It's not actually "5G" but it delivers great speed, is commercial today, cheap, doesn't need expensive mmWave, and beats Verizon to market. Impressive. From a customer's home near Fremont, George Ginis's Sail Internet used the Mimosa PtMP radio in Wi-Fi spectrum. I know the people and the technology and believe it works. I just didn't know the products were ready.
George, a friend, just tweeted, "My favorite moment at work is when I run a speed test like this - from a customer's home served by a @GoMimosa PtMP radio." Image at left and larger below.
Of course, this isn't "5G" in a meaningful sense. The Mimosa gear is essentially a souped up 4x4 802.11ac Wi-Fi with some special sauce.
Suddenly, it's possible and happening. Costs are down; performance and reach up; "commercial deployments" moved to 2019 by Verizon and AT&T; mobile may be ready for 2020. Engineers like NTT CTO Seizo Inoe are moving up their forecasts for time to revenue. Tests are going better than expected. Most of the challenges holding back big telcos are being solved.
Nothing is certain, but many top engineers are close to convinced. I believe McAdam at Verizon has decided to go full speed ahead. Six months ago, then CFO Fran Shammo told Wall Street not to put 5G into their capex models for several years. He wanted to see the test results in 2018 before going ahead. Since then, Fran's been replaced by Matt Ellis. Verizon changed 2017 test plans from a few homes near their Boston research labs to 11 cities around the country. They've made a firm commitment to a "commercial deployment" of fixed in 2019.
We have only guesses for now, but $tens of billions of decisions are being made. Until we have extensive data from the field, everyone is relying on limited lab trials and models. There are no proven facts about mmWave economics. I can't do informed reporting without some numbers to use, so I'm collecting all the data I can find. Many answers also require estimates of traffic demand, how much people are willing to pay for what technology, whether connected cars require 1 ms, 5 ms, or 10-30 ms latency, and many some unknown unknowns. Improvements necessary and welcome.
Many answers also require estimates of traffic demand, how much people are willing to pay for what technology, whether connected cars require 1 ms, 5 ms, or 10-30 ms latency, and many other datapoints not covered here. In particular, "unlimited" offerings are driving up traffic demand far above expectations even six months ago.
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.
The gleam in Lowell McAdam's eye discussing his future network was a hint. Verizon's purchase of $1B of Corning fiber convinced me the decision had been made to go to a one-third to one-half the United States. I have no inside information; the CFO didn't have too many drinks one night and spill secrets. Rather, the evidence and the logic drove me to believe this will soon be the largest network build in the Western world. It really doesn't look like Verizon will buy Charter (or whomever.) Making looks much cheaper than buying. It's also possible the 2017-2018 testing will be severely disappointing. They can change their decision until 2019-2020, when the spending gets heavy.
The evidence below needs to be considered alongside this separate article about what's inspiring Verizon to go ahead. The technology is (almost) ready. 5-20 gigabits is working in the labs and 10,000 engineers around the world are pushing forward. VZ is being killed by cable across the unfibered half of their territory. AT&T is making noise about going out of territory with wireless to the rooftops & gigabit to the apartments. The business logic is strong.
$B in Corning fiber optic cable implies $4-7B in total cost. Verizon April 21 commitment to the huge fiber buy implies a much larger network build. The actual fiber is almost always less than 30% of the total cost and sometimes < 10%. This should cover more than 100,000 miles of network.
Verizon just spent $1.8B to purchase XO and 20,000 miles of fiber around the country (map on left and larger below.) They have massive amounts of fiber in place in their territory, ~25% of the U.S. They also have extensive fiber to support their nationwide and international long distance network.
"We have sufficient spectrum holdings below 1 GHz," says Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer. "We have strong spectrum holdings in the 700, 850, 1900 megahertz (MHz)/PCS, AWS 1 and 3 spectrum bands. So why didn’t we bid on the 600 MHz spectrum? We simply don’t need it."