US LTE Open Signal Feb 2017 200

One reason Verizon is moving early on 5G is they need to have people think they are by far the best. Their entire business model is based on people paying more because they believe Verizon is superior. That's no longer true; AT&T and T-Mobile are so close to Verizon in quality most people wouldn't notice the difference. Jennie has T-Mobile here in New York, a hard city to service. She's not seeing any problems. 

The chart at the left from Open Signal shows T-Mobile running faster in several parts of the country. They've hired Kevin Fitchard to blog for them. He's doing excellent work, as he did at GigaOm. Verizon of course has data from another source saying they are better.

My guess is that Verizon is slightly better, especially in the most rural 5% of the country.

But if you don't spend a great deal of time in rural areas, the difference is insignificant.  

Meanwhile, Verizon is flooding television with obnoxious ads saying, "We're the best." They base that on a single source that isn't transparent. Their claim may be seriously out of date. T-Mobile's testing since Verizon went "unlimited" shows speeds falling 14%. It's just confusing people, especially as T-Mobile has billboards in New York claiming a faster speed.

When someone like Verizon repeats "trust me" incessantly, with minimal evidence, only a fool would believe them,

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.