T-Mobile's "5G" network will be built in 600 MHz spectrum and will only be 25-50% faster than its 4G LTE network, perhaps 400-700 megabits. Ted Rappaport of NYU Wireless, a world-class expert on 5G, emails me:

The low band (600 MHz) systems will always be limited in capacity and are not future proof no matter what special massive Mimo is used- the antennas will be too large and the bandwidths are too small, and simply can't carry the bandwidths of mmwave-- the RF channel allocations are simply too small. The wider bandwidth channels at mmwave is the only way to carry the multi Gbps data rates that will be seen in 5G. And to simultaneously also provide backhaul between cells in the same network.  

The secret sauce in millimeter wave is 400 MHz and 800 MHz channels. The 600 MHz and other low band use 20 and 40 MHz. Tmo' 600 MHz will probably be 400-700 megabits. mmWave is delivering 10gig and 20 gig in the laboratory. Verizon is getting 1 gig to each customer in their trials and can go higher. 

In 4G LTE/LAA, Tmo's 4G is delivering 500 megabits to live customers in Manhattan, pretty darn good. To do much better than that in 20 MHz 5G NR would require breaking the Laws of Physics.

The difference between 4G LTE and 5G NR is actually very small in a fair comparison: same spectrum, same antennas, same generation of equipment. The 2018 LTE goes beyond the gigabit delivering 9 ms latency. Short TTI is in the LTE Release 14 and 5G Release 15. It's most of the latency improvement and it works in 2018 models of both. 

Ted also points out the antenna problem. mmWave antennas are very small; 256 of them fit on a unit the size of a paperback novel. (We have it on film we still need to edit.) Antennas for 600 MHz are much bigger, often only two fit on a tower. When you get to 2500 & 3500, you can use 64 antenna Massive MIMO. That's why 3500 suddenly became hot. Massive MIMO is working very well and solves most of the very short reach problem.

The NY Times is reporting "implausible promises" because they are too cautious to say "lies." 

 

 

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.