Qualcomm 835 diagram 180Donovan joins Sprint, T-Mobile in Gig LTE race. This will increase capacity 4-5 times, so much that I'm predicting wireless is about to enter an age of abundance. "Unlimited" plans with speeds over 100 megabits and caps well over 100 gigabytes/month will make sense at consumer prices. As T incorporates 5G in the next few years, especially Massive MIMO, costs will go down even further. 

AT&T announced plans to increase capacity 5X, with 4 carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM - the blessed trio of the Gigabit Internet.  See For non-engineers. How LTE gets to the gigabit: 4x4 MIMO, 4 Band Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM for my attempt to explain this to ordinary people. The gig is shared across the cell site, but individual users will usually get hundreds of megabits unless at the edge of the cell or behind walls. Deployment in 2017 will probably be modest because most of AT&T's cells rarely see congestion today.

Gigabit LTE technology is so cheap that AT&T can do this without raising capital spending. Verizon & Vodafone estimate that wireless costs are going down 40% per year.

At Huawei's Tokyo Mobile Summit, CTOs were guessing the real figure is more like 55%-60%. (Huawei's MBBS was probably the best event of the year. In two days, I had a chance to talk with CTOs and similar serving 1.3B customers - but missed some like Vodafone in the rush.) No wonder Ericsson and Nokia are hurting and even Huawei sees growth slowing.

Donovan spoke of 5 millisecond latency, not the 1 millisecond Nokia and Ericsson are counting on. The difference is $10's of billions in equipment spending to bring intelligence to the edge. Verizon and Softbank want to move the intelligence to a cloud RAN. The several hops to the Cloud make 1 millisecond somewhere between very tough and impossible. No one doubts that 1 ms is possible and it's often been demonstrated. The problem is the cost of offering all the processing close enough to the customer. When Verizon announced they would be going cloud RAN, I guessed 1 ms won't be deployed in volume for at least 5 years and possibly 10 years. That's confirmed with Donovan's talk of 5 milliseconds. 

I've reported Huawei has 50 telcos working with them toward the gigabit. Until last week, I thought this would be slow in 2017 and ramp in 2018 & 2019. With AT&T, T-Mobile, & Sprint announcing for 2017, it may come faster. 

The phones will be in limited availability for several months, depending on when Samsung can fabricate enough Qualcomm 835 chips (Diagrammed at left.) They will be in virtually every new $700 Android phone this year. (No word from Apple, who designs their own processor.) Qualcomm may not bring out a mid-range Gig MIMO chip this year, especially if MediaTek doesn't catch up. There will be relatively few phones getting the highest speeds.

The next stage is another 3-8X improvement from Massive MIMO. ZTE & Huawei are shipping thousands of pM-MIMO cells to China Mobile & Softbank. Hutchison Drei Austria expects to be first in Europe in 2017. Sprint is likely as well if Ericsson or Nokia can deliver the equipment - the U.S. Government blocks network purchases from Huawei and ZTE. (I've asked both companies for what they will have when and they are clamming up. Not a good sign.) AT&T has 40 MHz free across most of the U.S., enough to match Sprint with 80 MHz four carrier. T-Mobile in many places only has enough spectrum for three carriers.

Meanwhile, AT&T is joining Verizon testing 5G millimeter wave this year, but only to fixed locations. Lowell McAdam, Ted Rappaport, and the Koreans hope mmWave mobile will be ready in 2018 or 2019. Most of the industry expects very limited volume before 2022. Whenever it comes, it will be another leap in capacity. 

Verizon and AT&T are in trouble. They have been able to charge more because they have a better reputation, but the others are catching up and possibly passing them. 

Dave Farber wrote, "[we are] facing a future in which gigabit speed networking will be considered slow." Back in 1996.

AT&T Details 5G Evolution

5G Evolution, AT&T Fiber, and Trials Advance Network Built for Video and Data

AT&T Inc. (PRNewsFoto/AT&T Inc.) (PRNewsFoto/AT_T INC_)


AT&T Inc. 

Jan 04, 2017, 08:00 ET

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 4, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- AT&T* today announced its 5G Evolution plans for 2017 and beyond, and highlighted its other initiatives to expand and enhance ultra-fast internet access for millions of customers.

"Our 5G Evolution plans will pave the way to the next-generation of higher speeds for customers. We're not waiting until the final standards are set to lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G. We're executing now," said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president, Technology and Operations.  "Data on our mobile network has increased about 250,000% since 2007, and the majority of that traffic is video. 5G's promise of greater speed and overall network performance brings huge opportunities not only for video but in the Internet of Things, 4K video, augmented and virtual reality, smart home and cities, autonomous vehicles and much more."

