Forget "5G" marketing hype. LTE is going to a gigabit in 2016 at Telstra in Australia and SK in Korea. AT&T and just about every other large carrier plans 600 megabits to a gigabit in the next few years. (Update September - AT&T confirms 12-18 months.Qualcomm is shipping the gigabit X16 LTE chip. Gigabit LTE uses more bandwidth, 60-100 MHz in total (Carrier aggregation); more antennas, 4x4 and 8x8 MIMO; and more bits per signal, 256 QAM.
Aggregation, MIMO, and 256 QAM will dominate the next five years. 5G highband will be exciting, great pr, and only minimally deployed until at least 2021 and probably a few years later. NTT DOCOMO's CTO Onoe expects nearly all "5G" advances to be under 6 GHz until 2022-2023.
Update Sept: Softbank Japan has turned on world's first 5G. It's Massive MIMO, not mmWave.
Who needs 5G? I was wrong last issue to say SK in Korea was the first to announce gigabit (shared) LTE deployments. I had missed a Telstra announcement earlier this year. Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson are ready to deliver gigabit gear to any carrier who can clear an additional 40 MHz. Most carriers will have the bandwidth needed as they refarm 2G and 3G spectrum. AT&T is officially ending 2G later this year, and many will follow. LTE now carries almost all data at Verizon, so they can reuse much of the 3G spectrum soon. "The spectrum crisis" was invented by lobbyists who wanted governments to give them more spectrum cheaply, but was wildly exaggerated: except in India, most large carriers will be able to dedicate 60-100 megabits to LTE and achieve peaks of a gig and more.
AT&T's Andre Fuersch promised the gigabit in an important speech,
Wi-Fi Alliance draft test spec is -82 dBm; Verizon wants -72 dBm. Neutral parties think -82 dBm is much too high. These are log scales; even a few dBm are a big difference. Mike Calabrese, one of the best in D.C. claims Verizon-Qualcomm LTE-U plans will interfere with as many as half the Wi-Fi connections unless it backs away well below -80 dBm. (Below) He uses the chart here from Broadcom, which I'm told is based on CableLabs data. New York City says testing on their fast-building LinkNYC discovers problems unless LTE-U backs away if there are signals down to -90 dBm.
Dean Brenner of Qualcomm put out an angry statement that -82 dBm would kill LTE-U, even though neutral parties think it already is too much of a compromise.
Qualcomm is sampling chips and expects devices this year. "Last year, we were the first to provide an LTE Service with a speed of 500 Mbps and this year we push that up to 1 Giga bps." Korea's SKT said on the investor call. AT&T & Sprint could also offer a gig by ~2018 according to my analysis of their spectrum holding, as could the new network in Rwanda. The gig (shared) requires 40-80 MHz more spectrum than most of today's LTE, which I believe many other telcos have or will soon acquire. (I don't know enough about spectrum holdings outside the U.S. to be more specific. Data very welcome.)
Qualcomm's X16 LTE modem is now sampling and Basil El-Kadi tells me they expect commercial devices before yearend. SKT didn't announce their suppliers, but I believe Qualcomm is ahead of everyone else. To get to a gig, LTE-A features:
- More bandwidth, 60-100 MHz in total (Carrier aggregation)
- More antennas, 4x4 and 8x8 MIMO
- More bits per signal, 256 QAM
Saving money by combining all towers. Building one network is cheaper than building 2, 3, 4, or 7. Policy people around the world are re-discovering that basic fact. Competition is great where it works, but building duplicate networks is very expensive. The Chinese government has decided wireless towers and related backhaul are a natural monopoly and forced the three telcos to share.
Savings will range from 20% to 55%, according to the below filing by China Unicom. "Co-tenancy discount 1: a 20% discount if two companies share the use of the telecommunications towers and a 30% discount if three companies share the use of the towers. The first user will be entitled to an additional 5% discount. Co-tenancy discount 2: 40-55%."
The tower company intends to IPO next year,
Giving away three months of unlimited data to win customers. Samsung bundles Jio's offer and saw a jump in sales. ETTEL expects Apple and almost all others to do the same. Shruti Dhapola tested a LYF phone and found, "download speeds came in the range of 6Mbps to 10Mbps, which is way above what you get from other players now." (Indian speeds are low because the telcos, including Reliance, don't have enough spectrum. The auction will change that.)
Over 1.5M have already signed on, using a remarkable 26 gigabytes/month each. The official launch date may be August, taking advantage of Jio's support of the Indian Olympic team. The first announcement featured some of Bollywood's biggest stars.
Jio is confident they can handle 100M subscribers drawing 5 gig. They intend to get them. Most prices will be under $10,
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