Draft for comment: more thorough and accurate version to come. Improvements and disagreements welcome.

Verizon has decided to spend $20-25,000,000,000 on 5G millimeter wave to 30-40,000,000 homes, I believe. This is not a test, trial, or “part of 11 cities” deployment. This will be the largest new network in the western world.

1/3rd to 1/2 of the U.S. will be covered. In 2019 - if all goes well - they will begin installing between 100,000 and 300,000 small cells. They hope to finish this phase in 2022 or 2023.

Each cell will have a 4G/5G upgradable radio and will immediately add capacity to LTE, right where it’s most needed. That’s why Verizon didn’t buy any spectrum in the auction; LTE & LAA will provide what’s needed, even with an “unlimited” offering.

 

5G mmWave mobile now looks to be important in 2020 rather than the 2022-2023 previously expected by the pros. Verizon will have 2 gigabits to 5 gigabits wherever deployed, 10X as much capacity as today serving fewer users per cell.

They intend to use that bandwidth to blow away T-Mobile and Sprint, currently stealing customers at a ferocious rate. mmWave is close to a natural monopoly because all those cells and backhaul cost so much. By mid-decade, Verizon hopes to raise the ante to play in this market. AT&T, it seems, has decided to almost match them. Others may very well have to fold.

Even two networks will be hard to support; four will be almost impossible. I’ve been a lone voice warning that competition will break down in the mmWave era; the policy people have been burying their heads in the sand.

They will begin this year to install the $1B of fiber they just ordered from Corning. The fiber build alone will cost $4-7B; the actual fiber is just a small part of the cost. This to me was the proof point. It just doesn’t make sense to spend ~$5B on fiber unless Verizon intends to put cells nearly everywhere.

Until the last few months, pros like NTT CTO Seizo Onoe didn’t believe millimeter wave for mobile would be ready for volume until 2022-2023. Inoe made a dramatic speech at the Brooklyn 5G; he now believes 5G mmWave Mobile will be ready in 2020.

5G fixed will be there from the beginning. Verizon carefully is saying “Only 5G fixed until mobile is ready.” This is researched but I do not have any inside information from the top of the company. Much is by inference. Nothing like this has been announced although they have been dropping hints to Wall Street.

I believe I’m first with this conclusion but I expect a bandwagon to build over the next few months.  After 18 years, I don’t think this will destroy my reputation if I have it wrong or they change their mind. I considered the evidence carefully.

The mission can be aborted until 2019, when investments become large. If the trials hit unexpected problems, they could drop the whole thing. If they make a big deal, like buying Charter, things will evolve. Deals are unlikely; none look to make economic sense.

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dave askJuly 2017 Gigabit LTE is real in 2017. So is 5G Massive MIMO. 5G mmWave to fixed antennas is likely 2018, with mobile to follow. China, Japan, Korea, and Verizon U.S. have planned $500B for "5G," with heavy investment expected 2019-2021. 

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.

Wireless One - W1 replaces 5gwnews.com in July 2017. Send questions and news to Dave Burstein, Editor.