Comstocks: Slow Progress for Fast Speeds

 

Two years after partnering with Verizon, few Sacramento neighborhoods have 5G availability

Russell Nichols has the details in the June issue of Comstock’s magazine.

In December, Earl Lum spent the holiday season snooping around Sacramento’s eight city council districts, snapping pictures of city-owned street lights for evidence. The wireless analyst was on a mission to assess the status of Verizon’s 5G Home network, which launched in the capital in October 2018.

He came bearing questions: How many poles had the shoe-boxed sized 5G radios mounted on them? Were these fixed wireless sites only in wealthier neighborhoods? Did they target businesses? It took him three trips to map every pole. Each time, he scouted for two to three days from dawn to dusk. For an official launch of a network like this, Lum believes at least 2,000 sites with about 50 percent service coverage would be respectable. But what he found was some 200 small cells attached to street lights with broadband signals reaching less than 10 percent of Sacramento’s population.

“The network was extremely limited,” says Lum, founder of EJL Wireless Research in Half Moon Bay, who has analyzed wireless and mobile radio access markets for over 20 years. “There was clearly not enough sites to even do what I would call a real launch for a network.”

There are 40,000 city-owned poles in Sacramento with about 9,000 being suitable for wireless development, according to city officials. But Lum argues that those suitable poles only cover the main streets, and the distance of the signals from each site fails to fill the gaps. Another issue he points out is the millimeter wave technology, which is line of sight, meaning trees and rain can disrupt signals.

Two years after the city’s partnership with Verizon was announced, Lum’s findings – published in the report United States 5G Fixed Wireless Access Case Study, Verizon Wireless and the City of Sacramento, CA – paint a sobering picture. The city boasted of being one of the first four test cities for the telecom giant’s 5G network. Officials called the move a major step toward a future of lightning-fast speeds, smart meters and wearable technology, and, down the line, industrial automation and self-driving cars. They called it a “game-changer.” But if the game has any hope of changing, Lum says the city would need as many as 4,000 sites to provide full coverage, an undertaking that could take up to 10 years.

“Everyone did a lot of field trials prior to the launch,” Lum says. “[Verizon wasn’t] going into this whole thing blind. Part of this survey was to do a fact check on the reality.”

Continue reading HERE.

Russell Nicholes captures the struggle that Sacramento is going through to implement 5G.  Think about the struggle that your community would go through to implement mmWave 5G with the need to maintain the line of sight connections and the antenna spacing needed to provide full coverage. Does your community have unique street lighting infrastructure that would inhibit the use of standard mini-cell tower installations, such as these in historic downtown Nevada City?

Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 6.32.17 AM
Nevada City Street Lights on Main Street

Here is a Chicago Mini-Cell Tower

Chicago_Verizon 5G minitower
Verizon Minoi-Town in Chicago 

“Deployment of 5G services using microwave and millimeter wave frequency bands is critical to the success of 5G in the United States. However, the limitations we have uncovered using these frequency bands should cause the industry to take a serious look at the return on investment for these types of 5G networks.” 

— Earl Lum Microwave Journal.

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Jeff Bezos Explains Amazon’s Bet on Project Kuiper Satellites

Geek Wire has the details

For the first time in public, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained the rationale for his risky Project Kuiper satellite broadband venture, during a fireside chat that was interrupted when an animal rights activist jumped on stage.

[. . .]

When Freshwater asked Bezos to name a “big bet” that Amazon has taken recently, he focused on Project Kuiper, the plan to put more than 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit for global broadband coverage. The project came to light in April, and seems likely to be based in Bellevue, Wash. Here’s how Bezos explained his bet:

“The goal here is broadband everywhere, but the very nature of [having] thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit is very different from geostationary satellites. … You have equal broadband all over the surface of Earth. Not exactly equal, it tends to be a lot more concentrated toward the poles, unfortunately.

“But you end up servicing the whole world. So it’s really good. By definition you end up accessing people who are ‘under-bandwidthed.’ Very rural areas, remote areas. And I think you can see going forward that internet, access to broadband is going to be very close to being a fundamental human need as we move forward.

“So Project Kuiper has that. It’s also a very good business for Amazon because it’s a very high-capex [capital expenditure] undertaking. It’s multiple billions of dollars of capex. … Amazon is a large enough company now that we need to do things that, if they work, can actually move the needle.”

Amazon has already turned on its global satellite control networks, mostly located at it’s Global Data Centers strategically placed around the globe. As a significant provider of cloud services, LEO satellite delivery systems makes good business sense. It is the last link to providing cloud services to every business on the planet, at a highly competitive rate, compared to competitors like Microsoft Asure, IBM Cloud and lesser-known cloud companies relying on existing fiber network infrastructure. Amazon will be able to reach more global customers faster with competitive cloud service rates. More HERE.

The top ten cloud service companies are:

Kamatera.
phoenixNAP.
Amazon Web Services.
Microsoft Azure.
Google Cloud Platform.
Adobe.
VMware.
IBM Cloud.

After Amazon, only Google has made a move toward having an LEO satellite distribution system, partnering with Telesat and adapting Project Loon to LEO applications

Loon adapting connection routing ‘network brain’ from balloons to low Earth orbit satellites

While I admire and root for SpaceX, who is building a top-down system, Amazon is taking a bottom-up approach, building on existing reliable infrastructure and capping it with a fleet of LEO satellites has a higher probability of succeeding.  The open question is can Amazon catch SpaceX and OneWeb who have birds in space.

