Karri Kuoppamaki, VP Technology at T-Mobile, startled me with the answer, “My vendors tell me NR will be 25% to 50% faster than LTE.” A second source, with similar information, expects about 20%. Neither have much actual test data, and vendor salesmen are often over-optimistic. But even 20% is more than my previous reporting and I need a correction if that proves out.

Eric Xu, current Huawei Chairman, recently said consumers would find no “material difference between 4G & 5G.” That remains true. Peak speeds will be similar and total capacity only matters if the cell is near to congestion, surprisingly rare. Even then, is a fall from 300 megabits to 200 megabits meaningful to the consumer?

A 25% improvement is not a new generation.

Typical LTE installations went from 2 antennas to 4 antennas in the last 18 months. That added 50% to 75% in most cases. 256 QAM also became standard, adding ~30%. This was very important to us in the industry but no one called it a "new generation." It's the kind of modest improvement that has come along every year of two for the last two decades.

My question asked about the same generation equipment, same spectrum, and same antennas. I spoke with him afterwards and I believe we were discussing a fair comparison.
5G NR is a change in line coding, easily and inexpensively added to many new base stations. The LTE standard, I'm told, was often so close to Shannon's Limit there was little room for improvement in primary performance. (I'm not qualified to judge that.) "5G" is designed to use more spectrum and antennas, the main drivers. It allows blocks of 400 MHz in mmWave compared to 100 MHz blocks in LTE.

NR almost didn't make it into the 5G specs because telcos did not want to upgrade their LTE systems and didn't see a large advantage. Qualcomm pushed very hard because it would allow them to raise royalties. (Qualcomm royalties have recently gone up about a third, perhaps $2B/year.)

To get approval, they cut a deal with Nokia to include enough Nokia patents Nokia also could claim higher royalties. (Others are rumored.) Because Verizon intended to start in 2018 with or without a standard, the telcos rushed madly to get the standard approved and accepted the NR.

NR has only a modest effect on latency. For example, AT&T has announced 9-11 ms latency for mmWave testing. Ericsson tells me they will ship LTE with 9 ms. latency in 2018. Ericsson also announced LTE with 2 ms., not much more than the 1 ms promised with 5G. (Neither LTE nor 5G is shipping with latency that low.)

State of the art handset chips for LTE (Qualcomm) & 5G (Huawei) were both at MWC. Both companies told me the peak speed was about 2 gigabits. The performance was remarkably similar. link
A very senior engineer told me last fall NR had only a small speed advantage over LTE. However, she and others believe the new equipment, called 5G, would be much better than the older gear in the field. Duh.

5-10 times improvements are based on comparisons of older LTE equipment and future 5G equipment, obviously misleading. Often, they use more spectrum and antennas in their 5G figure than in the LTE. Nearly all the improvements in 5G (except mmWave) work in LTE as well and are being incorporated in today's equipment. Apples to apples, the differences are not large.

The most important improvement in latency is "short TTI." That was included in 3GPP Release 14 (LTE) and works for both LTE & 5G. There are some small differences in throughput in some cases. Guard bands may be larger in many LTE deployments and some other changes may have an impact.

This article is about whether the NR (New Radio) line code makes a difference in LTE frequencies. The slower low band and mid-band will be 80% to 90% of "5G" for the next few years. Millimeter Wave is not supported in LTE and is a major improvement. 5G mmWave in 2018 testing is delivering two or three times the total capacity of 2018 LTE and somewhat more speed to the user. That will probably improve.

The hype has been ridiculous. It's easy to understand why vendors are pushing, but the regulator response is shameful. At the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai, and Mike O'Rielly continue to make unsupportable claims. I know them all to be very intelligent and I believe them honorable. It's a frightening example of "confirmation bias." I hear similar from Ansip Andrus & Roberto Viola at the EU and also from MIIT.

They are making crucial decisions in order to "promote 5G." They have impossible expectations for what 5G will deliver, egged on by telcos wanting concessions worth 10's of billions or more.


dave ask


The 3.3-4.2 spectrum should be shared, not exclusively used by one company, concludes an important U.S. Defense Innovation Board report. If more wireless broadband is important, sharing is of course right because shared networks can yield far more

It does work! Verizon's mmWave tests over a gigabit in the real world. 
The $669 OnePlus 7 Pro outclasses the best Apples and probably the new Galaxy 10 or Huawei P30 Pro. Optical zoom, three cameras, liquid cooling, Qualcomm 855 and more.
Korea at 400,000 5G May 15. Chinese "pre-commercial" signing customers, 60,000-120,000 base stations in 2019, million+ remarkable soon. 
5G phones Huawei Mate 20, Samsung Galaxy 10, ZTE Nubia, LG V50, and OPPO are all on sale at China Unicom. All cost US$1,000 to 1,500 before subsidy. Xiaomi promises US$600.
Natural monopoly? Vodafone & Telecom Italia to share 5G, invite all other companies to join.
Huawei predicts 5G phones for US$200 in 2021, $300 even earlier
NY Times says "5G is dangerous" is a Russian plot. Really.
Althiostar raised US$114 million for a virtual RAN system in the cloud. Rakuten, Japan's new #4, is using it and invested.
Ireland is proposing a US$3 billion subsidy for rural fibre that will be much too expensive. Politics.
Telefonica Brazil has 9M FTTH homes passed and will add 6M more within two years. Adjusted for population, that's more than the U.S. The CEO publicly urged other carriers to raise prices together.
CableLabs and Cisco have developed Low Latency XHaul (LLX) with 5-15 ms latency for 5G backhaul,  U.S. cable is soon to come in very strong in wireless. Details 
Korea Telecom won 100,000 5G customers in the first month. SK & LG added 150,000 more. KT has 37,500 cells. planning 90% of the country by yearend. 
The Chinese giants expect 60,000 to 90,000 5G cells by the end of 2019.
China Telecom's Yang Xin warns, "Real large-scale deployment of operators' edge computing may be after 2021." Customers are hard to find.
Reliance Jio registered 97.5% 4G availability across India in Open Signal testing. Best in world.

More newsfeed


Welcome On Oct 1, 2019 Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network with extraordinary hopes. The actual early results have been dismal. Good engineers tell me that will change. Meanwhile, the hype is unreal. Time for reporting closer to the truth.

The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while reducing capex. Deutsche Telekom and Orange/France Telecom also confirm they won't raise capex.

Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 3X to 7X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM, and other tools double and triple that. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year.

Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less.  I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

Believe it or not, 80% of 5G (mid-band) for several years will be slower than good 4G, which is more developed.