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 Since then, Fran's been replaced by Matt Ellis.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.
The gleam in Lowell McAdam's eye discussing his future network was a hint. Verizon's purchase of $1B of Corning fiber convinced me the decision had been made to go to a one-third to one-half the United States. I have no inside information; the CFO didn't have too many drinks one night and spill secrets. Rather, the evidence and the logic drove me to believe this will soon be the largest network build in the Western world. It really doesn't look like Verizon will buy Charter (or whomever.) Making looks much cheaper than buying. It's also possible the 2017-2018 testing will be severely disappointing. They can change their decision until 2019-2020, when the spending gets heavy.
The evidence below needs to be considered alongside this separate article about what's inspiring Verizon to go ahead. The technology is (almost) ready. 5-20 gigabits is working in the labs and 10,000 engineers around the world are pushing forward. VZ is being killed by cable across the unfibered half of their territory. AT&T is making noise about going out of territory with wireless to the rooftops & gigabit to the apartments. The business logic is strong.
Most previously expected deployments before 2022 to be extremely modest. The highly respected NTT DOCOMO CTO in 2015 predicted little mmWave mobile before 2022-2023. That became the common wisdom among leading engineers despite the massive pr it would be sooner. At the Brooklyn 5G, he acknowledged advances have been made and he now expects sooner. Ted Rappaport is no longer the outlier on projected volume deployment. Nothing is certain yet, but many think Onoe is on target. 3GPP, under pressure from telcos, is cooperating.
3GPP, under pressure from telcos, is cooperating. They are expediting the ridiculously named "5G New Radio Non-standalone." That's mostly a 4G LTE system with some software tweaks and the ability to use mmWave as well as Wi-Fi spectrum. The existing LTE network will handle the hard stuff,
Small cells: fiber: Exchange: Cloud RAN: Core: Internet or PSTN. I believe Verizon has made the decision to spend ~$20B and add enough small cells to cover 1/3rd to 1/2 of the U.S. The major construction will be from 2019 to 2022.
Draft for comment: more thorough and accurate version to come. Improvements and disagreements welcome.
Verizon has decided to spend $20-25,000,000,000 on 5G millimeter wave to 30-40,000,000 homes, I believe. This is not a test, trial, or “part of 11 cities” deployment. This will be the largest new network in the western world.
1/3rd to 1/2 of the U.S. will be covered. In 2019 - if all goes well - they will begin installing between 100,000 and 300,000 small cells. They hope to finish this phase in 2022 or 2023.
Each cell will have a 4G/5G upgradable radio and will immediately add capacity to LTE, right where it’s most needed. That’s why Verizon didn’t buy any spectrum in the auction; LTE & LAA will provide what’s needed, even with an “unlimited” offering.
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