Lowell McAdam at Cornell 200The 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.

Verizon decisionmakers can see what I'm seeing. 

Ivan Seidenberg left a legacy of two great networks: Fios & Verizon's early 4G to 98% of the U.S. In both cases, the technology was unproven but he took the risk. Both were delivered on time and on schedule and changed the industry worldwide.

The world's first large 5G millimeter wave network would be the legacy of Lowell McAdam.

~$5B new fiber build on top of the XO purchase and existing network.

Most of the cost of a fiber network is labor on the ground, not the fiber optic cable itself. They announced they are buying over $1B of cable from Corning. That implies the total spend will be $4B-$7B. They just spent $1.8B buying a 20,000 mile fiber network from XO.

It will save money on backhaul and win some more customers. That isn't enough to justify the expense unless they also are building an enormous small cell network.

They would be stupid to do this unless they needed massive fiber for small cells backhaul . Verizon's top executives aren't stupid.

They didn't buy any spectrum at the last auction even though it went cheap.

Auction prices were 50-70% cheaper this year than the previous auction, in which they spent $10B. They have 40 MHz fallow, enough to about double current capacity. Going to 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM will double it again. But traffic growth is accelerating since U.S. carriers went unlimited. Growth was down to 40%-50% and Cisco predicted it would go below 40%. We only have a few months of data, but that trend is reversing. A competitor claims Verizon network speeds fell 14% while others were increasing.

Somewhere between 2020 & 2023, they will need a way to keep up with the traffic. If they weren't confident about 5G coming quickly, they almost surely would have bought some spectrum. Meanwhile, the small cells can run "Gig LTE" or similar and add the needed capacity.

5G is coming in faster than almost anyone expected even a year ago.

Seizo Onoe, CTO of giant NTT DOCOMO, last year predicted we wouldn't see much 5G millimeter wave until 2022-2023. Among top engineers, Ted Rappaport was virtually the only one publicly predicting sooner. At the Brooklyn 5G, Onoe startled everyone by saying things have changed. He now predicts substantial builds coming in 2020 or 2021, probably including mobile.  

At Brooklyn, both AT&T & Verizon promised "commercial deployment" of 5G fixed in 2019. Verizon believes they will win a significant number of customers from cable for 5G fixed. Likely speeds are 5 gigabits shared, a realistic 1 gig to most homes most of the time. Cable is now routinely 50 meg down and higher, enough for most people. (I have 200/20 for only $15/month more.) While Comcast intends to do some DOCSIS 3.1 upstream in 2017, most cable companies are waiting for Full Duplex for fast upstream. They expect it by 2019-2020, but I haven't seen even a demonstration unit. Verizon believes they can beat cable with the much faster upstream. If people are reluctant to switch, customer acquisition costs may be so high 5G fixed may not prove profitable. (Unproven - no data.)

Intel and Qualcomm are racing to produce the first chips for 5G phones, no later than 2019. The first will probably be large, run hot, and drain the batteries. But Moore's law isn't dead for at least two more generations. Intel, Samsung, and Qualcomm's main foundry, TSMC, are just now getting to "10 nanometer" production, All have announced plans fo 7 nm and 5 nm generations on a fast schedule.   

Earlier deliveries significantly reduce the time to revenue of any 5G build.    

Verizon and AT&T are accelerating their trials. 

A few months ago, Verizon was talking about 2017 testing to a handful of homes near their labs in Boston. Suddenly, they are coming to eleven cities across the country by June. They want to quickly develop data about results in different terrain. mmWaves have trouble penetrating many windows and walls. They won't go through buildings. Some believe beamforming will provide decent performance without line of sight. Whether and when that applies is totally unknown until we have field data. 

5G is coming in cheaper than expected even a year ago.

Unconfirmed numbers are as low as $100/home passed. Nokia & Ericsson, the prime U.S. suppliers, are facing Samsung, with Wonil Roh and other respected engineers. Meanwhile, both Ericsson and Nokia need to win these contacts. Ericsson predicts the worldwide market for telecom gear is going down ~6% this year. I believe Huawei is winning a greater share. The U.S. and Australia are the only major markets Huawei is not a factor.

There's no public data on pricing. Starry's Chet Kanoja, a competent engineer, believes he can bring in a one gig mmWave transmitter for a parts cost of ~$1,000. (He uses off the shelf 802.11ac chips and changes the frequency.) 

