The announcements of 5G just keep coming. Analyst Alan Hadden does us all a favor by keeping track of them. (Full table below) So does Ookla, Click through to Ookla to see what cities have been announced by which carriers. 

My list of active 5G networks only had 34 in Feb 2020 because I only include telcos actively selling services. Too many companies made announcements before they were ready. I also exclude the very small, like Monaco. 

From Alan Hadden, 

Australia Optus 3.6 GHz

Australia Telstra 3.6 GHz

Austria Drei 3.5 GHz

Austria Magenta Telekom 3.5 GHz

Bahrain Batelco 3.5 GHz

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Entering 2020, very little 5G is mmWave or low-band. Hadden frequencies 230The tall line in Alan Hadden's chart is 3.3-4.2 GHz. To its left is 2.5 GHz. To its right is 4.8 GHz, used by China Mobile. 

Performance in mid-band is typically 100-400 Mbps down.  Sprint's 5G network averaged 183 Mbps. (Open Signal) More than 400 Mbps is an exception; 1 Gbps great for advertising.

Low-band (the two leftmost) speeds are similar to and often lower than 4G. AT&T averaged 60 Mbps and T-Mobile 48 Mbps.

Millimeter-wave at Verizon is often over a gigabit. Open Signal found an average for 772 Mbps, probably in an area where Verizon is using only half of its 28 GHz spectrum. AT&T is using 39 GHz.

Japan and Korea are testing mmWave but few others. 





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Ireland now has better 5G coverage than Deutsche Telekom plans for the end of 2021. Putting 5G on existing towers can be done quickly, especially where 4G upgrades are needed. Mid-band 5G has decent reach, similar to 1800 MHz.

At least 60% and often 80% coverage can be reached from existing towers. The Europeans do not expect to deploy many small cells for years. The Chinese don't need new cells for coverage, but have ambitious plans for indoor coverage, perhaps as many as 10 million small cells. That would be enough to put multiple cells inside every office building.

Xavier Niel became a billionaire by giving customers more for their money. The industry thought he would go broke when he offered the 30 Euro triple play but he had carefully calculated marginal costs. Most made a similar mistake when he introduced mobile for 20 euros several years ago. He made that work.

Eir also announced gigabit fiber to 50,000 homes and plans to fiber 84% of Ireland. 38% of Irish live in rural areas, nearly twice as many as England. Rural costs are high but Eir's reaching many in rural areas without any subsidy.

I guess the engineers at BT should go to Dublin for an education.

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Friday Feb 21, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, told the Politburo, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, told the Politburo, "to prop up support for the research and development of related reagents, drugs, and vaccines, and prompt the development of biomedicine, medical equipment, 5G networks and industrial Internet." Emphasis added. 

The next day, China Unicom and China Telecom committed to deploying 250,000 sites by September. To put that in perspective, the two companies, working together, will deploy about as many sites as the combined total - 4G and 5G - Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. 

China Mobile is set for another 300,000. Q4 construction will raise the total. They have already put in emergency orders to the primary suppliers. Huawei is mostly back to work. Away from Wuhan, many people will return to the job this week.

Wuhan is China’s “Optics Valley." Yangtze Optical Fibre & Cable and Fiberhome are two of the world's largest optics manufacturers. Both are based in Wuhan, the center of the epidemic. Shortages of backhaul fiber are predictable.

The money is available. China Mobile has cut capex from RMB 187 billion (USD 27 billion) to RMB 166 in 2019. Simply restoring that cut would finance > 10,000 more radios. China Unicom spent RMB 61 in 2017 but projects RMB 58 in 2019. 

The equipment is or soon will be available. Huawei claims it can produce 1,500,000 radios a year. Ericsson and ZTE have spare capacity. The Chinese companies, like all tech companies, are suffering from supply chain problems already that will probably get worse.

Apple has postponed the $399 iPhone SE2 because of production problems.

