Telecom Predictions for 2019

POTs and PANs as some insight to the future of telecommunications in 2019. Doug Dawson has these rural broadband predictions. My emphasis added in red.

Rural America Will Realize that Nobody is Coming to Help. I predict that hundreds of rural communities will finally realize that nobody is bringing them broadband. I expect many more communities to begin offering money for public/private partnerships as they try desperately to not fall on the wrong side of the broadband divide.

We’ll See First Significant Launches of LEO Satellites. There will be little public notice since the early market entries will not be selling rural broadband but will be supporting corporate WANs, cellular transport and the development of outer space networks between satellites.

Big Companies Will Get Most New Spectrum. The biggest ISPs and cellular carriers will still gobble up the majority of new spectrum, meaning improved spectrum utilization for urban markets while rural America will see nearly zero benefits.

Full Article is HERE.

 

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NYT: 5G Is Coming This Year. Here’s What You Need to Know.

The transition to new fifth-generation cellular networks, known as 5G, will affect how you use smartphones and many other devices. Let’s talk about the essentials.

By Don Clark Dec. 31, 2018

In 2019, a big technology shift will finally begin. It’s a once-in-a-decade upgrade to our wireless systems that will start reaching mobile phone users in a matter of months.

But this is not just about faster smartphones. The transition to new fifth-generation cellular networks — known as 5G for short — will also affect many other kinds of devices, including industrial robots, security cameras, drones and cars that send traffic data to one another. This new era will leap ahead of current wireless technology, known as 4G, by offering mobile internet speeds that will let people download entire movies within seconds and most likely bring big changes to video games, sports and shopping.

Officials in the United States and China see 5G networks as a competitive edge. The faster networks could help spread the use of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies.

The crucial questions are how consumers will benefit from 5G?  Initially, only users living in densely populated areas will have 5G access via short-range mmWave devices. AT&T and Verizon are focusing on parts and pockets of cities with a point to point services, not mobile cell phone service. They plan to use lower frequencies later that go much farther than the mmWave currently in use, but that will be 2020 or beyond. According to the NYT article, this will be mobile service. In the meantime, T-Mobile and Sprint will be offering lower frequency devices for cellular service, not point to point.

As you read the article, it does not appear that rural users will be getting a 5G services soon. At least not until the lower frequency 5G is available, but only mobile services, no point to point service.

“I wouldn’t buy a 5G phone until it supports 5G in one of the lower-frequency bands,” Mr. Thelander said. “For all operators but Sprint, this means at least late 2019, and more likely 2020.”

It looks like the first rural user investment will have to be a 5G to a WiFi hotspot.

With the line of sight requirements and short-range limitations. 5G is not a rural friendly technology.

5G mmWave in Truckee?

I have been reading about 5G and the upcoming spectrum auctions in the mmWave spectrum. If you have been reading posts on this blog, you will recognize I do not think that mmWave devices are appropriate for applications in rural regions of the county. In the Sierra rural region is well forested and has lots of vegetation, which can block the line of sight between the cell tower and the customer service unit. The other major shortcoming of mmWave devices is the short range, measured in meters and not miles.

Looking at one study of 28GHz coverage the coverage of several city blocks looked like this:

Antenna array at 900MHz and 28 GHz.

For 28GHz mini-cells, the radius distance in the study was 224 meters, which is about 735 feet. The 360-degree coverage would be a diameter of 448 meters across, creating a coverage area of about 2/3 of a square mile or 43 acres. I was wondering how that would look in a Sierra community and chose Truckee for a test. Using Qgis, open source GIS mapping program, I created a grid of hexagons 448 meters from edge to edge. Using Open Street Maps for a base map, I plotted the hex grid within the Truckee City limits. Here is the result:

Screenshot 2018-12-27 15.00.50
Excluding Donor Lake and other non-populated areas not requiring coverage, it would take about 700-800 mini-cells to provide 28GHz coverage within the city limits of Truckee. I do not think that Truckee will be getting full 5G mmWave coverage anytime soon, if ever.

C|NET’s 5G Glossary

Do you want to show off your 5G knowledge to your friends? Or seem like the smartest person at a party? Check out C|NET’s 5G glossary below. 

5G NR 

The 5G bit is pretty obvious, but the NR stands for New Radio. You don’t have to know a lot about this beyond the fact that it’s the name of the standard that the entire wireless industry is rallying behind, and it just came out in December.

That’s important because it means everyone is on the same page when it comes to their mobile 5G networks. Carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile are following 5G NR as they build their networks. But Verizon, which began testing 5G as a broadband replacement service before the standard was approved, isn’t using the standard — yet. The company says it’ll eventually adopt 5G NR for its broadband service, and intends to use NR for its 5G mobile network.

Millimeter wave

All cellular networks use airwaves to ferry data over the air, with standard networks using spectrum in lower frequency bands like 700 megahertz. Generally, the higher the band or frequency, the higher the speed you can achieve. The consequence of higher frequency, however, is a shorter range.

To achieve those crazy-high 5G speeds, you need really, really high-frequency spectrum. The millimeter wave range falls between 24 gigahertz and 100 gigahertz.

The problem with super-high-frequency spectrum, besides the short range, is it’s pretty finicky — a leaf blows the wrong way and you get interference. Forget about obstacles like walls. Companies like Verizon are working on using software and broadcasting tricks to get around these problems and ensure stable connections.

