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Bristol’s largest tower crane to be erected in city centre

September 20th, 2019 No comments

New milestone in the development of Castle Park View

A significant milestone has been reached in the development of Castle Park View this week as Bristol’s largest tower crane is to be erected against the city skyline.

The 102m high crane will remain a fixture for eighteen months as developer Linkcity works with its construction partner Bouygues UK on building Bristol’s tallest residential building.

The tower will be based on the site of a former ambulance station next to the Finzels Reach development at Castle Park, and when finished will provide 375 homes across 26 storeys.

The erection of the tower crane is expected to take two days, from the 21st to 22nd September, and roads should not be affected with no closures planned.

Tony Rides, Castle Park View project manager from Bouygues UK said: “We are incredibly excited to have reached this important milestone in the construction of Castle Park View. At 26 storeys, this will be Bristol’s tallest residential building and so naturally requires a tower crane that is equally as monumental – we’re very much looking forward to this historic moment in the city’s development.

“We have also arranged for the crane to be erected over the weekend to limit disruption to the commute of thousands of people into the city and so have avoided the need for road closures.”

Linkcity has been working in partnership with Bristol City Council and Homes England on developing the project, which will include 75 affordable homes, as well as 300 private one and two-bedroom apartments.

Work on the scheme, which was designed by architects Chapman Taylor, began in January of this year and is set to be complete by 2022.

Tony added: “It’s an honour to be redeveloping this former brownfield site into what we believe will become a Bristol city landmark for many years to come, and providing much needed affordable housing to residents of the city.”

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The disruptors are here – new tech hits the headlines at UK Construction Week

September 20th, 2019 No comments

Construction was told three years ago it had to ‘Modernise or die.’ That statement has clearly resonated with parts of the sector with new technology and techniques entering the industry, but what about the rest of the sector?

This drive for innovation encouraged UK Construction Week (UKCW) to throw down the gauntlet and ask the new disruptors to step forward and show others the way towards the next industrial revolution.

As part of this, UKCW 2019 will be bringing cutting edge technology to the NEC, in Birmingham, 8-10 October. It is a must attend event for any construction professional who wants a peek into the future.

The new Innovation Zone, partnered with the Construction Innovation Hub (the Hub), is only hosting exhibitors with genuinely innovative products, and it has really pushed the innovation boat out.

Products range from brick laying robots to crane simulators, from quiet heat pumps to BIM-related innovations.

Nathan Garnett, UKCW event director says: “We really want to encourage true innovation at this year’s show. With assistance from our advisory board and input from the Hub we have some fascinating new products to showcase in the Innovation Zone. The journey towards a more modern industry has begun, although there is still a way to go. Our hope is that UKCW will demonstrate a new possible future, which will challenge and inspire others to change.”

Examples on display include robotics, with the Semblr Catus robots out in force at the show. Working in small swarms, they build brickwork at faster speeds and lower costs than larger robots. Speeding up this heavily manual process will make a huge difference to the delivery of buildings and other brick structures.

Virtual reality is bringing the industry to life and Industrial Training International has harnessed it to develop a crane simulator for training purposes. The simulator has 1,000 different scenarios and eight different models of crane. Using Oculus technology, the system provides crane operators with the experience of making decisions in real time.

Sharing tasks and information can be time consuming, especially if big files are included.  PlanRadar has developed an all new task management system which works in 3D. This is essentially a 3D BIM version for designers, architects and builders and makes sharing plans much easier.

The drive for more sustainable solutions is also pushing technology forward and JCB’s new electric Teletruk is a prime example of that. The new clean technology reduces emissions to zero at point of use. It also uses JCB telematics to measure energy consumption in real time.

Air source heat pumps have caught the attention of the Government as a low carbon heating option. Mitsubishi’s Ecodan ultra quiet air source heat pump is breaking new ground because it is so quiet it can be located closer to homes. It is also more efficient and helps reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.

Investing in fleet machinery is a costly matter and that is why MachineMax has developed a new telematics system for off-highway fleet aimed at getting the most out of capital investment. Using internet of things technology (IoT), machine learning and cloud computing, it is helping to cut fuel costs, decreasing emissions and improving productivity.  

