Anything new, the marketing people call "5G." The 600 MHz system T-Mobile just announced as "5G Nationwide" is an (excellent) 4G LTE system with a few minor tweaks that add little. (5G NR.) I'm not the only one who thinks so; Telefonica CTO Enrique Blanco just said publicly what his peers are saying privately.

Why all the deception? The marketing people want to seem advanced. The telco lobbyists want to have a lever to get what they want out of government. Most regulators don't know enough about tech in the real world to know when they are being lied to. That includes the top Digital Society people at the EU, and two U.S. FCC Commissioners, one Democrat and one Republican. (Their tech people are excellent and know what's going on, but the politicians don't listen.)

The FCC folks are extremely smart, hard-working, and basically honorable, despite what you may think about politicians of the other party. Current Chairman Pai is a brilliant lawyer. But he doesn't know enough about networks or the business to realize when the lobbyists are lying. It's true the DC lawyers are often very, very good at persuading people. The best are paid $3M/year and more. David Cohen of Comcast earned $16M one year. You have to really understand this stuff to see where (many of) the arguments fall apart.

For example, Verizon is saying they "must have" massive amounts of 28 GHz monopoly spectrum or they can't build a 5G network. Sharing spectrum now can work and delivers two to five times the capacity. Verizon itself proved that with testing LAA, which they will use to take some of the spectrum from Wi-Fi. If done right, it can be fine, although Verizon pushed through a system with some gotchas.  

Pai's Chief Technologist, Columbia Professor on leave Henning Schulzrinne, two weeks ago told an audience of engineers, "From now on, all new spectrum will be shared." OFCOM's Boccardi in an unofficial paper suggests the same.  They are right on the engineering, but likely wrong on the politics. Verizon will probably get what they want.

The best networks need a certain amount of monopoly spectrum, for signaling, public safety, and reliable signaling. That's probably half the amount of spectrum the big companies have now.

Verizon is demanding monopoly spectrum in order to exclude others. They can and should design their new network for sharing.  They are actually the world leaders in the sharing technology.  

The EU people are worse, and the 5G, spectrum, competition, and similar policies show they have been bamboozled. Monopoly spectrum is now mostly obsolete. All countries want more wireless capacity.. so the right policy actually is to start reducing "licensed" spectrum in about ten years. Instead, an EU Commissioner is suggesting license terms be extended from 10 to 25 years. In 2017, that's absurd. The European telcos are claiming they won't build 5G if they only have a 10 or 15 year license. Any competent Wall Street analyst can make mincemeat of that claim. Nearly all corporate investment decisions are based on the expected return within 5-10 years, often less. Among other things, the people making those decisions know they likely are gone or retired in ten years.

Because the people in charge are usually thickheaded, telecom policy in the Western World has become worse and since about 2003. 

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.