FCC Pai on 5G Future at NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association Conference

Source: telecompetitor.com:

The interview also touched on 5G, where Pai suggested that a promising future for rural markets awaits. Bloomfield pressed Pai on the importance of wired networks, particularly fiber-based, to the future of 5G. Pai agreed and even took it a step further.

“I’ve consistently said that the 5G future isn’t necessarily a wireless one, it’s actually a wired one,” Pai said. “Part of our 5G fast plan, as I’ve called it at the FCC, that’s facilitating America’s superiority [for] 5G technology, involves modernizing our regulations to encourage much more fiber deployment.”

Bucking some conventional wisdom regarding the promise of 5G for rural markets, Pai says he actually sees a promising future there, with one catch though. That promise is largely a fixed 5G promise in Pai’s view, which can help complement carriers who can’t make a business case for fiber everywhere.

“Contrary to what some people have suggested, I actually think 5G has a very promising future in rural America and part of the reason is, in terms of the possibilities of fixed wireless, given the fiber penetration that some of your members have,” he said. “I think the ability of rural telecom carriers to think broadly about the future of these networks and how to extend this great fiber penetration you’ve got, there’s a huge amount of promise there.”

Pai also discussed spectrum management, where he pointed to the FCC’s efforts to make spectrum auctions more accommodating to smaller carriers by reducing the geographic size of spectrum licenses, and thus making spectrum more affordable. He pointed to the upcoming 3.5 GHz auction as an example and told the crowd to stay tuned.

“Stay tuned, there’s a lot of spectrum work yet to be done this year and next, and our hope is more of you will be able to participate,” he said.

Read the full article HERE.

5G in rural America is wishful thinking at mmWave bands. Microsoft Airband has more potential in forested rural regions. SpaceX Airband will be available long before we see 5G in rural America.

 

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Sacramento 5G Insights

by Russ Steele

Verizon cut a deal with the City of Sacramento to bring 5G to the community using city infrastructure, such as light poles to attach and power 28GHz small cell antennas.   

In December and January, from dawn until dusk for eight days, Earl Lum of EJL Wireless Research drove around Sacramento surveying the Verizon 5G network. In a recent article, lightreading.com shared some of Lum’s insights.

Below are three observations Lum made while surveying what he estimated were 99% of Verizon’s 5GTF cell sites across Sacramento (the analyst is selling a complete report of his work on his website).

1 – Verizon’s 5G Home service covers around 10% of Sacramento.

“It’s pretty sparse,” Lum concluded of the network’s coverage, adding that he counted “several hundred” 5G sites.

This doesn’t come as a total surprise. After all, Verizon’s network is exclusively using the operator’s 28GHz spectrum, which is ideal for carrying huge amounts of data but not for covering large geographic areas. Verizon has said 28GHz signals can travel around 1,000 feet, but Lum said he mostly calculated signals traveling about 500 feet, based on the locations of the 28GHz transmitters and potential customers’ addresses (Verizon, for its part, boasts of a further reach in some cases, as do some other surveys of Verizon’s 5G network).

“It’s not 600MHz,” Lum noted, pointing to the kind of low-band spectrum that T-Mobile plans to use for its 5G deployment. Such low-band spectrum can cover far more geographic territory than millimeter-wave spectrum like 28GHz.

2 – All of Verizon’s 5G transmitters were attached to streetlights.

While this might not seem like a big deal, it kind of is. Lum explained that all of Verizon’s 5GTF transmission radios were attached to the tops of streetlights and not to any other structures, like traffic signals or rooftops, possibly because Verizon only has permission from the city to use streetlights (Verizon inked a public-private partnership with Sacramento in 2017).

This situation reflects the fact that small wireless transmitters — generally referred to as small cells — have been difficult for operators to deploy in part because they typically sit on city-owned infrastructure. And, as anyone who has dealt with local regulators knows, getting a city’s permission to make changes to city-owned stuff is challenging at best. For example, tower company Crown Castle typically allocates a full two years to get local approvals for small cell installations.

Another, and perhaps more important, possible takeaway from Lum’s work is that streetlights probably aren’t the best locations for a 28GHz network that provides mobility services. Lum explained that, to create an efficient grid of coverage for cars, dog walkers and others, operators likely would want to install their equipment on top of traffic signals at intersections, not on streetlights in the middle of a neighborhood.