In 2023 reduced softwood dust workplace exposure limits by the HSE will come into effect. This legislative change will see the need for businesses to limit employee exposure to softwood dust. Multiquip has acted by introducing the IQ dustless masonry saw and tile saw, which it will be demonstrating at the show.

Fire has been on everyone’s agenda since Grenfell with many companies adding fire proofing to their ranges. Tenmat has introduced a new product range of passive fire protection to provide fire breaks around ceiling fittings. The products include downlight covers, fire rated air valves and ceiling fan fire stops. A ceiling is only as fireproof as its weakest element, so this new product range is essential to improve fire safety.

Self-build, sustainability and repurposing are all boxes which are ticked by another innovation – the Studio Bark wooden building system called U-Build. It is made up of wooden frames and panels which can be assembled and dismantled with just a drill and a hammer. It can be used to build a small or large structure depending on your needs and once the build is no longer required it can be dismantled. 

There are many more products on display in the Innovation Zone and one of them will be the winner of the new Innovation Award, which will be announced on Wednesday 9 October.

UKCW is one event with many sections, including Build sponsored by Easy-Trim, Building Tech, Civils, Energy and HVAC, Surface and Materials, and Timber. It also features Concrete Expo (8-9 October only) and Grand Designs Live (9-10 October only). Single registration gives free access to all areas of the show. Pre-booking is also strongly recommended for the extensive seminars and CPD programme.

Find out more about what’s on at UKCW at: https://www.ukconstructionweek.com/

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Can you REALLY spot the difference?

September 19th, 2019 No comments

Can you REALLY spot the difference? 

Eagle-eyed builders are given the challenge: tell us which one is not traditional brick 

A challenge is being set for thousands of builders attending this year’s UK Construction Week – spot which façade is not made with traditional bricks. 

The competition aims to promote a new, fast-fix brick system that is significantly faster to install than brick slips. It’s the newest innovation in the full spectrum of MMC products launched for the UK housebuilding market. 

The new weberwall brick from Saint-Gobain Weber is a simple lightweight brick effect product supplied on mesh sheets, in a range of highly realistic brick finishes.  

Weber is so confident that even the most seasoned bricklayer will not be able to spot the difference that it is offering a prize draw* of an iPad Mini or £500 of Virgin Experience Day Vouchers at UK Construction Week to all those who can correctly guess which is which.  

As a UK factory-manufactured product that falls into category 6 of the Government’s recent MMC definition, weberwall brick is particularly suitable for applications where a housebuilder needs to achieve a quality finish but without having to use specialist labour on site – for example, completing the facades on garage blocks, plant rooms, bin stores or other ancillary buildings, or as a factory-applied cladding for volumetric modules or panellised build systems. 

weberwall brick comes in three different designs to accommodate common housing design requirements: wall wrap, corner wrap and solider wrap, minimising the need for cutting and allowing workers to install the product quickly. It also comes in a wide range of brick colours. 

Kelvin Green, product manager, Saint-Gobain Weber said: 

“About half of all new builds in the UK have brick façades, a clear indication that people find brick aesthetically appealing. However, with the cost of bricks increasing and a six-month delay on brick allowances and expensive alternatives such as brick slips and acrylic bricks, meeting this aesthetic demand is costing housebuilders dearly. 

“Bricklayers are highly skilled tradespeople and, as a result of the skills gap, are often in short supply. Wages are also reported to be rising sharply. These are strong drivers for the increasing interest in MMC for new home construction. 

“With this in mind, we developed the weberwall brick as a viable alternative to traditional bricks and brick slips, enabling the housebuilder to save its skilled bricklayers for more complex jobs.” 

Applied directly to the substrate with a specially formulated render before being pointed in the same way as a standard brick, weberwall brick is faster to install, breathable and eliminates efflorescent lime bloom as there is no lime or cement in the brick wrap. The brick finish is formulated from 95% natural minerals bound in cross-linked polymers to form a colourfast, frost-resistant surface. 

