Rappaport test rangeTed Rappaport of NYU, the world's foremost mmWave researcher, disagrees with my guess that mmWave 5G will be modest until 2021-2023. My opinion is backed up by opinions from several carriers and an estimate from Ovum that fewer than 1% of lines will be millimeter wave in 2021. Ted's opinion is shared by Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who will deploy in Boston and probably San Francisco as soon as Verizon can get the equipment. That should be late 2017 or early 2018. Nokia and Ericsson have hundreds of engineers working on 5G mmWave.

 I will be delighted to be proven wrong and see more rapid progress. Since my comment, Rappaport and team have published a seminal paper, Millimeter Wave Wireless Communications: New Results for Rural Connectivity (Abstract below.) They were able to detect a 73 GHz signal 11 kilometers away from their transmitter, a carefully aligned antenna 110 meters above average terrain. (Pictured.) They used 1 watt of transmitter power, levels similar to today's mobile phones.

Ted believes, "to a first approximation, the range won't be different in clear weather for mmwave versus today's cellular as long as the physical size of antennas are the same at both frequencies." On a clear day, with line of sight, it's clearly possible to measure millimeter waves far beyond the 100-300 meters most urban deployments expect. I had a chance to discuss Ted's paper with NTT engineers, who were impressed.

Ted is a world-class engineer; I'm a tech reporter who sounds smart because I listen to people like Ted. I'm obviously not qualified to judge which excellent engineers have this one right. Here's Ted's note:

 Many people continue to propagate the incorrect myth that mmwave is severely limited in distance. This is not accurate. The fact is that the distances at mmwave will only be limited by rain and fog, not by the nature of mmwave. This is because the "lossiness" of mmwave, compared to lower frequencies, only occurs in the first meter of propagating distance, but this "higher loss" is cancelled out by keeping the antennas the same physical size at all frequencies.

While building penetration is tougher with mmwave, that is actually an advantage for interference protection, and the use of multiple steerable antenna arrays at the base station will enable larger distances than a couple of hundred meters in system deployments. Coverage distances are not fundamentally different at mmwave than at any other frequency when proper antennas are used (e.g. When bass stations use larger gain antennas to make up for the increased path loss in the first meter).
 
And the demand for consumer capacity will make 5 G come sooner by a couple of years than what Dave is thinking, I believe.
 

ABSTRACT Millimeter Wave Wireless Communications: New Results for Rural Connectivity [Editor's note: most of the article is about the model, not the testing.]

This paper shows the remarkable distances that can be achieved using millimeter wave communications, and presents a new rural macrocell (RMa) path loss model for millimeter wave frequencies, based on measurements at 73 GHz in rural Virginia. Path loss models are needed to es- timate signal coverage and interference for wireless network design, yet little is known about rural propagation at millime- ter waves. This work identifies problems with the RMa model used by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) TR 38.900 Release 14, and offers a close-in (CI) reference distance model that has improved accuracy, fewer parameters, and better stability as compared with the existing 3GPP RMa path loss model. The measurements and models presented here are the first to validate rural millimeter wave path loss models. 

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.