4G can be faster than 90% of 5G currently planned. LAA allows a telco to combine their licensed spectrum with any other available spectrum, such as the Wi-Fi bands. It usually adds 50% to 100% more capacity, as it did here. Every engineer knows mid-band 5G is just 4G LTE with a little software, New Radio. Verizon's 5G is millimeter wave, with three times the capacity. But almost everyone else, including the Chinese, Koreans, and every European, are planning on mid-band for at least the next four years. It's 70% to 90% slower than millimeter wave.

Mid-band is mostly 100-400 megabits, actual speeds to customers. 4G might be 100-330 megabits, perhaps a quarter slower, with similar spectrum and antennas. LAA can add 200 megabits or so to LTE. 5G does not support LAA so is slower than an advanced 4G system. When 5G LAA is introduced, it will be slightly faster. The difference will mean nothing to most customers.

The New Radio software adds 15-50%. NR requires special phones that are much more expensive. Both radios and phones require more power, raising costs and reducing battery life. NR phones don't exist today and will be in very short supply until the second half of 2019. 

Until 2018, only millimeter wave was considered 5G. Then the marketing folks pushed 3GPP to essentially call everything shipping 5G and bamboozled everyone except the engineers.

From Verizon 

Verizon, Nokia and Qualcomm use LTE Advanced technology of six carrier aggregation to reach 1.45 Gbps

NEW YORK, NY - To create the best 5G network it helps to have the best 4G network, and Verizon’s 4G LTE network just keeps getting better, setting the standard for innovation.  Verizon, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, recently reached peak data speeds of 1.45 gigabits per second (Gbps) on LTE in a live commercial environment using six channel carrier aggregation, a key LTE Advanced technology.

Carrier aggregation combines multiple channels of spectrum to provide greater efficiency for data sessions transmitting over wireless networks.  By using a combination of both licensed and shared spectrum, for the first time in the U.S. in a commercial environment the three companies combined six separate channels of spectrum.

“When we first launched our LTE network, we knew there would be a lot of room for innovation and to expand its capabilities. Eight years later, we continue our advancement of our 4G LTE network knowing our LTE network leadership is foundational for our evolution into 5G,” said Bill Stone, Vice President of Technology Planning and Development for Verizon.

The record-breaking speeds on 4G LTE were reached on Verizon’s network in New York using a combination of Verizon’s licensed PCS and AWS spectrum in conjunction with four carriers of LAA (License Assisted Access) spectrum.  The demonstration used Nokia’s AirScale base station and Qualcomm Technologies’ mobile test device powered by the Qualcomm® Snapdragon TM X24 LTE modem.

“By using the Nokia AirScale, which is designed for 5G, we have taken an important step on the road to 5G, both in terms of customer data rate experience and network infrastructure,” said Stephen Marino,

Senior Vice President, Verizon Account Team, Nokia.

“Qualcomm Technologies was first to introduce Gigabit LTE and LAA technologies into a commercial modem, and we continue to innovate with our latest Snapdragon X24 LTE modem capable of up to 2Gbps speeds,” said Joe Glynn, Vice President, Business Development, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.  “As we lead the way to 5G and collaborate with industry leaders to make it a commercial reality, it’s important we continue to innovate in LTE as it will be foundational in early 5G network deployments.”

The demonstration in New York also used LTE Advanced feature, 256 QAM (enabling the network to deliver more bits of data in each transmission) and 4x4 MIMO (using multiple antennas at the cell tower and in the device to minimize errors and optimize data speeds.)  In mid-2018, Verizon announced these technologies were available in over 1,100 markets nationwide. 


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.


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.