It is also significantly lighter than traditional bricks. One wall wrap (displaying 20 brick faces) weighs the same as one standard brick, therefore saving handling and transport costs and easing the build process. weberwall brick is suitable for external façades and also for interior design, providing a modern industrial finish to the interiors of bars, restaurants, shops, leisure centres and other buildings. 

Available from autumn 2019, weberwall brick is available in a selection of colours and finishes. Bespoke colour matching is also available for large-scale projects.  

To find out more about weberwall brick visit Weber’s stand at UK Construction Week (B292 in the Build area, Hall 10) to take part in the ‘spot the difference’ challenge and for a live demonstration of weberwall brick installation on 8-10 October 2019. 

*Terms and conditions apply, please see the Saint-Gobain Weber website:?www.uk.weber/weberwall-comp

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These Construction Tools Can Permanently Damage Your Hearing

September 18th, 2019 No comments

Did you know that 1 million people in the UK are exposed to hearing-damaging noise at work?

If you work in construction – you’re most likely aware that the industry is a noisy business.

But did you also know that the sector has the second-highest rate of people developing occupational deafness?

To help raise awareness, Insulation Express have investigated the loud truth of construction tools – from uncovering the effects of working with noisy tools to highlighting the (unexpected) hacks for saving your hearing – https://www.insulationexpress.co.uk/blog/construction-tools-affecting-hearing/

Stand out stats:

  • Removing your hearing protection for just five minutes cuts your overall protection by 56% – and can be the cause of permanently damaging your hearing.
  • Using a power drill for 15 minutes (125dB) is almost the same noise level as a military jet taking off (130db).
  • At the top of the noise scale is a cartridge tool. Even using this for one second creates sound levels of 157dB – which can permanently damage your hearing if you’re without protection.
  • Since Q1 of 2019, noise breaches on construction sites are up 25% – which proves that the industry is only getting noisier, too.
  • Work-related hearing costs the NHS £500 million every year.

The Noise Levels On a Construction Site (And Their Comparisons)  

Have you ever wondered how loud your tools are? Luckily, Insulation Express have uncovered the dB of the most common tools found on site – without hearing protection. Each tool has then been ordered from loudest to quietest so that construction workers can understand the hearing implications that come from working with these tools.

Also as a word of warning, being exposed to anything at 85bD or higher for extended periods of time can permanently damage your hearing. As you can see, every construction tool is above 85dB, which means that hearing protection should always be worn:

Real-life Example of Hearing Loss in the Construction Industry

Bob Gowen a volunteer for Hearing Link and an electrician for over 35 years, has unfortunately lost some of his hearing due to working in construction.  He believes that construction employees are “now [working] in noisier environments” than he did, yet “private contractors don’t supply ear protection for their staff.”

Gowen added that the main concern is that younger employees don’t seem to realise what the noise is doing to their hearing, so “getting them to wear protection is another problem.” Unfortunately, this means that “by the time they get into the 40 and 50 [age] bracket it is usually too late to save their hearing,” Gowen noted.

How Employers Can Protect Their Workers

According to the World Health Organisation, 50% of all hearing issues can be prevented through various health measures. This is why it is important for employers to:

  • Supply hearing protection – unfortunately, once you lose your hearing, you can’t get it back. It’s therefore important to always wearing hearing guards.
  • Purchase quieter tools – which have silent blades and nozzles.
  • Make machinery as quiet as possible – this can be be done by using pads to minimise vibration or replacing fans and motors.
  • Limit the amount of time workers are exposed to a noisy task.

Interested in the full findings? https://www.insulationexpress.co.uk/blog/construction-tools-affecting-hearing/

Alternatively, download the research, sources, image and real-life example: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nkbyi4cee7b9gdj/AABZE86ydU040VUgliEA0Dgza?dl=0

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Structural waterproofing qualification reaches international audience

September 17th, 2019 No comments

Structural waterproofing professionals from Australia tapped into expert training and development expertise in the UK, under an intensive learning programme.

Six delegates from the east coast of Australia – who currently provide underground waterproofing services – undertook the Property Care Association’s training programme to sharpen and then test their knowledge in this highly technical aspect of construction.