Small cell

Traditional cellular coverage typically stems from gigantic towers littered with different radios and antennas. Those antennas are able to broadcast signals at a great distance, so you don’t need a lot of them. Small cells are the opposite —  backpack-size radios can be hung up on street lamps, poles rooftops or other areas. They can only broadcast a 5G signal at a short range, so the idea is to have a large number of them in a densely packed network. 

Some cities have this kind of dense network in place, but if you go outside of the metro area, that’s where small cells become more of a challenge. 

Sub-6GHz

Given how troublesome really high-band spectrum can be (see the “millimeter wave” section above), there’s a movement to embrace spectrum at a much lower frequency, or anything lower than 6GHz. The additional benefit is that carriers can use the spectrum they already own to get going on 5G networks. T-Mobile, for instance, has a swath of 600MHz spectrum it plans to use to power its 5G deployment. Prior to sub-6GHz, that would’ve been impossible.

That’s why you’re seeing more carriers embrace the lower-frequency spectrum.

But the lower-frequency spectrum has the opposite problem: While it reaches great distances, it doesn’t have the same speed and capacity as millimeter wave spectrum.

The ideal down the line will be for carriers to use a blend of the two.

Gigabit LTE

You’re hearing more about Gigabit LTE as a precursor to 5G. Ultimately it’s about much higher speeds on the existing LTE network. But the work going toward building a Gigabit LTE network provides the foundation for 5G.

For more on Gigabit LTE, read our explainer here.

MIMO

An abbreviation of “multiple inputs, multiple outputs.” Basically, it’s the idea of shoving more antennas into our phones and on cellular towers. And you can always have more antennas. They feed into the faster Gigabit LTE network, and companies are deploying what’s known as 4×4 MIMO, in which four antennas are installed in a phone.

Carrier aggregation 

Wireless carriers can take different bands of radio frequencies and bind them together so phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 can pick and choose the speediest and least congested one available. Think of it as a three-lane highway so cars can weave in and out depending on which lane has less traffic.

QAM 

This is a term that’s so highly technical, I don’t even bother to explain the nuance. It stands for quadrature amplitude modulation. See? Don’t even worry about it.

What you need to know is that it allows traffic to move quickly in a different way than carrier aggregation or MIMO. Remember that highway analogy? Well, with 256 QAM, you’ll have big tractor trailers carrying data instead of tiny cars. MIMO, carrier aggregation and QAM are already going into 4G networks, but play an important role in 5G too.

Beamforming 

This is a way to direct 5G signals in a specific direction, potentially giving you your own specific connection. Verizon has been using beamforming for millimeter wave spectrum, getting around obstructions like walls or trees.

Unlicensed spectrum 

Cellular networks all rely on what’s known as licensed spectrum, which they own and purchased from the government.

But the move to 5G comes with the recognition that there just isn’t enough spectrum when it comes to maintaining wide coverage. So the carriers are moving to unlicensed spectrum, similar to the kind of free airwaves that our Wi-Fi networks ride on.

Network slicing

This is the ability to carve out individual slivers of spectrum to offer specific devices the kind of connection they need. For instance, the same cellular tower can offer a lower-power, slower connection to a sensor for a connected water meter in your home, while at the same time offering a faster, lower-latency connection to a self-driving car that’s navigating in real time.

RCRC: Rural Broadband Update – No 5G Acceleration

In Verizon’s quarterly earnings call with media and shareholders, the nationwide carrier revealed it does not intend to accelerate the buildout of its 5G network. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently finalized a rule and order that will preempt local government oversight of broadband deployment to promote 5G buildouts but the latest news from Verizon suggests the rule has minimal impact on carriers’ 5G plans. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also claimed the rule would facilitate 5G deployment in rural areas, but the FCC’s lone Democrat, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, said the new rule will do nothing to change “the hard economics of rural deployment.”

The FCC pointed to complaints from Verizon as justification for their controversial rule that preempts local fees and regulations of broadband deployment. The FCC passed the rule over the fierce objection of RCRC and other state and local government groups. The rule is estimated to save nationwide carriers over $2 billion in regulatory fees but it appears these savings will not lead to more broadband deployment.

Source: RCRC The Barbed Wire [Highlight Added]

This is why rural America is not going to see 5G anytime in the near future, the cost is too great for the population density.  If you do not have 4G now, you are not going to see 5G for a long long time, if ever. Rural America needs to join the Community Network movement and take control of their own destiny and not rely on big telco to bring them high-speed internet.

5G Airwaves Auction

— AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are among the companies the FCC has deemed qualified to bid in its upcoming auction for 5G spectrum licenses. The FCC on Wednesday released the list of 40 companies that have qualified and made upfront payments to bid in the 28 GHz auction, set to begin Nov. 14. In addition to the wireless companies, DISH — filing under the name Crestone Wireless — and Frontier Communications also made the cut.

— Back to back auctions: The FCC plans to auction off airwaves in the 24 GHz band after the 28 auction ends. The agency also released a list of 58 companies that it says filed complete applications, including Cox Communications and Starry. Sprint also intends to participate, under its ATI Sub subsidiary, a spokeswoman said.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech