Ivan Seidenberg 200Suddenly, it's possible and happening. Costs are down; performance and reach up; "commercial deployments" moved to 2019 by Verizon and AT&T; mobile may be ready for 2020. Engineers like NTT CTO Seizo Inoe are moving up their forecasts for time to revenue. Tests are going better than expected. Most of the challenges holding back big telcos are being solved.  

Nothing is certain, but many top engineers are close to convinced. I believe McAdam at Verizon has decided to go full speed ahead. Six months ago, then CFO Fran Shammo told Wall Street not to put 5G into their capex models for several years. He wanted to see the test results in 2018 before going ahead. Since then, Fran's been replaced by Matt Ellis. Verizon changed 2017 test plans from a few homes near their Boston research labs to 11 cities around the country. They've made a firm commitment to a "commercial deployment" of fixed in 2019.

Verizon engineers are enthused about what they've seen in testing around the world. 

Verizon in particular needs the capacity, must reinforce a reputation as the best, wants a lever for regulators, and needs a dramatic recovery from their worst quarter in a decade. Cable is killing them in the half of their territory without Fios. Customers are hemorrhaging to Sprint and especially T-Mobile. Don't cry for Lowell McAdam; they still made $3.5B in this "worst quarter." These are the factors I see particular to Verizon. 

  • The cost has come down and mmWave technology improved so much in the last year it's now clearly practical.
  • Verizon's entire business model is based on providing much better service at a higher price. T-Mobile and AT&T have come so close to Verizon quality most people won't see any difference. Being the first in the world to 5G mmWave will be great for their image. Even if they spend $5B more than seems rational today, it's worth it for the pr and marketing.
  • Speeds went down 14% when they were dragged kicking and screaming to offer "unlimited." They put a brave face on but really weren't ready. The T-Mobile/Ookla data claim they are now slower than AT&T. Traffic growth on wireless had been plunging from 100% in early smartphone days to 40-45%. Cisco (and I) predicted further falls. That reversed with "unlimited" in Q4 2016. They'll get some breathing room with 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and adding two bands of LTE in the 40 MHz they have fallowBut they soon will need capacity they hadn't planned for. They will need capacity. The small cells going in will have Gig LTE as well as 5G fixed, doubling capacity in a smaller area. They will be upgraded to 5G mobile as soon as ready (?2020-2021.)  After the upgrade, they will have far more capacity than anyone else.
  • Lowell knows it can be done because a decade ago he built the largest mobile network in the world. He was CEO of Verizon Wireless when they built 4G LTE to 97 % of the U.S. from 2009-2012. When they started, no one else was confident in the technology. The risk paid off. It was installed on time and on budget. They had a glorious run as AT&T took two years to catch up and T-Mobile took five. Many worldwide have passed Verizon since and some of the gear is now outdated. By 2015, T-Mobile built an almost comparable network in half the time for half the price. Time to jump ahead again.
  • AT&T has begun going out of territory with wireless to the rooftop. This will allow VZ to counter in AT&T territory and discourage T in VZ territory.
  • Lowell McAdam wants to leave a legacy. Predecessor Ivan Seidenberg ran fiber passed 17M homes, still the largest fiber home network in the West. Seidenberg also led the entire company in 2009 when they built LTE to 97% of the U.S. Eight years later, BT hasn't covered even 75% of the U.K.
  • 5G mmWave will be a powerful competition-killer. A year ago, Verizon was enthusiastic about 5G but uncertain even one mmWave network would be profitable.Now, I believe they and AT&T will both likely build. The combined market cap is over $400B, enough to invest $40B each spread over 6 years. Sprint's total stock value is less than $40B and T-Mobile only a little more. Even if they could finance the deal, it's almost impossible for three 5G networks to make it, much less the four to seven usually needed for competition to work well.
    "mmWave is an incumbent's game," a CTO confirmed to me in private. As Verizon is losing customers, they have more incentive than ever to force out others. Washingtonians, both Democrat and Republican, are burying their heads in the sand on this. We need policy that will work when wireless competition is cut almost in half. We may have ten years but problems could become acute in five.  

dave ask

Newsfeed

The 3.3-4.2 spectrum should be shared, not exclusively used by one company, concludes an important U.S. Defense Innovation Board report. If more wireless broadband is important, sharing is of course right because shared networks can yield far more

It does work! Verizon's mmWave tests over a gigabit in the real world. 
The $669 OnePlus 7 Pro outclasses the best Apples and probably the new Galaxy 10 or Huawei P30 Pro. Optical zoom, three cameras, liquid cooling, Qualcomm 855 and more.
Korea at 400,000 5G May 15. Chinese "pre-commercial" signing customers, 60,000-120,000 base stations in 2019, million+ remarkable soon. 
5G phones Huawei Mate 20, Samsung Galaxy 10, ZTE Nubia, LG V50, and OPPO are all on sale at China Unicom. All cost US$1,000 to 1,500 before subsidy. Xiaomi promises US$600.
Natural monopoly? Vodafone & Telecom Italia to share 5G, invite all other companies to join.
Huawei predicts 5G phones for US$200 in 2021, $300 even earlier
NY Times says "5G is dangerous" is a Russian plot. Really.
Althiostar raised US$114 million for a virtual RAN system in the cloud. Rakuten, Japan's new #4, is using it and invested.
Ireland is proposing a US$3 billion subsidy for rural fibre that will be much too expensive. Politics.
Telefonica Brazil has 9M FTTH homes passed and will add 6M more within two years. Adjusted for population, that's more than the U.S. The CEO publicly urged other carriers to raise prices together.
CableLabs and Cisco have developed Low Latency XHaul (LLX) with 5-15 ms latency for 5G backhaul,  U.S. cable is soon to come in very strong in wireless. Details 
Korea Telecom won 100,000 5G customers in the first month. SK & LG added 150,000 more. KT has 37,500 cells. planning 90% of the country by yearend. 
The Chinese giants expect 60,000 to 90,000 5G cells by the end of 2019.
China Telecom's Yang Xin warns, "Real large-scale deployment of operators' edge computing may be after 2021." Customers are hard to find.
Reliance Jio registered 97.5% 4G availability across India in Open Signal testing. Best in world.

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Welcome On Oct 1, 2019 Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network with extraordinary hopes. The actual early results have been dismal. Good engineers tell me that will change. Meanwhile, 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 3X 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.