These highly focused specialists then submitted themselves for testing in an attempt to attain the Certificated Surveyor in Structural Waterproofing (CSSW) qualification.

PCA member Newton Waterproofing Systems organised the training, which was hosted at their training facility in Kent. The training also included another six professionals from the UK, including two of their own employees, for the intensive five-day event.

James Berry, Technical Manager at the PCA, said: “We were delighted to see the delegates come over from Australia to take part in the programme.

“It is a testimony to the value of the training and rigour of examination that the CSSW qualification has been recognised internationally.

“Regardless of geography, the knowledge and qualification is relevant internationally, and we expect further take-up from overseas as the demand to achieve the best solutions for underground works increases globally.”

To be successful in achieving the CSSW qualification, delegates should have prior expertise in the construction and waterproofing industry.

Candidates qualify after sitting and passing four and a half hours of written examination papers set by independent examiners.

This is complemented by a professional interview that must also be passed before the CSSW qualification can be awarded.

Mr Berry added: “The complexity and demands of structural waterproofing make it a very challenging, technical environment in which to operate and, over the years, the PCA has built-up an active development programme to support the industry and develop a culture of best practice.

“Nationally, our training and qualifications have evolved, signposting architects, specifiers and property owners to professionals in the sector, who are able to offer support in this complex, highly-skilled aspect of construction.”

As well as an established training and development programme and related industry qualification, the PCA also provides a searchable register of Waterproofing Design Specialists and a range of free technical documents including codes of practice and best practice guidance. 

The association also holds an annual international structural waterproofing conference, designed to help professionals, both members and non-members alike, stay up to date with the latest industry developments.

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Crossrail sparks in pay row as more workers flood Bond Street

September 16th, 2019 No comments

Electricians at Crossrail’s Bond Street Station site are unhappy about plans to flood the site with another wave of better paid sparks.

The existing workforce is holding a site meeting today to discuss possible industrial unrest on the delayed job.

It is understood that more than 50 new electricians are being hired on the station which was due to open last December but will not be ready until 2021 at the earliest.

Adverts have appeared offering basic pay rates of £22.50 an hour and overtime rates of up to £67.50 an hour.

That is more than existing sparks are making which has caused tension on the site.

One worker said: “There is so much still to do down there that they need more people.

“But you can’t offer more than existing rates – that’s going to give people the hump.

“We’ll be having a meeting on Monday to talk about what action we might take over this.”

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MAJOR WORKS UNDERWAY AT THE ROYAL LIVER BUILDING

September 16th, 2019 No comments

Work is well underway to deliver the next phase of development at The Royal Liver Building which will combine high quality office space alongside amenities, health and wellbeing activities.

Following planning approval in 2018, contractors are now on site and the scheme is on track to be completed by November 2019. Developed and managed by real estate consultancy practice CBRE, Liverpool’s most prestigious address will house a wide variety of office space in addition to social and community offerings all under one roof, located on the much-desired waterfront setting. 

c. 43,000 sq ft of Grade A office space will be delivered over the ground, mezzanine and 1st floors, with accommodation on the 1st floor available by October 2019.  A new restaurant, coffee shop, bar, gym and cycle facilities will also form part of the new offering providing tenants with the opportunity to take advantage of the health and well-being activities available in the building.

This phase of works includes the creation of an open plan, mixed use concourse with mezzanine and gallery spaces which opens up the entire ground floor area.  A combination of small and large office suites from c.500 sq ft to c. 43,000 sq ft will be offered across three floors which have been designed to accommodate a wide range of companies from micro businesses to SME’s.

2019 is set to continue to be a busy year for the iconic Royal Liver Building with renovation work set to be completed by November 2019.  Planning consent was obtained earlier this year for a restaurant and café/bar with CBRE leisure agents currently seeking suitable operators for the space. In addition to this the visitor attraction – Royal Liver Building 360 – recently opened up the building for the first time in its 108-year history offering the public the chance to explore the world-famous location including a new visitor centre and a world-class audio visual experience within the Clock Tower.

