The 5G mobile browser problem no-one is talking about

Opinion: 5G has an exciting future when it comes to dedicated mobile apps but will do little to improve our general browsing experiences.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

MAUI, HAWAII: It has been a lot of work for Qualcomm to get to this point with 5G, and the future looks bright -- but not so for mobile browsing.

At the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui, Hawaii, which is taking place this week, 5G demo devices are on the table, carriers are waxing eloquent to the audience over their emerging 5G deployments and expanding networks, and the US chipmaker has been showing off the latest-and-greatest in the Snapdragon system-on-a-chip (SoC) family, the 5G-ready Snapdragon 855.

5G is an exciting prospect, although not necessarily one that will immediately capture the interest of consumers. Business use cases are more likely, first, and as 5G rolls out to become as common as 3G/4G, the general public will become absorbed into the transition.

See also: Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 promises 5G, enhanced AI, and true 3D biometrics

Fifth-generation wireless promises us much. Gigabit speeds, low latency, increased coverage which is not hampered by objects or obstructions, and a reduction in energy consumption and maintenance costs.

When it comes to consumers, 5G devices are now on the horizon which offer vastly improved speeds over current networks.

Read on: What is 5G? Everything you need to know about the new wireless revolution

Qualcomm likened 5G to the basic necessity of electricity at the conference and looking at 5G from an infrastructure perspective, this may not be wrong. We've come to rely on our mobile devices as necessary objects in our daily lives, and 5G -- at least, once firmly established -- does have the potential to leave 4G networks in the dust.

However, there is a problem that no-one is talking about: the conflict between the rapid acceleration of wireless technologies and politics which is, unwittingly, going to render some of these improvements potentially pointless.

See also: How 5G will transform business (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

In the UK and across Europe, there are two laws of particular interest: the EU's 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the so-called Cookie Law, passed in 2012.

Ever heard someone expel a breath and a long list of expletives while they are attempting to look something up, book a service, or fact-check through the Internet on their smartphone?

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The likelihood is, they've come across both regulations in full force, stirring up annoyance and a rapid, frustrated smashing of fingers to screen as pop-ups scream for consent, T&Cs demand acceptance, and visitors must go through tick-lists of what data they are happy to be collected and in what manner.

All they wanted to do was access the page.

The Cookie law is explained as such by the UK Information Commissioner's Office:

"You must tell people if you set cookies, and clearly explain what the cookies do and why. You must also get the user's consent. Consent must be actively and clearly given.

The same rules also apply if you use any other type of technology to store or gain access to information on someone's device."

The EU's GDPR, which enforced data reform, protection, and collection changes across Europe, has resulted in a plethora of pop-ups which delight in lecturing visitors on data collection practices.

Combine these two well-meaning regulations and you have a melting pot of sheer frustration when it comes to mobile browsing.

When you are forced to stop and be lectured by pop-ups at every turn which must be manually shut down, one by one, it really doesn't matter how quickly you were brought to the page in the first place.

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5G can offer speeds into the Gigabytes, but consumers may only enjoy such speed and a streamlined experience online through dedicated services and apps which do not throw up constant barriers to access.

Rapid YouTube streaming through 5G, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch -- these services, among others, will benefit from 5G and their users will, too.

As happy as you may be with the eradication of buffering and lag when streaming, perhaps we all would be happier still if a solution which balances political and data requirements with convenience is found that would also permit us to fully utilize the next upgrade in wireless technologies in our general browsing experiences.

Disclaimer: Attendance at the conference was sponsored by Qualcomm.

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