High Frequency mmWave
400 meters mmWave without line of sight. Most projections of mmWave costs imply a reach about half that; longer reach would dramatically reduce the network costs. I believe the multi-billion dollars mmWave deployments at Verizon and NTT DOCOMO are going forward because of the newly demonstrated performance. Until recently, most in the industry feared that mmWave would cost so much the economics would not support even a single network. Lowell tells Morgan's Phil Cusick,
"We were at 2000 feet from the receiver in Samsung's Technology Park, we were delivering 1.8 gigs. We said, "Okay, take that truck, drive it around the backside of the building," so there is no possible way you will have a direct line of sight, 2000 feet away, it delivered 1.4 gigabytes of throughput. And the reason was that it took all the different reflections and the computers were able to process and then get that signal back up."
2017's biggest announcement - unless China does similar. NTT Docomo CEO Kazuhiro Yoshizawa plans to go "nationwide" by 2023, per the generally reliable Nikkei Asia Review. The estimate is that the three Japanese telcos (DOCOMO, KDDI, Softbank) will spend a total of ~$45B, some of it on shared infrastructure, The story has been picked up by more than a dozen publications but that's about the only details we have. (If DOCOMO is spending half of the $5G, that's about $200/person servable.)
DOCOMO has been dropping hints for several months. I'm hoping for a detailed announcement either at the June 20th shareholders meeting or the next quarterly conference call. Nikkei has a May 22 comment from Yoshiwara "We will lead the world with our 5G technology."
Top Wall Streeter follows the evidence. Verizon has said nothing about definite plans and refuses to confirm anything. I knew I was taking a risk last month when I reported they were going ahead on the largest 5G network this side of China. An error on something this big would really hurt my reputation. I went ahead because Lowell McAdam and team are experienced and very smart. Their actions are carefully planned.
Verizon would not be spending $4-7B on fiber backhaul unless they were putting $10's of billions of gear in the field. Moffett and Del Deo confirm that $1B spent of fiber implies an investment about five times greater when labor and other costs are added.
Verizon would have bought some spectrum in the auction unless they had alternate plans to add a great deal of capacity. One report has speeds on the Verizon network falling 14% since they went unlimited. Wireless growth had been falling, but with "unlimited" people aren't switching to Wi-Fi as much. The evidence is early but the trend pretty clear.
No one, not even Verizon, can offer reliable coast estimates on the 5G small cell build. There is simply no data.
We have only guesses for now, but $tens of billions of decisions are being made. Until we have extensive data from the field, everyone is relying on limited lab trials and models. There are no proven facts about mmWave economics. I can't do informed reporting without some numbers to use, so I'm collecting all the data I can find. Many answers also require estimates of traffic demand, how much people are willing to pay for what technology, whether connected cars require 1 ms, 5 ms, or 10-30 ms latency, and many some unknown unknowns. Improvements necessary and welcome.
Many answers also require estimates of traffic demand, how much people are willing to pay for what technology, whether connected cars require 1 ms, 5 ms, or 10-30 ms latency, and many other datapoints not covered here. In particular, "unlimited" offerings are driving up traffic demand far above expectations even six months ago.
Suddenly, 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.
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