Neil Kirkham, Director, CBRE’s Office Agency team in Liverpool said:

“This really is a pivotal moment in the history of The Royal Liver Building. The work that has now commenced on site, really will reposition the offer of the building and experience to both occupiers and visitors alike. Opening up the building and creating new reception areas will provide a real sense of arrival in the building. In addition to this the new amenities on offer including coffee shops/bar, restaurant, break out areas, touchdown work zones and more formal meeting rooms will really provide tenants with a complete 360 office experience.’

Andy Byrne, Associate Director, CBRE’s Office Agency team in Liverpool said:

“A building in a prime location is no longer sufficient when considering the needs of a modern business. The health and wellbeing of employees is now a huge priority for employers when looking at office space and the new offering at The Royal Liver Building will really tick all the boxes by offering quality, flexible office space as well as leisure spaces and health and wellbeing activities. The repositioning of The Royal Liver Building has been focused around providing our tenants with a first class offering which increases productivity, inspires collaboration and encourages occupiers to see their work place as more than just office space.”

For more information and details of the space available please visit www.cbre.co.uk

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New Chief Executive for Considerate Constructors Scheme

September 13th, 2019 No comments

The Considerate Constructors Scheme – the national organisation established to improve the image of construction – is pleased to announce that Amanda Long will join as Chief Executive from 16 September 2019.

Amanda will succeed Chief Executive Edward Hardy who has held the post since 2009.

With over 20 years’ experience working in senior executive roles for a range of national and international organisations in the commercial, public, social enterprise and charitable sectors, Amanda brings a wealth of expertise to the Scheme. She has pioneered Corporate Social Responsibility frameworks to improve standards; helping organisations and member organisations in areas such as sustainability, workforce welfare and consumer rights.

Her previous roles include CEO of Morison KSi; Director-General of Consumers International; CEO of Corporate Culture; Head of Corporate Responsibility at Anglian Water Services; and International Projects Manager (Sustainability) at Unilever.

Amanda said: “It is a real honour to have the opportunity to lead the Considerate Constructors Scheme, which is a widely respected and successful organisation at the core of raising standards for communities, the environment, and the construction industry’s workforce.

“My career has been focused on engaging with organisations to raise standards across a range of industries. I look forward to working with organisations who are part of the Scheme and those that influence engagement with the Scheme, to help extend its reach and influence even further.”

Executive Chairman of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, Isabel Martinson MBE commented: “I am delighted to welcome Amanda to the Scheme as our new Chief Executive. Amanda brings a huge wealth of expertise in leading organisations in roles which are focused on improving standards through Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.

“This experience clearly resonates with the core values and mission of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, and we are excited about the future opportunities to embed the Scheme across our industry, through Amanda’s leadership.

“I would also like to thank Edward Hardy for his significant achievements over the last decade as Chief Executive, in shaping the Scheme to become the huge success it is today.”

Click here for further information about the Scheme.

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UK’s first Oculus staircase installed at Cardiff Innovation Campus

September 12th, 2019 No comments

An Oculus staircase, the first of its kind in the UK, is being installed at Cardiff University’s cutting-edge Innovation Campus.

Bouygues UK, the construction company building Innovation Campus, is working with Taunton Fabrications to design and install the staircase, which is a sculptural, open staircase travelling through a slanting void. Its name is taken from the oculus design, which depicts an eye that allows light to flood into a space.

Designed by architects Hawkins\Brown, the aim of the Oculus staircase is to drive engagement and collaboration between the varying departments and uses of the building. It starts at the ground floor as a social stair and forms breakout zones to each level, which are curated differently, becoming destinations to users on other floors. These can also be accessed by the lift core adjacent.

The Oculus staircase is set to be the showpiece of Innovation Central and its fitting is a major milestone in the project. Bouygues UK and Cardiff University are transforming a former disused rail yard into a state-of-the-art campus for social science-led research, high-tech job creation and student start-ups, and further expertise in compound semi-conductors.

The Innovation Central building will be the world’s first social science research park, co-locating leading researchers, practitioners and policy makers.