Our 5G Evolution

The path to 5G encompasses fixed and mobile solutions. We continue to collaborate with more than a dozen global technology companies around 5G standards efforts, and our initial lab trials are already achieving speeds up to 14 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) over a wireless connection.

In lab trials, we've successfully tested a connection with less than 3 milliseconds of latency, which surpasses any current LTE network technology. Latency impacts things like the time between pressing play and seeing a video start to stream or between hitting a web link and seeing a webpage begin to load. The industry expectation for 5G is latency less than 5 milliseconds.

Here's additional color around our 5G Evolution:

  • 1 Gbps Speeds in 2017: The continued deployment of our 4G LTE-Advanced network remains essential to laying the foundation for our evolution to 5G. In fact, we expect to begin reaching peak theoretical speeds of up to 1 Gbps at some cell sites in 2017. We will continue to densify our wireless network this year through the deployment of small cells and the use of technologies like carrier aggregation, which increases peak data speeds. We're currently deploying three-way carrier aggregation in select areas, and plan to introduce four-way carrier aggregation as well as LTE-License Assisted Access (LAA) this year.
  • 5G Video Trial with DIRECTV NOW: In the first half of 2017, we plan to conduct a trial in Austin where residential customers can stream DIRECTV NOW video service over a fixed wireless 5G connection. As part of this trial, we'll also test additional next-generation entertainment services over fixed 5G connections. The trial will include multiple sites and devices, and we expect to further advance our 5G learnings – especially in how fixed wireless mmWave technology handles heavy video traffic.  And over time, the reach of our 5G deployments will be enhanced even more as customers discover new, innovative mobile-first video services.
  • First 5G Business Customer Trial: Last fall, we launched what we believe to be the industry's first 5G business customer trial in Austin with Intel and Ericsson using millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, which can deliver multi-gigabit speeds using an unlicensed band of spectrum. We trialed several video streaming and conferencing experiences, and saw upload and download speeds around 1 Gbps during the first phase of the trial.
  • Additional 5G Trials: We recently announced plans to team up with Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson for mobile and fixed wireless trials in the second half of 2017. These trials are significant because they will be our first trials to use what we expect to be based upon the 5G New Radio specification being developed by the industry technology standards group 3GPP. Industry standards are important to enabling wide-scale 5G commercialization. The trials will test both mobile and fixed wireless solutions operating in mmWave spectrum accelerating commercial deployments in the 28Ghz and 39Ghz bands. They will showcase new 5G radio mmWave technologies for increasing network capacity while achieving multi-gigabit data rates.

AT&T Fiber Update
Today, we're marketing a 1 gigabit connection** on our 100% fiber network to nearly 4 million locations across 46 metros nationwide. More than 650,000 of these locations include apartments and condo units. We have the largest fiber network across the 21 states where we offer home internet service and by mid-2019 we plan to reach at least 12.5 million locations across 67 metro areas with our 100% fiber network. 

We are also conducting technology trials over fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave and G.fast technologies to deliver greater speeds and efficiencies within our copper and fiber networks.

  • Millimeter Wave Trial Expansion: In October 2016, we announced our multi-dwelling unit (MDU) fixed wireless point-to-point mmWave trial in Minneapolis. This gives us the potential to reach a new customer base outside of our traditional 21 state wireline service area. We're also exploring additional markets for trial locations.
  • G.fast Experiments Expanding: G.fast technology enables us to bring the speed of fiber to existing copper lines that already exist in many locations. We're encouraged by the results of our G.fast trial taking place at another MDU in the Minneapolis area. In fact, we're gearing up to offer G.fast to more locations, primarily MDUs, within our 21 state wireline footprint in 2017.  

Rural Broadband Efforts
There are still many homes in the U.S. – especially in rural areas – that have slow or no internet connectivity. In 2016, we began trialing Fixed Wireless Internet (FWI) service in several states. We plan to begin offering FWI in mid-2017 in areas where we accepted FCC Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) support. We expect to reach more than 400,000 locations by the end of 2017 across the 18 states where we accepted CAF II funds, most of which will get internet access for the first time. By the end of 2020, we plan to reach 1.1 million locations in those 18 states.

Project AirGig Progressing 
In September 2016, we unveiled Project AirGig, a transformative technology from AT&T Labs that could one day deliver low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless internet speeds over power lines.

Project AirGig is one of the most ambitious and inventive projects in AT&T Labs history. We now have more than 200 patents and patent applications for Project AirGig and we plan to begin field trials in 2017.

Project AirGig has the potential to be a win for our customers and a win for the electric utility companies. Collaborations between AT&T and utility companies could enable and expand a variety of smart-grid applications such as early detection of line integrity issues and help with proactive line maintenance.

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. 


 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.