China is just getting started installing what will very soon be over a million 5G cells. They will use frequencies from 2.5 to 4.9 GHz and deliver typical speeds of 100-400 megabits. What apparently is undecided is whether they will aim for ~30 ms (Verizon), 15-25 ms (Deutsche Telecom), or 10-15 ms? 

30 ms is the least expensive, achievable by replacing older LTE with brand new 5G NR. That saves 35% to 45% from older systems most common in the U.S. That can be reduced by to 15-25 ms by installing edge servers and/or reducing the number of routers. (Verizon intends both.)

No one in the west has announced plans to go to every tower, which would require about 10X the number of servers. Highly respected Minister Miao Wei and Xi Jinping have hinted China might do so, and later cut the latency in half when URLLC is ready.  Nothing is clear, especially because I have to read in Google translation.

Xi Jinping sent a message to an AR/VR conference, "Virtual reality technology is gradually maturing, expanding human perception and changing product forms and service models." AR/VR is the only major application today that requires low latency. The general opinion is that anything over 20 ms can cause nausea and 10 ms is better. Verizon's current 5G at 30 ms is considered inadequate for AR/VR. 

Minister Miao in March said, "5G technology applications represented by driverless cars will become an early application. The world is working to advance the development of driverless cars.” Experts in the West generally have concluded, ".'" Cars can't freeze when they go out of the range of the network, so they have to be designed to work without it.

Miao in 2016 said his goal was 25 ms in 2025. The technology, especially of Edge Networks, has improved since then. 15 ms is now economically practical and 10-12 ms not impossible.  5-10 ms will be possible when URLLC comes out of the labs although that isn't close. 

If in fact the car is controlled by the network, these lower latencies will probably be necessary. If the main use of connected cars will be information and entertainment services, very low latency 5G is probably not needed. Those services can be served by 4G or slower 5G.

Those indirect comments are provocative but not enough to make a clear prediction.


Carriers have told investors most of their 5G plans for the next few years, allowing a fairly accurate prediction of what will be in most major countries.  Most will deliver customer speeds of 100-400 megabits to most, with a latency of 15-30 ms. Less than 15% of the world will get millimetre wave, with speeds typically three times higher and often a gigabit.


dave askOn Oct 1, Verizon turned on the first $20B 5G mmWave network with extraordinary hopes. The actual results the first four months 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 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, millimetre wave will not be necessary to meet expected demand.