Verizon is moving quickly to Cloud Ran, much cheaper intelligence for multi-cell deployments. C-RAN is proving far more flexible and easy to update. No one heeds to climb towers. C-RAN almost certainly cannot deliver the much hyped 1 millisecond latency; AT&T is hoping to get down to 5 ms. The multiple routers/switches inevitably slow things down. Few telcos believe there's a large enough market for 1 ms to justify putting all the cost at the edge. Even most connected cars don't need that speed. I have not heard any telco, anywhere, commit to a large 1 ms network. Deutsche Telekom and friends are demanding a $50B subsidy for mmWave with 1 ms along all roads.


5G "New Radio" is a severely watered down system that is mostly 4G controlled. It will get to market faster and cheaper. 

3GPP has developed a hybrid 4G/5G radio standard that should be much cheaper to produce. Many "5G" features are stripped out and 4G systems will provide the control plane. Millimeter way will be an auxiliary data channel, adding capacity when required. "NR" does implement some coding and other 5G features, but it's mostly 4G with extra data capacity. 

This was demanded by a worldwide group of telcos determined to have something called "5G" sooner, mostly for pr and lobbying.

LTE, almost everyone now agrees, will not be replaced by 5G many places for at least 10-15 years. 

Beamforming apparently is making a major difference in mmWave performance. (Unproven.) 

Folks like Starry are claiming real-world mmWave reach of 500-1,000 meters. Verizon seems encouraged but has said little. If true, this can raise the number of homes reached on average from 150-300 to as many as 1,000. Absolutely no field data and little more than hints from lab testing.


Often interesting

Latest issue

 Gig LTE & Massive MIMO ushering in the Age of Wireless Abundance

Wireless Abundance is here: What the new tech means http://bit.ly/Wirelessabundance
Sprint & T-Mobile Charge to be 1st in U.S. to Gig LTE bit.ly/STMOgig  AT&T bit.ly/ATTGIG2016
Kitahara of Softbank “I am crazy about Massive MIMO” http://bit.ly/MMIMOCrazy
20 Gig mmWave, Massive MIMO & Gig LTE at the Huawei MBBF http://bit.ly/Huawei20
LTE gets to the gigabit explained for non-engineers http://bit.ly/GigLteexplained
Massive MIMO explained. http://bit.ly/WHMassiveMIMO
2017's Big Gigabit story: Qualcomm 835 is ready http://bit.ly/BigGigLTE
Doubling speed with 4x4 MIMO & 256 QAM at T-Mobile http://bit.ly/2k1gEOQ
Netgear Nighthawk M1, Telstra do "gigabit class" LTE http://bit.ly/2k1s5Gq
Spectrum price down by half http://bit.ly/Spectrumhalfoff
Dish and the telcos see big asset cut http://bit.ly/auctionlosers
Shorts on 3GPP,  NYU research, Ralph de la Vega, 5G new radio

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5GW News

dave right5G? 4G? Whatever the name, wireless is going to a gigabit, soon.  I've reported broadband since 1999 and now is the time for gigabit wireless. Catch a mistake or have news? Email me please. Dave Burstein


Stories worth writing

Starry may match Verizon 5G at half the cost
OFCOM in UK: Share all spectrum, even licensed
OFCOM's Boccardi: 26 GHz worldwide: U.S. goes 28 
Verizon 5G fixed tests will be only 100's of homes
Massive MIMO FD at China Uni, Tele, Huawei, ZTE





Verizon and AT&T burying price increases in fees. 

Huawei's Richard Yu intends to pass both Apple & Samsung in smartphones in five years. 

The 3,000,000,000 transistor Qualcomm 835 is a revolution. Gig LTE, incredible cameras, better VR & AR, & ... State of the art CPU, DSL, GPU, ISP tightly integrated

1,000 T-Mobile small cells 2016, 6,000 more coming. Tech Life

New $84 Reliance Lyf Wind 7S has a 5" screen, a quad-core Snapdragon, an 8 megapixel camera, and some extras. Not state of the art, perhaps, but completely usable at a modest price. 

Orange/FT 4G covers 97% of Poland, 96% of Moldova, but only 84% in France, Q3 2016. They have 113.5 mobile customers in Africa compared to 25.5M in Europe.


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