1 ms will be in the lab for years, (A First Look) From China to AT&T to the EU, regulators are being promised ultra-fast, 1 ms latency, 5G. They are being led by the nose to offer giveaways and subsidies. 1 ms. is certainly possible, as is 2 ms. LTE. But the networks being built are 5-15 ms., sometimes more. AT&T's Melissa Arnoldi has committed to a report twice a month. (Thank you.) The highlights:

  • Latency of 9-12 ms. 150 meters in Waco, Texas.
  • 1 gigabit 300 meters in Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Observed no impacts on 5G mmWave signal performance due to rain, snow or other weather events.
  • 400 MHz signals.

These are about the results I would have expected based on experience elsewhere, but every datapoint from the field is very welcome.

AT&T engineers are hopeful of bringing the latency from tower to cell down to 5 ms. Measuring from the local intelligence is more representative of peak response. Nearly every network announced is controlling multiple cells from a C-RAN, adding 2-3 hops through routers for even favored applications. That will raise latency to 10-25 ms. for favored applications.

1 ms. from tower to cell will be part of a future specification from 3GPP, URLLC. That hasn't been released yet.  

 Here are confirming datapoints I've reported:

 From AT&T

 Ready to Launch: How 2 Years of 5G Trials is Preparing Us for Commercial Deployment

April 10, 2018
By Melissa Arnoldi

We took our 5G show on the road.  Late last year, we expanded 5G trials to more people and businesses in Waco, Texas, Kalamazoo, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana.

My team spent countless hours collecting data and talking to real people who elected to join the trial. What worked?  What didn’t?  What did we need to change? Why was this happening here and not there?  Would mmWave spectrum really work to deliver 5G?  Did we really just hit that speed in South Bend?

Waco, Texas

Participants: Small and mid-sized businesses

  • Provided 5G mmWave service to a retail location more than 150 meters away from the cell site and observed wireless speeds of approximately 1.2 Gbps in a 400 MHz channel.
  • Observed latency rates at 9-12 milliseconds.
  • Latency impacts things like the time between pressing play and seeing a video start to stream or hitting a web link and seeing a webpage begin to load. For context, MIT researchers discovered the human brain “latency” is 13 milliseconds.
  • Supported hundreds of simultaneous connected users using the 5G network.

Kalamazoo, Michigan
Participants: Small businesses 

  • Observed no impacts on 5G mmWave signal performance due to rain, snow or other weather events.
  • Learned mmWave signals can penetrate materials such as significant foliage, glass and even walls better than initially anticipated.
  • Observed more than 1 Gbps speeds under line  of sight conditions up to 900 feet. That’s equal to the length of 3 football fields.

South Bend, Indiana 
Participants: Small business and residential customers

  • Observed a full end-to-end 5G network architecture, including the 5G radio system and core, demonstrating extremely low latency.
  • Successfully provided gigabit wireless speeds on mmWave spectrum in both line of sight and some non-line of sight conditions.

 

 

dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon will turn on the first $20B 5G mmWave network, soon offering a gigabit or close to 30M homes. The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while keeping capex at around 15%.

The Koreans, Chinese, and almost all Europeans are not doing mmWave in favor of mid-band "5G," with 4G-like performance. Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 4X to 10X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year. I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

The predicted massive small cell builds are a pipe dream for vendors for at least five years. Verizon expects to reach a quarter of the U.S. without adding additional small cells. 

In the works: Enrique Blanco and Telefonica's possible mmWave disruption of Germany; Believe it or don't: 5G is cheap because 65% of most cities can be covered by upgrading existing cells; Verizon is ripping out and replacing 200,000 pieces of gear expecting to save half. 

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 5G Why Verizon thinks differently and what to do about it is a new report I wrote for STL Partners and their clients.

STL Partners, a British consulting outfit I respect, commissioned me to ask why. That report is now out. If you're a client, download it here. If not, and corporate priced research is interesting to you, ask me to introduce you to one of the principals.

It was fascinating work because the answers aren't obvious. Lowell McAdam's company is spending $20B to cover 30M+ homes in the first stage. The progress in low & mid-band, both "4G" and "5G," has been remarkable. In most territories, millimeter wave will not be necessary to meet expected demand.

McAdam sees a little further. mmWave has 3-4X the capacity of low and mid-band. He sees an enormous marketing advantage: unlimited services, even less congestion, reputation as the best network. Verizon testing found mmWave rate/reach was twice what had been estimated. All prior cost estimates need revision.

My take: even if mmWave doesn't fit in your current budget, telcos should expand trials and training to be ready as things change. The new cost estimates may be low enough to change your mind.