Justin Moore, Operations Director for Bouygues UK in Wales, and project lead on Cardiff Innovation Campus, said: “We are over the moon to be bring the UK’s first Oculus staircase to Cardiff. What’s so interesting about this building is that its layout is designed by activity rather than department – a venue like this requires very different environments, from quiet spaces for the secure data facility to a buzzing ground floor.

“The Oculus is central to this as there are more private, secure spaces further away from the staircase and then open plan / breakout zones hugging it. It’s a fantastic, eye-grabbing design and we can’t wait to see the finished staircase in all of its glory.”

Justin added: “‘The principle of the oculus staircase makes it difficult to install as the stairs are not installed directly above each other, as it is for a standard staircase, but offset at each floor level. Several methods of installation have been reviewed over months to come up with the best way to safely and practically install the stairs.

“Initially, each stair was going to be installed after all the concrete floors were constructed by using spider cranes, but this meant that much of the floor area around the stair would be covered in propping delaying the internal finishing.

“Bouygues UK came up with a solution to install each stair after each floor slab was constructed and then construct the next floor above the stair with a cleaver configuration of temporary works designed by the stair contractor, Taunton Fabrications and the RC frame Contractor, 4D Structures. This is repeated on every floor. It is a complex and exciting construction project.”

Professor Damian Walford Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, said: “The oculus staircase embodies in practical, material form the values and ethos of the Innovation Central building: it’s a dynamic connecting path, with – as the name suggests – an eye open to the outside world.”

For more information about the Cardiff Innovation Campus, visit: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/innovation/campus-investment

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The UK 5G launch season is in full swing, but it is a pale shadow of what we need – 4G still reigns supreme

September 10th, 2019 No comments

5G has arrived – or has it? At the time of writing, EE, Vodafone and Three have announced the availability of the UK’s first 5G networks, and O2 has announced launch plans. The new services are surprisingly limited in geographic coverage, performance and features, focussing on broadband only applications. The massive IoT connectivity application of the services has been delayed to 2023. The current incarnation in all carriers except Three UK does not offer the promised alternative to replace leased lines (‘millimeter wave’). Even the much hyped mobile broadband speeds have been downgraded from Gigabits to burst rates in the hundreds of Mbps at best. Add in the lack of reliability, spotty coverage and inconsistency in commercial approach, and 5G is no more than a work in progress.

With a significant number of infrastructural and operational challenges to be overcome before 5G can become a business reality for UK companies, Nick Sacke, Head of Products and IoT, Comms365 explains it is time to set the ‘glass half empty’ promises of 5G to one side and leverage the proven quality, consistency and reliability of existing wireless networks, especially 4G, to support business communications infrastructure and growth.

Land Grab

The promise of 5G has been compelling for many reasons. From businesses looking to achieve widespread IoT deployments, to those seeking a viable broadband and leased line replacement alternative or companies struggling in areas of rural connectivity deprivation, on paper 5G appears to have all the answers. The recent 5G roll out announcements, however, have been something of a disappointment for all. Limited to just six cities initially (EE) – and with variable accessibility even within these areas – the 5G rollout is a promise rather than a reality. It will take several years before 5G offers ubiquitous accessibility – and there are no firm plans to support rural areas and manufacturing – rather, a set of innovation challenges that are funding Consortia projects to look at innovation to address the problem. Even then, a number of key features of the service are still to be clarified.

The reality today is that 5G – where it is available – is providing enhanced mobile broadband and no more. For those with compatible devices – an issue in itself given the lack of available devices and the Huawei situation – 5G will enable voice calls and broadband internet access. Even then, the promised speeds are not being delivered – customers can expect 150-200Mbps at best, and on the Vodafone commercial plans we see ‘guarantees’ of 2Mbps, 10Mbps or ’the fastest available’ – this falls short of the Gigabit speeds promised. Furthermore, consistency is a very concerning issue, with both speed and coverage variable within the launch city locations. On the plus side, Vodafone has offered an ‘Unlimited’ data plan that will begin to chip away at one of the big pillars of operator revenues, i.e. the mobile data costs.

