Minister Miao Wei demanded, "Accelerate" and the telcos are delivering. 198,000 cells had been upgraded at the end of March. The year-end goal, 600,000, has been reduced to 500,000. Ericsson and Huawei have confirmed the equipment is on the way and the buildout should hit the new target easily.

The 50 million "5G contracts" figure must be examined closely. Many reporters assume that means 50 million people are using 5G. I initially did. 

However, I discovered in March that the Chinese telcos were selling more 5G contracts than the phone makers seemed to ship.

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With 5G phones as low as $285 in China (Xiaomi), it was inevitable that low prices would expand worldwide. Giant TCL just announced a US$400/Euro 400 6.5" smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor and four cameras on the rear.

Chinese company TCL has been selling under the name "Alcatel" in the west. Its sales were over 60 million phones in 2016 but it has fallen behind. It intends to deliver between June and September. The Chinese factories, include Foxconn, are close to full production.

Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE are similar phones in China at $285-$400. Samsung and Huawei will soon follow. As soon as these prices come West, demand for 5G will expand rapidly.

Unless everyone decides to buy the new iPhone SE at a similar $400.

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VTEL Wireless can now deliver 100 Mbps to 80% of Rutland, Vermont. With help from Ericsson, this took less than 2 weeks. The company is contributing modems and service, the school district is providing Chromebooks. The kids are learning.

~8 million U.S. homes do not have cable or a decent landline. Most can be reached from existing towers and upgraded in weeks. It should be done, whether by T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, or regional carriers. Ajit Pai should make this so.Marzetta Massive MIMO 230

Massive MIMO, invented at Bell Labs in 2010 by Tom Marzetta, uses 32-128 small antennas to deliver multiple data streams where the local demand is highest, 

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Below 1800 MHz, 5G has almost no performance advantage over today's 4G LTE. For a major power grid running at 450 MHz, PGE Systemy chose Nokia 4G, resulting in a major saving. 5G is overkill for almost all IoT applications. 5G's NB-IoT is almost exactly the same as 4G NB-IoT.

The key exception is when connecting an enormous number of devices. 5G can address a million devices from a single tower. So far, I haven't found any application that needs more than 4G can handle. It's not clear whether intense concentrations of cars, all on one network, will need that. Perhaps when 5G controls munitions, the U.S. will need that capacity on the battlefield. The U.S. military is massively funding 5G research, especially on how to manage spectrum in a presumably crowded environment.

Nokia virtually "bet its future" on corporate 4G & 5G networks.

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5G is growing by millions per month in China, although the exact status is unclear. The telcos are reporting "contracts," which continue to be far higher than the separately reported 5G phone sales. Some people are apparently signing up to 5G contracts even before they get the phones. The 5G price is the same as 4G and 5G has promotions. 

That said, China Mobile reported 8.7M new 5G contracts in Feb and a 15M total.8.7M new 5G contracts in Feb and a 15M total. Add China Tel & Unicom, China 5G is probably over 30M. China is now on track for >150M 5G in 2020, with the likely world total ~200M.

Xi Jinping has declared 5G a crucial part of the "New Infrastructure" that will be massively funded after the epidemic. CM is doing 300K sites in 2020, CT+CU 250K, China a total of 600K sites 2020.

What's wrong everywhere else?

Ashraf Dahod, CEO at Altiostar, is very proud.Rakuten unlimited 230 A year ago, CTO Tareq Amin dazzled the industry with bold promises: 

"Revolutionary technological innovation behind the launch of the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network. Construction of radio antenna network underway; On track for October 2019 Japan launch ... Soon to be the newest and most innovative mobile network operator in Japan, Rakuten Mobile Network, Inc. is currently building the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network. The launch of commercial services planned for October 2019 will leverage an innovative architecture that is set to disrupt not only the telecom industry landscape in Japan but also the rest of the world. Built to serve millions of subscribers and adopting 5G systems architecture from launch, this will be the world’s first cloud-native network that is fully virtualized from radio access network (RAN) to Core, with end-to-end automation for both network and services."

Amin had been a builder of Reliance Jio's remarkably cost-effective network, that connected 370 million Indians in less than 4 years. It runs so well that Jio declares a profit on prices often below $5/ month. It reflected the most advanced thinking, originating from Stanford (CORD, O-RAN, more) and now supported everywhere from China Mobile to the White House. (Where they have no idea what it means.)

It's March 2020 now, and the network is finally ready to go beyond trials. The first 3 million will get a free year and the regular price will be under US$30, much lower than the incumbents.

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100 gigabit fiber optic wavelengths were state of the art not long ago, but 800G is ready in 2020. China Mobile tested Huawei's 800G optical transport unit between two data centers 80 kilometers apart. Verizon used Ciena and Juniper 800G equipment in its test. Huawei, Ciena, and Infinera are confident they will ship 800G production units in 2020. 

18 months ago, I was one of the first to report in English that Huawei was producing its own high-quality optical units. At that time, they were still purchasing lasers for the most advanced units. Huawei has now caught up in optics. The company matches the best in 5G, AI, and network processing chip design and is very close in the very important radio frequency parts for 5G. 

Donald Trump wants to destroy "Made in China 2025" but is failing miserably. It was based on a false belief that Chinese companies needed U.S. parts to make advanced equipment. That may have been true 15 years ago, but today China has the capability to match the U.S. in almost any field. There is no reason someone born in San Francisco will be smarter than someone born in Shanghai. America has brilliant engineers, a large market, and a system that drove innovation. Today, so does China.

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If T-Mobile moves quickly, it could cover 80% of the U.S. with 5G at hundreds of megabits by the end of 2021. It will probably require several months to re-organize after the merger and the major impact may be in 2021. T-Mobile may pause but won't stop.

The money is budgeted; to get approval to buy Sprint, T-Mobile agreed to maintain capex at the level of the two companies combined, about $10 billion/year. That's enough to upgrade 20,000 sites a year and cover more than half the country extremely quickly. Verizon and AT&T would almost have to respond. (This is over-simplified but I believe correct.)

Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum is golden because it has excellent reach. Most of the country can be covered without adding new towers. The 64 small antennas of Massive MIMO mean that 2.5 GHz has reach comparable to 1800 MHz and possibly better.

The towers are available. Adding Sprint gives T-Mobile more towers than it can put to use. Originally, T-Mobile intended to keep 10,000 and retire 35,000. Many of the latter are on 5-year contracts. 

The contractors have the capacity to meet that target. They were startled when T-Mo stopped building in December after the companies had staffed up. They'd love the work. Ericsson & probably Nokia are ready to ship the equipment. Sprint brings Samsung to the table. The equipment is available.

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dave ask

@analysisbranch for latest updates


Welcome  Asia is installing hundreds of thousands of 5G radios and adding 5G subs by the tens of millions. The west is far behind. 200,000,000 in 2020

The demand is there, and most of the technology works. Meanwhile, the hype is unreal. Time for reporting closer to the truth.

I'm Dave Burstein, Editor. I've been reporting telecom since 1999. I love to hear from readers and say thank you when you find an error.

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