RCRC Rural Broadband Update

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is under mounting pressure to re-evaluate the accuracy of the broadband mapping data used in the commission’s 2019 Broadband Deployment Report.  On June 2, 2019, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) became one of the loudest critics yet when he pointed to the disparities between the FCC’s report and a 3rd party study conducted by Microsoft.

In addition, Congressman Doug Collins (R-Georgia), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai requesting the commission consider a more accurate and reliable approach to mapping broadband coverage.  Unreliable broadband coverage data from the FCC paints an overly optimistic picture of broadband coverage in rural areas and undermines the ability of policymakers to prioritize funding for areas that are truly underserved.  More members are calling for improvements to broadband mapping data to better address the digital divide and improve broadband coverage in rural areas.

Source: RCRC Barbed Wire Newsletter

Senate Passes Broadband Economic Impact Bill

Multichannel has the story:

The Senate has passed the Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act, according to its co-sponsors, by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who co-chair the Senate Broadband Caucus.

It was reported favorably out of the Commerce Committee May 15.

The bill is the latest effort in a political season where broadband access is an election issue–Klobuchar is running for President.

The bill was only introduced four weeks ago, but getting better broadband data is a bipartisan issue on the HIll.

Currently the FCC is collecting input on how to better gauge where broadband is or isn’t by collecting more accurate and reliable data. The bill’s goal is to gauge the effect of the digital economy and broadband deployment on the economy by collecting accurate data.

It would require the Bureau of Economic Analysis, with input from the Department of Commerce, whose NTIA arm is also charged with getting a better handle on where broadband is or isn’t, to conduct the study of “broadband deployment and adoption of digital-enabling infrastructure, e-commerce and platform-enabled peer-to-peer commerce, and the production and consumption of digital media.”

“Every family in America should have access to broadband internet connection, no matter their zip code” Klobuchar said. “The purpose of this legislation is to use accurate and reliable data to prove how critical broadband deployment is to our economy. I look forward to this bill being signed into law soon and getting one step closer to bridging the digital divide.”

It is hard to fix something when you do not know where is it broken. More accurate data collected and analyzed will benefit rural communities where the biggest coverage gaps reside. Once local policymakers fully understand the economics of broadband more will get on board and support the development of community networks.

Broadband Speed and Unemployment Rates: Data and Measurement Issues

 

Study finds high-speed internet reduces Unemployment. Justification for making sure your community has high-speed access.

Abstract

We examine the effects of broadband speed on county unemployment rates in the U.S. state of Tennessee. We merge the older National Broadband Map dataset and the newer FCC dataset in lengthening our broadband access data over the period 2011-2015. Extending the dataset improves the precision of the estimates. Our panel regressions control for potential selection bias and reverse causality and show that broadband speed matters: unemployment rates are about 0.26 percentage points lower in counties with high speeds compared to counties with low speeds. Ultra-high speed broadband also appears to reduce unemployment rates; however, we are unable to distinguish between the effects of high and ultra-high speed broadband. We document beneficial effects of the early adoption of high speed broadband on unemployment rates. Better quality broadband appears to have a disproportionately greater effect in rural areas.

The full report can be downloaded HERE.

 

Competition, Competition, Competition

by Russ Steele

One thing that activates the telco and cable providers is competition. How are they going to deal with the competition from SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon, and other LEO high-speed internet providers? These innovators are circling the legacy communications provider like a hunger coyote looking for a rabbit lunch.

In the past, the telcos use their political muscle to keep the competition under control at every opportunity. They spend millions on lawyers and lobbyist to shape legislation to stifle competition rather than spend their profits on providing superiors service.

For example, in the early days of WiFi, a Texas University was wiring up the campus. Next door to the University was some low-income housing, and the University wanted to share their WiFi with the low-income neighbors. According to the story I heard, AT&T sent 25 lawyers down to the State Legislature to stop this sharing of free WiFi. AT&T abhors competition!

We are going to see a significant upheaval in the internet market when the LEO satellites networks are established and fully functional. Today the phone and cable companies are providing marginal broadband services at a high cost to the consumer. Why, because they can, they are the only provider, with no competition.

There are millions of DSL customers poised to jump once a competitive broadband service is offered. Some communities have pinned their hope on 5G for more reliable service at higher speeds, but that technology rollout is controlled by the telco providers who are not going to provide competing service. On the other hand, they will have little control over the satellite internet service providers, unless they cut backhaul deals that incorporate some competition restrictions.

I can hear the conversation now, “If you sign this 5G backhaul contract, you cannot sell your broadband to our 4G/5G customers.”

The cable companies are losing customers to the cord cutters and streamers. While cutting the video cord, streams still need a broadband connection. In many cases, the cable internet service is the only connection, and it comes at a high price. Why, because the cable companies have no competitive incentive to reduce rates.

In many communities with only telco DSL or an aging cable plant available providing broadband access, LEO broadband will be the first time there will be some competitive service. The question is, how will the telco and cable companies deal with that competition?

They can lower the price for their marginal services, but the customer still has unreliable slow speed internet access, whereas the LEO satellites are offering much higher speeds, and hopefully more reliable service. All the LEO satellite service challenge are still unknowns.

In the end, the superior service will win if the cost is reasonable. Amazon is a significant disruptor in the retail sector, and space-based internet is going to be a substantial disruptor in the telecommunications sector.

How will the telcos respond?  Your thoughts?