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?

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Nevada City Street Lights on Main Street

Here is a Chicago Mini-Cell Tower

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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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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?

Lifting the Hood and Checking the 5G Physical Engine

Want to know the difference between 4G and 5G?  How does 5G work? Why is 5G a better communication technology? Read on!

5G wireless technology promises to deliver an abundance of reliable, data-rich, and highly connected applications for customers around the world.  To do that will required robust hardware or physical layer. National Instruments has recently published a white paper describing the 5G physical layer and its attributes — 5G New Radio: Introduction to the Physical Layer.

Download the white paper by clicking on this link:5G_New_Radio_WP

The FCC’s Decision To Streamline Pole Attachments Have Gone Into Effect.

The FCC voted in August 2018 (unanimously, though with one partial dissent) to adopt a one-touch, make-ready (OTMR) policy for new broadband attachments on utility poles.

The rules were scheduled to take effect 30 days after publication of the rules in the Federal Register, which happened April 19. That could not happen until the Office of Management and Budget had signed off on the reporting requirement per the Paperwork Reduction Act, which happened April 15.

The new rules took effect Monday, May 20

The third Report & Order and declaratory ruling allows new attachers — like cable broadband providers and Google Fiber — to perform all the “simple” work of preparing and attaching the wires.

The ruling also declared in no uncertain terms that states and localities are prohibited from imposing moratoria on broadband buildouts.

The item codified that new wires can overlash existing attachments to maximize the space available and regularizes the rate incumbents pay for attachments vs. cable and telco attachers.

Continue reading at MultiChannel News HERE. [Emphasis Added]

 

Today: FCC 5G Infrastructure Push

— Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) are today bringing back their STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, a measure aimed at speeding up 5G wireless buildout. The proposal drew fierce pushback during the last Congress from local governments that viewed it as federal overreach. Although the two sponsors had suggested they would take those concerns into account, the new version is no different than what they unveiled last summer. “Making 5G technology a reality has been a priority for me since I began serving on the Commerce Committee,” Thune said

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

This has implication for all rural communities, especially those communities trying to preserve their historical charm. Experience has shown that mmWave 5G needs to have a small cell site on every block, see details HERE and HERE.

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Ugly Chicago Mini-Cell Tower

Those providers that are using low band (600-800MHz) 5G will be more welcome in rural communities as fewer cell sites are needed, reducing line of site requirements. The downside is low band 5G cannot provide the mind-blowing speeds that mmWave 5G does. Will rural towns, cities, and neighborhoods get to pick their provider and the technology used to provide 5G under the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, or do they get whoever shows up? Verizon is using a mmWave strategy, AT&T a mixed approach, while T-Mobile/Sprint is planning to use low band and existing 4G frequencies for their 5G services. More decisions will depend on the spectrum the FCC is offering for 5G services, both mobile and fixed.

This is going to be an ugly fight to keep ugly technology out of rural towns and villages. If I were responsible for 5G implementation, I would be working with designers to develop a classic mini-cell enclosure, to hide the ugly electronics and wire bundles.  Your thoughts?

Sprint 5G Network Turned On — More Rural Friendly Spectrum

The Verge has the details on modes and speeds:

By contrast, Sprint is using what it calls “split mode” to allow devices to combine 5G NR and LTE Advanced for faster download speeds and, more importantly, 5G coverage that’s somewhat consistent. Sprint isn’t relying on the same high-frequency millimeter-wave tech as Verizon and AT&T at the moment. Instead, it’s building 5G on top of its mid-band 2.5GHz wireless spectrum. According to Saw, Sprint’s antennas in 5G markets are divided with dedicated LTE and 5G resources. “We are not sharing spectrum. We’re not stealing bandwidth from LTE users, and you don’t see a slowdown in 5G just because LTE customers are using a lot of data.” Saw insists this is something that isn’t possible with millimeter wave alone. “I think we’re the only operator in the US that’s able to launch our 5G network to have the exact same coverage as LTE, right on top of each other.”

But how fast is it? Sprint’s promise is up to five times faster than LTE. “We’re trying to set the right expectations,” said Saw. “You should see more than 100Mbps when you’re driving around.” Sprint drove media around for a short two-mile bus trip to demonstrate mobile speeds. The new LG V50 indeed remained above that 100Mbps mark throughout the test, and it never dropped Sprint’s 5G network during the drive. Peak speeds hit between 500Mbps and 600Mbps when we stopped and were stationary. But Sprint is definitely being conservative in its guidance and reiterating that this is day one and improvements will come early and often.

Full Article is HERE. Emphasis added. Article concludes:

Mid-band 2.5GHz spectrum will make 5G coverage more reliable and steady. And low-band “sub-6” spectrum will be crucial for making sure 5G can strongly reach indoor locations and challenging coverage spots. As you’d expect, he brought up the T-Mobile merger as being essential, since that company possesses a lot of low-band spectrum that would complement Sprint’s own.

The Sprint/T-Mobile low band approach will not produce mind blowing Verizon speeds but will provide enhanced speed over LTE and be more reliable in difficult to reach rural locations.

Starks: Race to 5G Could Bypass No-Gs

 

The U.S. needs to guard against internet inequity

For all the talk about the U.S. winning the race to 5G, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks is concerned that the country will race right by with no-G.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Starks, the newest member of the commission, said he wanted to lay down a market on one of the most important issues the country faces. That is getting broadband to the over 24 million without access to broadband at any speed.

Starks said he feared the transition to 5G was also a transition from a digital divide to an “internet inequality.”

“I am worried about a world where those with much get even more, and everyone else gets left behind,” he said.

Continue Reading HERE.

This is a real threat to rural communities. Telecommunications is an ROI driven business and the sparse density of rural counties cannot make the ROI hurdle without some government help. Some 5G technologies are not rural friendly, and will not be used. Others can only provide a marginal improvement over 4G, which many communities do not have, and will not have for years, as the Connect American II program has a 10-year build-out schedule. It is not likely that low band 5G will be replacing newly installed 4G in an ROI world.