless material on WhatsApp connecting 5G to coronavirus has now been covered in many mainstream news outlets, boosted by social media posts by celebrities such as the actor Woody Harrelson.
This poses a conundrum for those seeking to convince the public that the fears are unfounded. Fact-checking organisations often find that people are reluctant to change their mind once convinced of an issue if they are simply told they are wrong, despite international agencies finding there are no health risks associated with 5G and no link to coronavirus. There is also the risk that declining trust in mainstream media means that attempts to stop the claims spreading are seen as a cover-up.
In the case of Uckfield FM, Ofcom reported that the guest also used her appearance to launch a lengthy attack on health professionals in the NHS dealing with the pandemic.
She said: “Just because you have this qualification, do not wear that like a crown of glory … The days are gone when you were a doctor and a nurse and everybody trusted you. Those days are well gone. Do your own research. Do not trust a qualification. I know many people who are very qualified who know very little. Because remember the people that own the establishments that teach us, it all travels back to the same thing. It’s all owned by big pharma. They own the medical elite and they determine what gets published.”
Ofcom decided that the 20-minute interview with a person purporting to be an authoritative health figure who was not sufficiently challenged posed a significant risk to public health at a time of national crisis. It ordered the station to broadcast an apology in a manner of regulator’s choosing and warned other outlets that it would be stepping up monitoring.