So why have EE, Vodafone and Three rushed to announce 5G networks that are still more of a half-promise than a reality? The answer is a land grab, to try and get to market first with something, rather than nothing. The impact for businesses that want to make investments in high speed wireless technology, leveraging the value of repeatable, consistent, widespread and easy to use services, is that 5G is already a significant disappointment. Carriers will need to raise their game significantly if they want businesses to invest their communications budgets in the new technology.

5G Dissected

While the Tier 1 network providers are promising to rapidly expand the 5G network range – with EE planning to upgrade more than 100 sites to 5G every month – this is very much a work in progress. On the plus side, the 5G network will address the capacity issues facing overloaded 4G networks, enabling millions of additional connections on existing spectrum.

But what about the other key aspects of the 5G network offering? 5G has been touted as a viable alternative to leased lines and a chance for companies to avoid expensive fibre or copper-based Ethernet connections. Unfortunately, the promised Fixed Wireless Access based on ‘millimeter wave’ (FWA) – essentially very high speed connections between two points – requires significant infrastructure change that the network providers are struggling to deliver. Rather than towers, FWA is a very short range service and, as such, demands very high antenna density, with small cells (antennas) deployed on buildings, street furniture and lamp posts 10metres apart. Network providers have overestimated the willingness of local authorities and building owners to provide the planning permission required to install antennas on lampposts and buildings. Without antenna density, FWA is not a viable, scalable option for business connectivity; at best companies will have to wait three years or more before 5G offers a viable wireless leased line alternative. At the time of writing, Three UK has just launched their FWA offering in a few postcode areas in London for home broadband, and already there are accounts of intermittent signal problems impacting performance, which lends weight to the argument for more antenna density being required to achieve stable, repeatable service coverage.

At worst, of course, the continuing concerns regarding the potential health implications of 5G networks could further delay installation. Local authorities will remain wary about exposing the public to risk; unless and until the 5G industry can address in a concerted, focused way that the persistent claims that running high frequency networks in high density areas is not a risk, planners may meet resistance from schools, hospitals, and community building managers.

There are other shortcomings. 5G services today do not include any Service Level Agreements, undermining any business confidence in the quality and repeatability of the service. There seems to be no ‘network slicing’ (the technique to separate traffic types), making it impossible to prioritise network traffic – such as IoT. Indeed, the entire IoT aspect of 5G has been shelved for now, with both EE and Vodafone confirming that IoT will not be part of the initial service. There is no clarity regarding support for IoT devices in the future, the ability to upgrade or migrate from current to 5G networks or any commercial information that would help both Managed Service Providers and businesses build 5G into their future IoT strategies.

What to do: Use what we have already – mature 4G services

So what are the options? 5G is disappointing but companies cannot afford to postpone much needed network investments in wireless primary and backup services indefinitely.  The good news is that 4G networks are now mature – and that means both widely available and reliable. The arrival of 5G will address the burgeoning capacity issue for 4G, which is great news; and recent market price adjustments have taken 4G out of the last resort category into a viable option for primary and resilience connectivity. 

4G is proven to support VoIP and Unified Communication streaming; it can also be used for machine to machine communication. Software Defined Networking (SDN) enables 4G to be blended with other networks to deliver primary connections that deliver a reliable and affordable leased line alternative. Furthermore, IoT is deliverable today using the unlicensed spectrum and other standards, including NarrowBand IoT and LoRaWAN, to enable mass IoT deployments (which will be incorporated later into the emerging 5G standard, future proofing investment).

Critically, all of these services come with SLAs; networks are reliable and accessible. Essentially, it is possible today to meet business needs for affordable and consistent primary and secondary connectivity services with the existing 4G network infrastructure.

Conclusion

5G technology looks good on paper and there have been significant deployments in the US and other countries. But there remain a number of very significant infrastructure challenges that continue to undermine 5G value and impact on our business landscape in the short to medium term.

As the 5G network plans and service offerings stand today, businesses will struggle to justify investment in the new technology. However, while waiting for the promise of 5G to be realised, businesses can extract significant value from 4G today. And with further price disruption expected within the 4G market, the cost model will become ever more compelling, for primary, secondary and IoT connectivity.

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