Verizon CFO Matt Ellis in December 2017 said, “it just starts to be significant to our financials in the next 2 to 3 years.” That would be late 2019 or 2020. Since then, Verizon has said everything is going better than expected. Verizon is building a true gigabit millimeter wave network.

After that comment, the industry accepted calling almost everything "5G," including 5G Low in 3.5 GHz spectrum. That's 70%-90% slower, really 4G with a software tweak (New Radio.) Especially in China, 3.5 GHz networks may be built early in 2018. 

In July 2018,  Skyworks CEO Kris Sennesael didn't see much demand for either type of 5G until late in 2019. Skyworks supplies frontend radio frequency parts to almost all the phone makers and has a clear view of the market. 

What we’re seeing today is a lot of design activity on both the infrastructure side and also on really kind of a heartbeat of the connectivity within smartphones. We think, again, you can get different answers, but we see revenue really being posted probably by 2020, maybe late '19. But 2020 is where I think kind of we translate around real revenue. (Seeking Alpha)

Getting the first 5G phones for Xmas, as Ted Rappaport predicts, is very exciting. But it probably will be Xmas 2019 or a little later for enough units to ship to affect any bottom line. It will take at least another year after that until they are in mid-priced phones.

Thank you, Simon F, for pointing me to the quote.

Article rewritten 8/5 for clarity and to clarify Ellis was talking about 5G High mmWave.

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. 

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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.