Millimeter wave mobile communications for 5G cellular: It will work! was a revelation in 2013. Back then, most engineers believed that rain and atmosphere made mmWave spectrum would play only a modest role in mobile communications.
Looking back four years later, most of what Ted, Samini and team wrote in 2013 is confirmed. This article was triggered when I noticed then NYU grad student Mathew Samini was an author on 15 major papers in three years (below.) These included the propagation test data and a more accurate Statistical Channel Model, an essential for designing networks. (Abstract below.)
Verizon will soon turn on millimeter wave to (a very few) homes in 11 cities; the Koreans have major plans for the next 15 months. It does work. The NYU team performed tens of thousands of tests in Manhattan as well as in Brooklyn. Their data was convincing. Four years later, $billions are being spent to solve the remaining problems and start to connect hundreds of millions.
Fotis Karonis sees everything before that as "proof of concept." He's Managing Director of Mobile and also IT, where he's advancing Software Enabled Networks. He believes BT will be first in Britain, implying the other British companies will be later. He didn't say the "first commercial" cells in 2020 will be many, so his date doesn't conflict with the 2022-2024 plan for volume mmWave from NTT's Seizo Onoe.
He acknowledges that BT still has a long way to go in LTE deployment. While they claim 99% population coverage with LTE, these maps from Open Signal suggest they are not using a robust measure of actual coverage. The map above is based on tested connections to LTE. Below, the 4G and 3G maps are side by side. Note how many places 3G is working but you can't even get 4G. That's strongly suggestive of either a crowded LTE network or optimistic coverage estimates.
Karonis is strong on the need for reliability, particularly as BT adds security services as customers.
It does work! Throughout the show, two large screens showed live data from a 1 GHz mmWave + 4x4 LTE MIMO system. The results were consistently between 19 gigabits and 21 gigabits. About 1 gigabit was LTE, an example of the gigabit LTE that will be sweeping the industry in the next two years. The mmWave gear ran consistently at 19 or 20 gigabits. While Huawei said nothing about availability, I infer 2020 is the target for working production equipment for mobile.
Not one of the dozens of network engineers I've spoken to lately disagreed with Ted Rappaport's conclusion "It will work." While we have no field results on millimeter wave to consumers, there are decades of results of mmWave for backhaul, high-speed point to point wireless, and heavy military usage.
Ted Rappaport of NYU, the world's foremost mmWave researcher, disagrees with my guess that mmWave 5G will be modest until 2021-2023. My opinion is backed up by opinions from several carriers and an estimate from Ovum that fewer than 1% of lines will be millimeter wave in 2021. Ted's opinion is shared by Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who will deploy in Boston and probably San Francisco as soon as Verizon can get the equipment. That should be late 2017 or early 2018. Nokia and Ericsson have hundreds of engineers working on 5G mmWave.
I will be delighted to be proven wrong and see more rapid progress. Since my comment, Rappaport and team have published a seminal paper, Millimeter Wave Wireless Communications: New Results for Rural Connectivity (Abstract below.) They were able to detect a 73 GHz signal 11 kilometers away from their transmitter, a carefully aligned antenna 110 meters above average terrain. (Pictured.) They used 1 watt of transmitter power, levels similar to today's mobile phones.
A chance to watch. Press releases sometimes are as credible as politician's speeches, so I'm looking forward to watching Tuesday's live demo of a 5G network. At the Texas Wireless Summit, Arunabha Ghosh of AT&T will present Designing Ultra-Dense Networks for 5G at 9:40. At 10 a.m., AT&T will demonstrate their state of the art 5G testing. This will be one of the first public demonstrations of a 5G mmWave system. Webcast by RCR Wireless.
AT&T & Ericsson are working on phased arrays with ultra-fast beam steering, feedback-based hybrid precoding, multi-user multiple-input/multiple-output, dynamic beam tracking and beam acquisition. Beamforming and related technologies seem may be a breakthrough that extends the reach and throughput of mmWave systems. mmWave Works!, as Ted Rappaport proclaimed a few years ago. The question now is where it will prove financially practical. All those small cells and backhaul can be very expensive.
The day will mostly be devoted to connecting and automating cars, with top speakers. Robert Heath of the University of Texas is one of the organizers; he co-wrote the book on millimeter wave and is working to solve some of the remaining problems.
Donovan joins Sprint, T-Mobile in Gig LTE race. This will increase capacity 4-5 times, so much that I'm predicting wireless is about to enter an age of abundance. "Unlimited" plans with speeds over 100 megabits and caps well over 100 gigabytes/month will make sense at consumer prices. As T incorporates 5G in the next few years, especially Massive MIMO, costs will go down even further.
AT&T announced plans to increase capacity 5X, with 4 carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM - the blessed trio of the Gigabit Internet. See For non-engineers. How LTE gets to the gigabit: 4x4 MIMO, 4 Band Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM for my attempt to explain this to ordinary people. The gig is shared across the cell site, but individual users will usually get hundreds of megabits unless at the edge of the cell or behind walls. Deployment in 2017 will probably be modest because most of AT&T's cells rarely see congestion today.
Gigabit LTE technology is so cheap that AT&T can do this without raising capital spending. Verizon & Vodafone estimate that wireless costs are going down 40% per year.
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