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Google just ordered 62,000 autonomous Chrysler Pacificas to add to their fleet of 600 driving around America, That's convincing proof "Autonomous cars do not need 5G," as Gerhard Fettweis told the Brooklyn 5G Summit in May. 

It will be years before millimeter wave can reach more than a small fraction of roads. Universal coverage would take decades. The millions of miles Google cars have driven leaves no doubt autonomous cars can drive safely using radar and lidar, although more work is needed.

Karl-Heinz Laudan of Deutsche Telecom agrees. "Automotive does not need mmWaves," he told an important European Union event May 30th in Brussels.

Dan Warren, now at Samsung, was the first to explain to me why cars couldn't be completely dependent on phone networks. "Will they freeze when they hit a deadspot? Of course not." True 5G - millimeter wave - will take years to reach even half of any country. The ultra-reliable versions of 5G (URLLC) will take even longer. The standard isn't even set as I write in June, 2018. 

Network tie-ins will of course be useful, if only for Waze-like traffic updates. Gerhard went on to say that "automatic" cars might need connection because they won't have the sensing devices of "autonomous" cars. Network connections, whether 4G or 5G, can be an enhancement.

The carmakers are not willing to wait. 

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. 

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 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.