Huawei 5G Rig at Elisa 230Pal Zarandy, an always interesting analyst, tested Elisa's "world's first" 5G network from inside his office and outside with line of sight. The results were as expected: 5G at 3.5 GHz and Massive MIMO performs about the same as a good 4G network. "Gigabit LTE" - with tested speeds in the low or mid hundreds of megabits - has been shipping since 2016. Adding a minor software tweak, NR, and calling it "5G" did little to improve performance. (The battle to limit the term "5G" to true high-speed millimeter waves has been lost, unfortunately.) This is the dirty secret of "5G." Almost all the claimed new uses can be met with 4G. Anyone who doesn't know that should ask an engineer.

The Elisa results are important because they confirm that Massive MIMO makes 3.5 GHz spectrum practical to use. Pal writes:

"I think this is the key: 'Compared to gigabit LTE, the game changer features of the 3.5 GHz band won’t be single user speeds but instead the aggregate mobile data network capacity. This we couldn’t (and were not planning to) test, but Elisa’s network experts confirmed our views.'

Using 64 transmit antennas, Elisa in 3.5 GHz spectrum is getting throughput in a range similar to 8 antennas in 1.8 GHz. Without far more data, I can't be more specific than that. It may turn out that 100 Mhz in 3.5 GHz delivers about the same capacity as 60 MHz in lower bands. Because higher frequency antennas are smaller, even 128 antennas can be a reasonable size and not prohibitively expensive. 

Between 3.5 GHz and 4.2 GHz is enough spectrum to roughly double the capacity of today's networks.

Most of that spectrum is very lightly used. With political will, it could be made quickly available.

Less than half the capacity is being used at Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and probably most other networks around the world (except India.) Verizon hasn't implemented 4x4 MIMO across most of the network yet and is only using 50-60% of their spectrum. Add a modest number of small cells to fill in where needed, Bring in 3.5-4.2 GHz.

The increase in capacity could be 5-10X with about today's level of capex or lower and without much mmWave. Traffic growth in the U,S. in 2017 was only 15% according to the telcos at CTIA, but I think that's an anomaly. A more realistic assumption for surprise-free demand is growth about 30%/year. Put another way, most telcos could meet the demand they expect until 2025 or 2030 without going to millimeter wave. That's why very few, including almost no one in Europe, intends large mmWave builds at this time. 

Surprises happen, of course. Hans Vestberg at Verizon is determined to use the capacity of his mmWave network to knock down the competition. That would blow any current projections.

 

dave ask

Newsfeed

Lei Jun Xiaomi "5G to have explosive growth starting from Q2 2020"5G to have explosive growth starting from Q2 2020" I say sooner

Verizon CEO Ronan Dunne: >1/2 VZ 5G "will approximate to a good 4G service" Midband in "low hundreds" Mbps

CFO John Stephens says AT&T is going to cut capex soon.

Bharti in India has lost 45M customers who did not want to pay the minimum USS2/month. It's shutting down 3G to free some spectrum for 4G. It is cutting capex, dangerous when the 12 gigabytes/month of use continues to rise.

Huawei in 16 days sold 1,000,000 5G Mate 20s.  

China has over 50,000 upgraded base stations and may have more than 200,000 by yearend 2019. The growth is astonishing and about to accelerate. China will have more 5G than North America and Europe combined for several years.

5G phone prices are down to $580 in China from Oppo. Headed under $300 in 2020 and driving demand.

No one believed me when I wrote in May, 90% of Huawei U.S. purchases can be rapidly replaced and that Huawei would survive and thrive. Financial results are in, with 23% growth and increased phone sales. It is spending $17B on research in 2019, up > 10%. 

5G phones spotted from Sharp and Sony

NTT DOCOMO will begin "pre-commercial service Sept 20 with over 100 live bases. Officially, the commercial start is 2020.

 More newsfeed

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Welcome  1,800,000 Koreans bought 5G in the first four months. The demand is there, and most of the technology works. 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.