April 13, some of the best engineers in the world will come to New York and plant cable's flag at the heart of the wireless world. After the event, no one should doubt that cable be a player. Featured speaker Ted Rappaport leads perhaps the world's best wireless research center at NYU. Rahim Tafazolli at Surrey and Gerhard Fettweis at TU Dresden have groups that are contenders for that title. CableLabs is organizing the event and sending their best.
I call Ted, "The Prince of 28 GHz." Ted's group convinced the industry that 28 GHz mobile can work by taking a test rig around Manhattan and Brooklyn for thousands of tests. He's a dynamic speaker and a reason 5G high frequencies lead the discussion. Possibly the toughest question in future wireless is whether millimeter wave or many antenna MIMO will dominate. Both will be the right choice some places. High demand and concentrated customers call for the capacity of millimeter. The greater reach and probable lower cost of many antennas (MU MIMO) in lower frequencies are more likely in less dense regions.
Top analysts Jonathan Chapin and Paul de Sa will discuss ways cable could become the best wireless networks in the United States. Day One, they can have over 10,000,000 cell sites simply with the WiFi in home gateways.
WiFi reach is limited but cable can have 200 small cells for every wireless tower at Verizon or AT&T. Bottoms up or WiFi First networks should deliver data at a fraction of the cost of traditional towers. (I'm working on a separate article on how cable capes and open should be so low they could transform the wireless market. I doubt they will do that and break up their cozy collaboration with the U.S. telcos.)
FCC Commissioners Rosenworcel (Democrat) and O'Rielly (Republican) will promise to do everything they can to encourage wireless competition from the cable guys. (We all know about politicians and promises. Verizon and AT&T may be on the opposite side) Both are strong contenders for the FCC Chair after the election. They both are enthusiastic about millimeter wave. Rosenworcel spoke at a Marconi event about MIMO. Back in 2008, I believe I was the first to report Rosenworcel was a candidate for the FCC under Obama. SHe's very sharp and hardworking and has the spirit of a public servant. I don't know her relationship with Hillary, who has long been close to Susan Ness.
Washington people have ignored a huge issue around millimeter wave: It's a competition killer unless regulations are changed. Millimeter wave has very short reach. Think putting a radio on every block. That will require a massive amount of backhaul, probably fiber. Only the incumbents have enough fiber most places to keep costs down. There aren't going to be many millimeter wave networks most places. The deployment including landlord costs will be so expensive that it will be hard to pay off without a very high market share. Every telco is talking 5G because the trials are good publicity but some of the biggest are afraid the numbers won't work many places. Verizon wants to be the first to 5G trials but their CFO has already told Wall Street they won't spend much money on 5G for many years. He didn't want analysts to raise their capex forecasts.
One network is cheaper than two, much less the four to seven for decent competition. More and more, wireless networks are looking like a natural monopoly. Shared towers are a partial answer. The CFO said AT&T and Cingular saved hundreds of millions building a shared network. The Chinese recently forced all the towers into a shared company while maintaining retail competition. England did that for landlines across the half of the country not covered by cable.The Brits forced BT to structurally separate, followed in turn by New Zealand. The Australians decided on a single National Broadband Network. Several of the Africans are looking at similar. Regulating a monopoly isn't easy, of course, but an unregulated monopoly or two collaborators is even worse.
I'll probably use the few questions I get for technical issues and no one else is likely to ask about competition.
"We have met the enemy and he is us" is a line from the Pogo cartoons.