Where will the boxes go? Who will buy? Dozens of companies are jumping in, many with wild and contradictory ideas. "Levels of Edge" brings some order to the analysis.

Edge clouds reduce latency with servers close to the customer. The true believers talk 1-4 ms; the actual results for now are likely 15-25 ms. That's great for multi-player Pokemon, worthless for controlling autonomous vehicles. 

Level 1 Edge Clouds don't exist yet and may cost too much to deploy. 1 ms 5G is still in the lab and years away from deployment. the 5G deploying is ~10 ms. 

A Level 2 site is building in Chicago with equipment moving in. Vapor is supplying the main boxes. The server adds ~ 4 ms. Level 2 sites aim for 10-20 ms. Cole Crawford of Vapor tells Mike Dano their boxes are "tower-aggregated and connected, not tower-located." Vapor is not, as originally thought, going directly to the cell.  Federated Wireless is testing a new radio network, which may be the only way to performance desired.

Level 3 sites are testing in live networks at Deutsche Telekom and in China.

Level 3 is still within the carrier network but further back. Current expectations are 20-25 seconds, with better to come. 

Level 4 sites are an intriguing new possibility. Verizon and Telefonica are installing routers and switches with very low latency and cutting out layers. In 25-50 ms, networks like this can carry your data to the peering points at the other end of their networks. A relative handful of telco data centres at the interconnection points could easily reach the entire network, usually quite rapidly. Akamai and the Googles of the world are already there. Level 4 is primarily what we have today with a more efficient transport network. The speeds are similar enough they may reduce the need for today's Edge clouds.

Level 5 is what we have today. My Netflix and everything else runs fine. Maybe that's enough.

LTE Level 5 30-75+ms Today  
5G or LTE Level 4 25-50+ ms Good transport  
5G with servers in telco core Level 3 20-25 ms
Deploying in DT and China
 
5G with few hops Level 2 10-20 ms
First units getting to the field.
 
5G with 1 ms air latency Level 1 5-12 ms
Not expected out of the labs for years.
 

 

dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network. It will soon offer a gigabit or close to 30M homes. Thousands of sites are live in Korea; AT&T is going live with mobile, even lacking phones. 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 4X 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.

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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.