Avenida Houston 230Verizon 5G reach is perhaps twice as far as expected, including with obstacles (NLOS.) That's the independent conclusion of Michael Thelander and team testing two live Verizon cells in Houston,

"Who would have thought a millimeter wave signal in an area 100% blocked from the serving cell tower by the surroundings would still be capable of supporting good data speeds?" they exclaim. "Millimeter wave signals are far more resilient than we expected, even at distances exceeding several thousand feet. Tree foliage, passing school buses, buildings, parked cars, balding heads, and glass impacted the received signal, but the resultant signals were still capable of delivering meaningful data rates – thanks in part to the 400 MHz radio channel. Verizon can deploy 800 MHz channels in some markets." The results were generally good up to 1,000 meters and behind buildings.

At MWC Barcelona next week, there will be dozens of analyses on mmWave costs and buildout requirements. Nearly all of them will assume reach of 200-300 meters. That would require at least hundreds of thousands of cells to cover the U.S. and probably millions.

They probably are wrong.

We don't have conclusive data yet, of course. Verizon reports, getting a median gigabit 600 meters with still very early equipment.  "Every variable tested during the trials came out better than assumed." 

Primary details below, The full Signals Research report is for sale (not cheap,) They have a short but interesting video showing the actual tests, but they are keeping

Thanks to Monica Alleven of Fierce for pointing me to this data. She and colleagues Mike Dano & Sean Buckley are among the best.

 

Here's the SR promotion

Key Highlights from this 5G Speed Study

Signals Research Group (SRG) conducted what we believe is the industry’s first independent benchmark study of a 5G commercial test network. We conducted tests in Houston, Texas where Verizon Wireless has a 28 GHz trial network that we believe is now supporting commercial traffic. Samsung is the infrastructure supplier in this market. For this study, we used the Rohde & Schwarz TSMA autonomous drive test scanner to collect downlink performance metrics for the Beam Reference Signals (BRS), including RSRP, CINR, RSRQ, PCI, etc., of the 28 GHz millimeter wave radio signals. With this information, we could also estimate likely end-user data rates for the areas and locations we tested. Although Verizon is currently using the 5GTF specification, we believe the data we collected and the results we conclude from the analysis of the data are equally applicable to the 5G NR specifications, not to mention limited mobility use cases. Based on numerous walk tests and stationary tests involving line-of-site (LOS), non-lineof-site (NLOS) and near-line-of-site conditions, we have a great appreciation for the promises of millimeter wave spectrum. To summarize, millimeter wave signals are far more resilient than we expected, even at distances exceeding several thousand feet. Tree foliage, passing school buses, buildings, parked cars, balding heads, and glass impacted the received signal, but the resultant signals were still capable of delivering meaningful data rates – thanks in part to the 400 MHz radio channel. Verizon can deploy 800 MHz channels in some markets. Who would have thought a millimeter wave signal in an area 100% blocked from the serving cell tower by the surroundings would still be capable of supporting good data speeds? Verizon management is on record for “promising” Gigabit speeds to its serviced customers. We don’t yet share this view with near-term deployments unless Verizon aggressively deploys 5GTF small cells (i.e., brings the consumer and the 5G access point closer together), and/or mounts CPEs in ideal exterior locations, and/or limits its customers to only those customers that it knows live in a location with suitable radio conditions that can support Gigabit speeds.

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.