There was a gag on a TV show where a man in a store asks for the best PC that he could buy with, let’s say 800 €.  The commercial brings him one while explaining the details of the marvellous HW&SW that includes. “OK if this is the best one for 800 €, I want it” says the man.

Both, the man and the commercial start moving to the cash register, the whole operation has taken less than ten minutes, when suddenly the commercial – after checking his mobile phone – says: “Oh man, I’m so sorry, but this is not anymore the best that you can get, at this very moment we have another PC that for the same prize is better”. OK says the man, “Could you explain me which are the improvements?” After the commercial does so in a really convincing way, the man decides to buy the new one because it is now the best one. But again, when they arrive to the cash register, another PC has appeared that improves the one that few minutes ago was the best one.

And so on, and so on, both the commercial and the man, tired, frustrated and trapped in this apparently infinite loop that makes absolutely impossible to buy the best computer with 800 €. The gag ends with the commercial running crazy with the box that includes very best-last offer, the man running as well while praying: “please don’t tell me anything about it, hurry on, hurry on” to the cash register to pay fast enough. And they succeed.

The same happens with mobile phones and in general with consumer end technology. Everything can be improved so we, the engineers, are continuously working towards the next optimization.

I remember long time ago, when we were working for a mobile operator and a soccer club that I’m not going to mention (but you can guess because it is, in my opinion, the best one of the world), introducing 2G small cells, maximising reuse, introducing dynamical carrier allocation, etc.  to make possible the incredible number of simultaneous phone calls produced after a goal is scored.

But VIP people, those that stay on the stands making business agreements involving large amounts of money while attending the game, were not satisfied with their 2G service. They didn’t understand why they didn’t get a guaranteed personal channel so they could phone their “chauffeurs” to come when they ask for. They understood the collapse of the network, but they didn’t understand that being VIP was nothing from GSM point of view, even if their mobile phones were the most expensive on the market. It was the period where only 900 MHz band was used, so no dual phones have yet appeared.

3G, 4G and soon 5G are faster, energy and spectrally more efficient, because engineers do research to facilitate continuous improvements so at the same cost we can get a better device and service as well as social progress. At the same time these standards have evolved to address also the “VIP problem”: ranging from the 3G membership levels (Gold, Silver and Bronze), at least from the engineering point of view, to 5G end-to-end network slicing for big content providers, so everyone will be satisfied.

Sílvia Ruiz