Enrique Blanco"The industry needs to be less hasty and more pragmatic."  Enrique Blanco of Telefónica supports 350M users and has been deeply involved in 5G from the beginning. Speaking to Mobile Europe, he said openly what many others are saying privately: getting 5G right could be "damaged" because some companies are rushing to get pr quickly. 

“My personal view is those operators who are really pushing for this – in the US, and Japan, and Korea – have different, more urgent priorities," he said. "Because of the Olympics, and whatever else, they want to deploy services using NR much sooner – which means they need the standards to be defined sooner. Too much is at stake."

"So what's new? They simply end up extending 4G capabilities [with] little differentiation from advanced LTE technology.

We have to define new services and new capabilities."

I've observed many problems with the rush job.  For example, AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Telstra sent 3GPP a request to look closely at new coding from Cohere. China Mobile Chih-Lin I explained Cohere is capable of, “High mobility for hitting the goal of service at 500 km/hour, which we want for our high speed railways. I have not seen anyone else show how that would work" Despite that extraordinary backing, Cohere fell by the wayside at 3GPP.  

(3GPP is the leader in standards for years. They are brilliant engineers who have done an extraordinary job defining the systems for today's mobile. However. they are an industry group and have to deliver what the most powerful companies want. Africa, Latin America, and the public interest are largely ignored. One consequence is they often write standards that drive up the cost of inexpensive phones. The companies are demanding royalties so high it may double the price.)

"New Radio" seemed to me to be put together largely by collaboration between Huawei, Alcatel/Nokia, and Ericsson. Naturally, they included features to protect the multi-billion dollar royalties they expect to collect. Telco engineers were angry; their companies will be paying those royalties. But the word came down from the top, "Get it done quickly by whatever means necessary."

Going fast gets to market and revenue quickly. However, I believe the main reason some companies are in such a rush is they see enormous marketing and pr benefits from being first to something that seems so advanced. Giants Verizon and AT&T want to press ahead because the competition has mostly caught up and customers are leaving T & VZ for lower prices. The giants have capex budgets of $17B-$22B per year. Verizon can afford to spend $20B over five years to build a new network that ultimately may need a million cells. T-Mobile U.S. spends less than $5B/year in total capex and Sprint even less. It will be somewhere between extremely difficult and totally impossible to keep up. Verizon expects to again pull ahead. 

"mmWave is an incumbents' game." Politicians are burying their heads in the sand. Most countries, especially the U.S., need to develop regulations that work well when competition is even weaker than today. 

All politicians want to be associated with "progress." They want their networks to be among the most advanced. Unfortunately, very few of them understand the technical side. Most don't know enough to realize when lobbyists offer creative lies, as lobbyists do. Folks like Gunther Oettinger at the EU are often bamboozled. Telco lobbyists demand ridiculous concessions or "they won't build 5G.* The implicit threat is they will tell the voters the politicians are at fault. 

The giant EU telcos banded together to make meaningless promises if and only if the EU allowed them to decimate competition. They are demanding far more spectrum than they need or "5G will be impossible." In return, they will "offer 5G in all 21 European capitals." None of them have promised a meaningful deployment rather than a cheap publicity stunt. Some telcos will just call Nokia or Ericsson and request, "Install for us the cheapest 5G gear to impress the pols. Make sure it costs almost nothing." The vendors will be happy to send a team with advanced boxes for half a dozen cell sites for less than 1% of a capital spending budget. The politicians will then claim, "We have delivered the future!" They will ignore that most of the same telcos will not actually deliver anything to the vast majority of the population. (Verizon and some Asians are honorable exceptions who do plan extensive new networks.) 

Some telcos won't even deliver that much. Instead, they will make a few minor tweaks to LTE equipment and call it "5G." T-Mobile U.S. just did that, promising "5G" across the country in the newly purchased 600 MHz spectrum. They are actually building (an excellent) Gig LTE 4G network. They will use "5G New Radio" coding, an inexpensive modification that produces almost no more bandwidth than LTE coding.  Technologies should offer significant advantages to be called "5G" or the term is meaningless. Verizon's new mmWave network will deliver five times more than LTE, a major jump. T-Mobile's new "5G" network will have similar performance to other new LTE networks. It's 4G + pr.  

"Fake 5G," I call it. 

 The Blanco quotes are from Thirst for 5G first could ultimately damage next generation, claims Telefónica's Group CTO, well worth a click.



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.