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.

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Millimeter wave mobile communications for 5G cellular: It will work! was a revelation in 2013. Back then, most engineers believed that rain and atmosphere made mmWave spectrum would play only a modest role in mobile communications.  

Looking back four years later, most of what Ted, Samini and team wrote in 2013 is confirmed. This article was triggered when I noticed then NYU grad student Mathew Samini was an author on 15 major papers in three years (below.)  These included the propagation test data and a more accurate Statistical Channel Model, an essential for designing networks. (Abstract below.)

Verizon will soon turn on millimeter wave to (a very few) homes in 11 cities; the Koreans have major plans for the next 15 months. It does work. The NYU team performed tens of thousands of tests in Manhattan as well as in Brooklyn. Their data was convincing. Four years later, $billions are being spent to solve the remaining problems and start to connect hundreds of millions.

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Dave 20GBPS
It does work! Throughout the show, two large screens showed live data from a 1 GHz mmWave + 4x4 LTE MIMO system. The results were consistently between 19 gigabits and 21 gigabits. About 1 gigabit was LTE, an example of the gigabit LTE that will be sweeping the industry in the next two years. The mmWave gear ran consistently at 19 or 20 gigabits. While Huawei said nothing about availability, I infer 2020 is the target for working production equipment for mobile.

Not one of the dozens of network engineers I've spoken to lately disagreed with Ted Rappaport's conclusion "It will work." While we have no field results on millimeter wave to consumers, there are decades of results of mmWave for backhaul, high-speed point to point wireless, and heavy military usage.

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BT LTE Coverage Open SIgnal 180Fotis Karonis sees everything before that as "proof of concept." He's Managing Director of Mobile and also IT, where he's advancing Software Enabled Networks. He believes BT will be first in Britain, implying the other British companies will be later. He didn't say the "first commercial" cells in 2020 will be many, so his date doesn't conflict with the 2022-2024 plan for volume mmWave from NTT's Seizo Onoe.

He acknowledges that BT still has a long way to go in LTE deployment. While they claim 99% population coverage with LTE, these maps from Open Signal suggest they are not using a robust measure of actual coverage. The map above is based on tested connections to LTE. Below, the 4G and 3G maps are side by side. Note how many places 3G is working but you can't even get 4G. That's strongly suggestive of either a crowded LTE network or optimistic coverage estimates.  

Karonis is strong on the need for reliability, particularly as BT adds security services as customers.

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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.

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mmwave 18 A chance to watch.  Press releases sometimes are as credible as politician's speeches, so I'm looking forward to watching Tuesday's live demo of a 5G network. At the Texas Wireless Summit, Arunabha Ghosh of AT&T will present Designing Ultra-Dense Networks for 5G at 9:40. At 10 a.m., AT&T will demonstrate their state of the art 5G testing. This will be one of the first public demonstrations of a 5G mmWave system. Webcast by RCR Wireless.

AT&T & Ericsson are working on phased arrays with ultra-fast beam steering, feedback-based hybrid precoding, multi-user multiple-input/multiple-output, dynamic beam tracking and beam acquisition. Beamforming and related technologies seem may be a breakthrough that extends the reach and throughput of mmWave systems. mmWave Works!, as Ted Rappaport proclaimed a few years ago. The question now is where it will prove financially practical. All those small cells and backhaul can be very expensive.

 The day will mostly be devoted to connecting and automating cars, with top speakers. Robert Heath of the University of Texas is one of the organizers; he co-wrote the book on millimeter wave and is working to solve some of the remaining problems. 


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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.