Infinity Symbol slashedIs 10X enough or will we deploy 50X? 10X today's wireless speeds is likely within a few years; 50X is quite realistic within a decade. {jcomments on} I wrote 5G, Gigabit LTE, Millimeter Wave: What Will be Real, When for DSL Reports, the best consumer-oriented broadband site in the U.S., to clear up some confusion. Editor Karl Bode and commentators are right there's enormous hype at the moment in wireless, especially on 5G millimeter wave. However, there are remarkable improvements coming out of the labs as well, many arriving this year." I haven't been this excited since DSL and cable modems came out around 2000. It's a summary of the Wireless Age of Abundance I'm reporting after attending Huawei's remarkable Tokyo Broadband conference and listening to world-class engineers.

Everything new seems to claim a "gigabit" but the term means different things in different contexts. Some of it is pure hype.

The ITU standard was first announced as delivering a gigabit in 2014. Now in deployment, is delivering download speeds of 500-800 megabits. That's still not too shabby, especially with amendment 2-3 chips coming that might reach the gig.

Gigabit LTE is a gig (or close) to the cell site, divided by many users. The speed to an individual user with a good connection should usually be several hundred megabits. That's coming in 2017 from Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T, but only in some places. It will require a new, very expensive phone that uses four antennas and can bond three or four channels of LTE.

True gigabit 5G wireless isn't ready yet 

Verizon and AT&T are promising a 5G gigabit to (a very few) homes in 2017 that should truly deliver a gigabit almost all the time. (It will be 3-5 gigabits shared. Since most customers are using 10 megabits or less, the sharing should work fine.) This is the much hyped "millimeter wave" 5G, which will be great sometime in the future. At the Huawei Tokyo event, a 20 gig mmWave system worked fine for two days straight. That's still in the labs, however. 

A true gigabit to your mobile phone will be possible when millimeter wave to the mobile phone rolls out. That's unlikely to be widely available until 2022-2025. Mobile phones have small antennas and may be moving in a car at 60 miles per hours. That will take them to multiple cells in minutes. Designing mmWave for mobile is a much harder problem than for fixed. In addition, mmWave usually has short reach so requires many, many cells. It could take a million to cover most of the U.S. and almost all the roads. So while there will be small deployments around 2020, it will be years after that for wide coverage.


Besides the usual political wrangling, the biggest obstacle to the capacity boom is that the telcos can't sell the service. The latest Cisco estimates see U.S. wireless traffic growth slowing to 33%/year. That's still impressive but not enough to put all this technology to work. Verizon and AT&T have both told Wall Street they have 40+ MHz or unused spectrum, enough to double capacity without putting all of this to work. (Except the 3 and 4 carrier bonding.) An implication for the industry is that they will be able to meet demand while cutting capex.

Millimeter wave 5G, likely becoming important in 2023-2025, will add another 3-5X to capacity. 

dave ask


The 3.3-4.2 spectrum should be shared, not exclusively used by one company, concludes an important U.S. Defense Innovation Board report. If more wireless broadband is important, sharing is of course right because shared networks can yield far more

It does work! Verizon's mmWave tests over a gigabit in the real world. 
The $669 OnePlus 7 Pro outclasses the best Apples and probably the new Galaxy 10 or Huawei P30 Pro. Optical zoom, three cameras, liquid cooling, Qualcomm 855 and more.
Korea at 400,000 5G May 15. Chinese "pre-commercial" signing customers, 60,000-120,000 base stations in 2019, million+ remarkable soon. 
5G phones Huawei Mate 20, Samsung Galaxy 10, ZTE Nubia, LG V50, and OPPO are all on sale at China Unicom. All cost US$1,000 to 1,500 before subsidy. Xiaomi promises US$600.
Natural monopoly? Vodafone & Telecom Italia to share 5G, invite all other companies to join.
Huawei predicts 5G phones for US$200 in 2021, $300 even earlier
NY Times says "5G is dangerous" is a Russian plot. Really.
Althiostar raised US$114 million for a virtual RAN system in the cloud. Rakuten, Japan's new #4, is using it and invested.
Ireland is proposing a US$3 billion subsidy for rural fibre that will be much too expensive. Politics.
Telefonica Brazil has 9M FTTH homes passed and will add 6M more within two years. Adjusted for population, that's more than the U.S. The CEO publicly urged other carriers to raise prices together.
CableLabs and Cisco have developed Low Latency XHaul (LLX) with 5-15 ms latency for 5G backhaul,  U.S. cable is soon to come in very strong in wireless. Details 
Korea Telecom won 100,000 5G customers in the first month. SK & LG added 150,000 more. KT has 37,500 cells. planning 90% of the country by yearend. 
The Chinese giants expect 60,000 to 90,000 5G cells by the end of 2019.
China Telecom's Yang Xin warns, "Real large-scale deployment of operators' edge computing may be after 2021." Customers are hard to find.
Reliance Jio registered 97.5% 4G availability across India in Open Signal testing. Best in world.

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Welcome On Oct 1, 2019 Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network with extraordinary hopes. The actual early results 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 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.