5G Brooklyn Summit

If you can't come to New York, watch the IEEE live stream. April 25-27

Ted Rappaport's Brooklyn 5G may be the best event in the industry. Top people come to NYU Wireless, the leading academic 5G center. Speaking to an audience of peers, they bring the latest and most important research. 

Paulraj, Fettweis, Dina Katabi, are among the world's top researchers.In 2014, AT&T's #2 John Stankey and the CTO of NTT DOCOMO Seizo Onoe convinced me 5G was going to be real.  Both are coming back. Folks at that level wouldn't have flown from around the world unless 5G was closer than I thought.

Listening at the shows, I realized that the massive number of cells for 5G mmWave was likely a competition killer. The general opinion was that only one or two companies could afford to build such large networks. (Encouraging note: The reach of mmWave is proving better than most people expected.)

In 2016, Onoe and others thought volume deployments were unlikely before 2022-2023. By 2017, Onoe had changed his mind and said 2020. At the 2017 event, I gathered datapoints that led me to write Verizon Full Speed Ahead on $20B mmWave Buildout.  8 months later, Verizon hasn't officially announced but I'm confident about the story.

At the first Brooklyn Summit I asked about competition problems for 5G networks based on high frequencies. They generally require fiber backhaul to an enormous number of small cells because of the limited range. The incumbent has an enormous advantage because of all the fiber they own. Stanford's Andrea Goldsmith, one of the best, answered by pointing to the alternative of Bottoms-up networks, supplied through existing DSL and cable backhaul. She was so on target I apologized to her for asking a simplistic question.

The 5G Summit is primarily a technical event but it's time for the policy people to begin listening. 



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.