Takeaway: Some but not many locations will support AR/VR servers in 2020-2022. The good news: It works. 5G + Edge Cloud networks are starting to deploy with 15-25 ms latency.  Where fast enough, you will be able to move all your calculations to high-capacity servers which will do all the calculations and just send the picture to a lightweight headset or phone. Major companies including Tencent, Niantic Pokemon, and Verizon are already testing. Experts think quality VR will require 10-20 ms latency, right on the edge of what's coming.

The rest of the story. 1-5 ms is often promised. (URLLC) It works in the lab but is years away from meaningful deployment. Sorry. The best available in the next few years will be Level 2 Edge clouds, relatively close to the user, delivering 15-25 milliseconds. Deutsche Telekom has begun deploying a Level 3 Edge cloud, further back in the network, 20-30 ms. Without an Edge cloud, 5G latency should be 30-45 ms. Today, a decent LTE network is 45-55 ms average.

Unfortunately, this will only be available in limited areas for years.  China and Korea will move quickly starting late in 2019. Both nations should be mostly covered by 2020-2021. Few others will have wide deployments until 2022-2025. Verizon is one of the first to deploy real 5G. Its goal is a quarter of the U.S. by 2022-2023. 

Verizon will be ahead of most others. T-Mobile U.S. promises to cover the whole country in 2020, but it is using low frequencies with LTE-like performance. In addition, for good AR/VR you need mini datacenters fairly close to the user, perhaps at the local exchange. Few of the 5G telcos are committed to those servers. Verizon says they will start reaching customers late in 2019. AT&T is only testing and officially is uncertain. The Europeans are mostly further behind.

dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network with extraordinary hopes. The actual results the first four months 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 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.


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, millimetre wave will not be necessary to meet expected demand.