Tokyo highway30 MPH traffic would require a prohibitive number of small cells for carriers to do it themselves. Wi-Fi First is not a complete substitute for LTE towers. There will always be spots not covered because small cells, especially in higher frequencies, have very short range. Below, the CEO of American Tower puts forth his opinion why highways and moving vehicles are particularly difficult to cover. James Taiclet via Seeking Alpha.

Taicet. The handoff requirement from places where our towers serve people, which are often around highways and other transportation corridors, suburban or rural, you've got people traveling 30 miles an hour to 60 miles an hour. You can't really have sufficient handoff capability over a very large stretch of multi-mile roadway to economically provide those handoffs. 

Taicet, thinking of carrier small cells, went on to say the economics become dubious with densities of less than 10,000 people per square mile. Wi-Fi First changes that, of course.

You've got to have a fiber connection to every small cell, so if you're going to try to cover the roadway from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, where the marathon starts, all the way to Boylston Street, you need hundreds and hundreds of small cells to do that. You'd need 26 miles of fiber just to do one road. And that's one of many, many roads that go from west to east in our area. It just is an economically infeasible opportunity. And you also need, by the say, siting costs. Wherever you put your small cell, you usually have to pay somebody; whether it is the town, the utility, have a revenue share.

These problems are solved by using the customers' home gateway, with 14 million hotspots already connected in Europe and Japan. Backhaul's built-in. No cost for location; most people are happy just to get coverage in turn when they are out. (Must be strictly optional, of course.

Wi-Fi First can be revolutionary.

dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network. It will soon offer a gigabit or close to 30M homes. Thousands of sites are live in Korea; AT&T is going live with mobile, even lacking phones. The hype is unreal. Time for reporting closer to the truth.

The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while reducing capex. Deutsche Telekom and Orange/France Telecom also confirm they won't raise capex.

Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 4X to 7X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM, and other tools double and triple that. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year.

Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less.  I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

Believe it or not, 80% of 5G (mid-band) for several years will be slower than good 4G, which is more developed.

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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.