ITU's IMT-2020 defined 5G. 2030 could have the same effect on what comes next. The group welcomes new members. If you understand the issues and can present them articulately, you will be heard. October 2nd is an open workshop, the 3rd and 4th a Focus Group open to new members.

I've been surprised how much impact a thoughtful person can make at ITU, If you can't come to New York, written presentations are welcome. The number submitted hasn't been overwhelming so they will be read.

Below are some suggestions I made about keeping costs and royalties down, sharing spectrum including with Wi-Fi, and promoting competition. Historically, Latin America, Africa and South Asia have been under-represented. We must include their needs, Most of Africa is off the grid; a low energy option is required. 

In addition, I will print any short suggestions you send me and bring them to the meeting. If the Chair finds time, I'll present them. Otherwise, I'll leave printouts and help you post them. 

The FCC and OFCOM are similar, if you take the time to learn the system. I speak from experience. It's not a place to argue the virtues of net neutrality, censorship, or competition, but it is appropriate to discuss whether the technical suggestions have a negative affect on these issues. 

Some of the speakers will be very technical. I'm a geek; if you're not, the meeting will probably not interest you. Most of the people will be pros informed by decades of experience. It will be a great place if you want to be on the bleeding edge.

See you there.

First Workshop on Network 2030  will take place on 2 October 2018, in New York, followed by the inaugural meeting of the ITU-T Focus Group on Technologies for Network 2030 (FG NET-2030)

Dave's suggestions for discussion


People more qualified than I will be discussing possibilities like terahertz spectrum and microscopic antennae. What I want to do is put some questions on the table crucial to the cost of access and deploying everywhere. These are questions, not conclusive opinions. The groups making standards very rarely have considered the requirements of the developing world, which include low costs and simple deployment.

Some issues that might arise in coming wireless networks include:

  1. Possible obstacles to shared, multi-tenant systems. Consider a rural road system which requires many small cells. In many cases, it's unrealistic for three or four wireless networks to build separately. Sharing networks has become common from Canada to England to India. Fewer towers also means less pollution.
    One network is cheaper than two. Two is cheaper than the four to seven often required for strong competition.
  2. Requirements in the standard that drive up costs significantly without benefits for all. While some countries and carriers can afford networks with expensive features, others are held back by the expense. Simpler networks are cheaper to build and to operate. Costly advanced features could be made optional. Huawei has been working on inexpensive units easily deployable. Bringing down the costs is particularly important in less developed areas. In practice, nearly all standards have been controlled by developed countries and CJK. I believe the interests of other countries should come to the heart of the discussion, ideally by stronger participation from around the world.
  3. Coexistence and efficient coordination with other technologies that share the medium. In particular, Wi-Fi and 4G/5G may share spectrum. There are major efficiencies to use the cloud to reduce interference, often requiring information about the environment. A way for both to communicate would have substantial advantages. Currently, 3GPP and 802.11 have battled over how to keep out of each others' way in 4G & 5G. Both lose capacity. Twelve years should be enough to move from theoretical discussions to field deployments. 
  4. Low energy requirements. The majority of Africa is not covered by electric grids, nor are many sparsely populated rural areas in the developed world. Systems that can work with solar power are ideal. All energy reductions are important and reduce costs.
  5. Royalties should be reasonable. While there is no international standard, I believe ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré's suggestion of 5-10% for the total retail price is a good guideline. This is particularly relevant to high volume communication devices, such as cell phones. Three years ago, Carlos Slim told me US$50 smartphones would connect the next two billion people. The current royalties demanded would raise the retail cost by at least half. Korea and China have ruled that Qualcomm royalties disrupted crucial markets and Qualcomm has since paid US$1 billion in fines. Qualcomm has since raised the royalty rate from 3.3% to 5%. Clearly, the existing ITU/3GPP system to ensure reasonable royalties is insufficient. The IEEE system that bases royalties on the price of the relevant part (e.g. a 4G chip) rather than the the total price of the cellphone is an interesting approach, but far from sufficient. Standards already consider whether a proposal unreasonably raises costs. High royalties need to be part of that discussion. (They may require a new understanding of competition policy but that needs to be reconsidered.)
  6. SDN, NFV, and Open Source are proving to reduce network costs. Technology submissions should clearly be able to function in a vendor neutral network. Whether that should be implemented with YANG models, Open Daylight, CORD or whatever, the capability must be there.
  7. Standards-based networks must be deployable by more than a very few big companies. 3GPP, ATIS, and the companies involved probably breached competition law with 5G NSA. They wanted something giant telcos could deploy two years before the complete 5G standard would be ready. 3GPP hived off the air interface and some mmWave solutions into the 5G NSA release. For practical purposes, 5G NSA could not be deployed except by those with a 4G network in place. In many countries, that meant only 3 or 4 giants. New entrants were essentially impossible.


dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon will turn on the first $20B 5G mmWave network, soon offering a gigabit or close to 30M homes. The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while keeping capex at around 15%.

The Koreans, Chinese, and almost all Europeans are not doing mmWave in favor of mid-band "5G," with 4G-like performance. Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 4X to 10X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year. I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

The predicted massive small cell builds are a pipe dream for vendors for at least five years. Verizon expects to reach a quarter of the U.S. without adding additional small cells. 

In the works: Enrique Blanco and Telefonica's possible mmWave disruption of Germany; Believe it or don't: 5G is cheap because 65% of most cities can be covered by upgrading existing cells; Verizon is ripping out and replacing 200,000 pieces of gear expecting to save half. 


 5G Why Verizon thinks differently and what to do about it is a new report I wrote for STL Partners and their clients.

STL Partners, a British consulting outfit I respect, commissioned me to ask why. That report is now out. If you're a client, download it here. If not, and corporate priced research is interesting to you, ask me to introduce you to one of the principals.

It was fascinating work because the answers aren't obvious. Lowell McAdam's company is spending $20B to cover 30M+ homes in the first stage. The progress in low & mid-band, both "4G" and "5G," has been remarkable. In most territories, millimeter wave will not be necessary to meet expected demand.

McAdam sees a little further. mmWave has 3-4X the capacity of low and mid-band. He sees an enormous marketing advantage: unlimited services, even less congestion, reputation as the best network. Verizon testing found mmWave rate/reach was twice what had been estimated. All prior cost estimates need revision.

My take: even if mmWave doesn't fit in your current budget, telcos should expand trials and training to be ready as things change. The new cost estimates may be low enough to change your mind.