VZ ATT mmWave 2303/4ths of the U.S. won't even be available in the highly touted 28 GHz auction. There is essentially no spectrum available in the crucial 28 GHz spectrum band in the top 50 markets.

Verizon controls 76% of the 28 GHz band in the top cities (The red in the chart.) TMO has 12% and another 10% is spoken for. Only 2% will be available for auction. Verizon has 46% of the 39 GHz band and AT&T 30%. 

Stephen Wilkus, a veteran of Bell Labs and Alcatel-Lucent, calculates the 28 GHz auction will only cover 23.7% of the U.S. population. Much will be rural, inappropriate for the short reach of mmWave. .

Most equipment, especially mmWave mobile phones, will be designed for 26-30 GHz at least for the next few years. The 28 GHz band is the standard for the U.S., Japan, & Korea. Europe and China are going for 26 GHz.

24 GHz will be auctioned right after 28 GHz finishes; most of the band will be available but it's not clear when or whether it will have equipment. 39 GHz has a shorter reach and requires far more base stations, raising costs. All other bands have limited equipment available and probably will not work with many phones. The iPhone already has dozens of bands and it will be hard to add more. The only 24 GHz capable equipment I could find was a NASA funded research project. 

Making more spectrum available is a good thing, but a decade of experience has taught it is unlikely to bring in more competitors. Telecom is a business of scale and there are too many other obstacles to new entrants. Cable companies are the only likely U.S. exception. Spectrum is not their limiting factor.  

Verizon picked up most of this spectrum in the Straight Path.  At first look, It will be difficult for AT&T to match Verizon and almost impossible for T-Mobile or anyone else. T-Mobile has hopes for 24 GHz and demands that the FCC bring other bands to auction. (Chart from T-Mobile.) 

My opinion is that giving one telco more than 400 MHz in major bands is a mistake because it leaves too little for strong competition. That's why the Straight Path approval was a mistake.

Neither the FCC or any other regulator has a good plan for what to do if two carriers dominate. The one thing we know doesn't work is to "leave it to the market." Two dominant players are far more likely to collude than vigorously compete. 

Back in 2010, I asked Blair Levin, the lead on our broadband plan, what the FCC could do if two companies became dominant. He agreed they didn't have an answer. I asked the FCC Chief Economist the same question; he smiled and said: "The Chairman asked me the same thing." It's a very tough question. It means you can't solve the problems through competition and everyone in D.C. is afraid to think of alternatives. 

So far, only Mike Dano at Fierce has picked this up.



dave askAugust 2018 Verizon's $20B 5G build is starting to add customers in 2018. Gigabit LTE & Massive MIMO became real in 2017 and enow expanding worldwide. Almost all the other "5G" is mid-band, 70%-90% slower + hype. Europe is mostly pr. The term 5G has been bastardized, unfortunately.

Being a reporter is a great job for a geek. I'm not an engineer but I've learned from some of the best, including the primary inventors of DSL, cable modems, MIMO, Massive MIMO, and now 5G mmWave. Since 1999, I've done my best to get closer to the truth about broadband.

Send questions and news to Dave Burstein, Editor. I always want to hear from you, especially if you catch a mistake.


 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.