February 2020 My count is 34 telcos actively selling 5G to consumers. 2019 ended with ~19 million active subscriptions. ~14 million were in China and almost all the rest were in Korea. 93% of Korea is covered and ~10% of China. No other carriers have enough subscribers to be willing to reveal the count. Europe is going very slowly, except for Eir which is serving 25% of Ireland. Bravo Xavier Niel.

China intends 150 million by the end of 2020 and Korea 15 million. With decent phones down to $285, those goals are realistic The year started slowly and then came Corona. There's a large stimulus coming after Corona which may pull China back on track. Unless some carriers move strongly, growth in the West will be modest until the IPhone 5G arrives in the fall.

The U.S. has been going slowly, although last year Sprint reached 11% of the nation. Sprint has golden spectrum - 160 MHz at 2.5 GHz - that is the best range to build today. T-Mobile will soon take over, The plan at Sprint was to build very quickly, reaching well over half the country from existing towers. That's also the likely plan at T-Mobile, which has committed to bring 100 Mbps to 80% of the U.S. quickly. It also pledged to invest as much as the two companies did when independent, about $10B/year. 

T-Mobile would than have the best network in the U.S.; AT&T and Verizon, which are currently lowering capex, would have to invest more to catch up.

Will T-Mobile accelerate in a few months when the deal closes? Or will they hold back? If the former, the U.S. would quickly become #2 with China in the lead. 

Japan has world class engineers at NTT DOCOMO who could build as soon as the money becomes available. They have said nothing about how much or when.

Below, the 34 companies I've confirmed are actively selling to consumers. 30 more have made announcements but I haven't seen evidence they offer substantial commercial service. 

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"You can't get a gigabit on 4G," claimed a senior staffer at a very respected organization. He is one of their experts on 5G. All the engineers know that 5G NR can't produce more than a minor performance boost - 20%-50% at best - at less than millimeter wave frequencies, less than 10% of 5G,

Actually, Gig LTE has been one of the biggest stories in telecom since 2017. Verizon demonstrated 1.45 gigabits in 2018. (Below) Qualcomm is now shipping the X24 modem, which can do over 2 gigabits. (Only Sprint has enough spectrum for that speed in the U.S.) (Also below, along with a Google News search fo Gig LTE). T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray thinks 5G NR will add 20% to 50% to capacity, but that's at best a while off. Because CA/DSS and LEE don't work yet in 5G, realworld 4G is often faster than 5G today. 

One of his bosses recently testified 5G would have 5 times the capacity. According to T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray and other engineers, 5G in low and mid-band can have 20-50% more capacity at some point in the future

4G since 2017 is shipping with advanced MIMO and 3 or 4 carrier aggregation (CA,) for "peak" speeds over a gigabit and real speeds over 100 megabits.

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Korea 5G shares 2019 230Korea's 5G net additions were only 313,000, down from over 800,000 in August, Phil Kendall of Strategy Analytics reports. Three months ago, the carriers were confident the pace would continue and that by the end of the year, the total would be over 5 million. In fact, the total was only 4.67 million due to the shortfall at the end of the year.

Phone subsidies have been cut sharply from the $400-600 earlier in the year. Deployment, at over 80%, is the highest in the world but the 90% target for yearend has been missed. The Korean press has been reporting reliability problems, even in Seoul.

5G, as the technical experts have been warning since 2018, is not coming close to the extraordinary hype.

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BT 5G radios 230Andy Sutton, Principal Network Architect at BT, sees millimeter-wave backhaul playing an important role in 5G networks. 90% of GSM networks used microwave for backhaul, but fiber became increasingly important in more recent systems. 

Sutton notes that E-band radios today can deliver 6 gigabits with 99.99% reliability. Recent regulatory changes will increase the spectrum available and data rates. That should be sufficient for most European 5G sites, which are primarily mid-band or low-band.

Verizon's Glenn Wellbrock, Director of Optical Transport Network Architecture, Design, and Planning, also sees an increasing role for wireless backhaul and fronthaul. Fiber is now 90% of Verizon's 5G backhaul, but he sees that microwave may double and backhaul 20% of sites.

Governments are being pressured to provide rule changes and cash for more fiber, because "fiber connectivity is essential."

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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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