“You don’t need a site in the middle [of a street, like a streetlight], you just need them on the bookends, pointing at each other,” Lum said. “At some point you’re going to have to go to the corners” for a millimeter-wave mobile network.

3 – Most sites only had one 5G antenna.

Lum said that most of the streetlights with Verizon’s equipment only had one antenna, and none of them had equipment for 4G LTE. Lum explained that this is noteworthy because it likely indicates Verizon is only blasting 5G service from that streetlight toward a specific set of customers.

Why? Well, most modern cellular antennas have a 90-degree or 120-degree field of coverage. Meaning, if you want to cover everything around a tower site, you need to install three or four different antennas, each covering a different part of the circle. Since most of Verizon’s sites only had one antenna, that means the company is blasting its signal toward a specific area or group of buildings, rather than everything around that site.

Lum said he saw a few sites with two antennas, but none with more than that.

Part of the issue, Lum said, may be due to the sheer weight a streetlight can handle. After all, Verizon and the city of Sacramento probably don’t want streetlights falling over because they’re too top-heavy with 5G equipment.

Antenna placement brings up an interesting point.  There are four mobile phone companies, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile which are planning to provide 5G services. All are planning to offer mobile services, some also fixed wireless services.  If an antenna is required every 500-1000 feet for mobile services in the mmWave spectrum, where are the city’s going to find places for all the antennas?  If a light pole cannot handle a full complement of 360-degree antenna coverage due to the weight for one company, how are four companies all going use the strategically located light poles? If as Lum states the ideal antenna location is at intersections, will the stop light standards be strong enough for four companies to install full complement 5G antennas?

A city needs to have at least two 5G providers to provide some pricing competition, can the light standards hold multiple piazza box antenna from at least two providers?  How will the standard hold up in high wind areas?  Those flat antenna can provide significant wind resistance, for an arm only engineering to hold a street light. 

Tower company Crown Castle has made a significant bet on small cells, and has deployed thousands of the gadgets in recent years. During the company’s most recent quarterly earnings conference call with investors, Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown said that the company typically designs its deployments to account for two small cells per mile — but he said in dense urban areas that count can increase to six or ten small cells per mile, or roughly one every 500 feet.

To quote Lum, “you’re talking about a crapload of poles.”

Another insight was the length of time it takes to permit a small cell. One company installing small cell towns expects the process to take two years.

Crown Castle typically allocates a full two years to get local approvals for small cell installations.

Unless the Federal Government takes some action to accelerate local approvals, it will be a long time before some neighborhoods see 5G is they ever see it at all. 

FCC Quibbles At Senate 5G Hearing

— Amid broader national security fears surrounding Chinese telecom giants, various senators also singled out the FCC with gripes during Senate Commerce’s hearing on 5G wireless on Wednesday. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) called the agency too “chicken to do contribution reform” and force more people to pay into its telecom subsidy fund — currently only supported by landline customers. “It’s a shrinking pie,” Schatz said. “We want to win every race but don’t admit that this takes resources.”

— And Democrats weren’t the only ones with gripes with the agency. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) both raised concerns about the FCC’s maps of nationwide broadband availability, widely derided as inaccurate. “NTIA needs to take over this mapping responsibility and clean it up,” Blackburn said.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Today: Senate Commerce Committee Focus on 5G

— Senate Commerce Committee members will question wireless industry executives about the state of next-generation wireless. Here are some things to keep in mind as the hearing gets underway:

— Will Congress legislate? Last year, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tussled with city governments over their STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, S. 3157 (115) , aimed at easing local restrictions on 5G equipment. Thune said Tuesday he would welcome “a chance to drop that bill again” and said he’s talking with Schatz about options for a reintroduction. “Obviously some of the steps that are being taken by the FCC are helping clear the path for buildout and for investment and we’d hope to see that continue,” he said. Schatz, however, said he’s undecided on bringing back the measure.

— National security looms large: Expect the hearing to delve into U.S. concerns about Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE and whether they pose a threat to 5G networks. Lawmakers want to ensure “we’re winning the race to 5G and that we’re not aiding and abetting the Chinese in winning that race,” said Thune, adding, “They’ve obviously been attempting for some time now to steal our technology.” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) agreed. “A lot of focus will be on network security,” Gardner predicted. “How we build it into the system from ground up. In many cases, that’s the advantage of 5G, is how we can do this from ground up.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

Spectrum for Rural 5G?

Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wants the FCC to set up an incentive auction of the 2.5 GHz spectrum. “This is the spectrum that could make 5G happen in our rural communities,” she said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance. She recommended some proceeds go toward solving what she calls the homework gap harming those without broadband connectivity.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

It is good to know that someone in government recognizes that mmWave 5G technology is not the right solution for rural neighborhoods. The question is will policymakers listen and then act?  While 2.5G goes farther than mmWave, it still has line-of-sight limitations.

Indoors-Outdoors — 5Gs Dirty Little Secret

Mike Murphy, CTO for North America, Nokia Corp has some interesting insights into 5G, which will have some impacts on rural broadband. Eighty (80%) percent of traffic originates indoors and twenty (20%) percent outdoors. However mmWave 5G does not penetrate walls, windows, and trees very well if at all. It is important to remember that 5G is more than a cell phone carrier, it is being marketed as a broadband service, with some mobile phone capacity.

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Murphy explains:

. . . there is another dirty secret in the closet. The rule of thumb for capacity, as embedded in the 3GPP channel models, is that 80% of traffic originates indoors and 20% outdoors. Compounding that, there is a seasonal aspect to traffic. During the cold winter months in the north, there is even less traffic outdoors (likewise, in the hot summer months in the south). With LTE, indoor traffic is primarily served by outdoor cell sites, booming signals through walls and windows. This begs the question: What happens when 5G needs to handle that indoor traffic?

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to auction off Millimeter Wave (mmWave) (24GHz, 28GHz and 39GHz) spectrum over the next two years. But mmWave doesn’t like hard things such as walls, windows and trees. Penetration loss is significant. This means 5G mmWave, practically, will not really be able to service indoor demand from outdoors-in (unlike low band LTE). (For completeness, we should note that T-Mobile US Inc. ‘s 600MHz spectrum and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) Band 41 spectrum (2.5GHz) can help in this situation to a degree. However, the number of petabytes needed is very significant, and it is unlikely these solutions alone will suffice.)

So where does this leave us? There are only two options. The first is to use low- or mid-band spectrum outdoors, and blast millimeter wave indoors; the outside-in approach. But in the dense urban case, we are already using that spectrum! So, the only real alternative is new mid-band spectrum. For the moment, none is in sight in the US until about 2020+ when the 3.7-4.2GHz band — or parts of it — become available. The other is to deploy mmWave indoors. The problem with going indoors versus using the outdoors-in approach is that everyone wants to get inside. Imagine Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and all the others showing up at your building and wanting to deploy 5G mmWave inside every room. Perhaps neutral hosting solutions may help.

Before we finish, let’s dismiss one counter argument. Some will say, “But WiFi will fix that.” WiFi, however, has its own growth problems, thank you very much. WiFi demand is also growing, at least at 30% or more, and it too has looming capacity issues, with no significant new spectrum becoming available either.

Cellular demand, meanwhile, is separate, independent and additive. So, there is no getting around it. 5G needs to go and bang on some front doors.

Full Article at Light Reading 5G

Will the 5G providers be banging on the doors in small towns and villages to install mmWave 5G in multiple building after populating the town with small cell towers ever 500 feet. Not likely, as the costs would soon exceed the potential revenue. The mmWave spectrum is not the right technology for rural broadband, whereas LEO satellites seem to have more potential.

The rollout plan for 5G is to serve the dense urban areas and then the suburbs and finally some larger small cities in rural locations. The timeline is about ten years; thus the LEO satellite broadband will be available long before 5G gets anywhere near rural communities in the Sierra and elsewhere. LEO bandwidth should be available by 2020. Go Starlink and OneWeb!

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Telehealth Changes Will Increase Rural Broadband Demand

From the Daily Yonder

New federal policies will make it easier for Americans to use telehealth. Rural communities should be looking for ways to leverage the new demand into better internet connections at home.

Several policy changes from Washington, D.C., should accelerate urban and rural telehealth deployments. On November 1 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the body that manages these two healthcare programs, finalized new rules that include payment reimbursements for telehealth.

These changes are good news for communities that want broadband to help expand access to healthcare. They will also be welcomed who hope that expanded use of telehealth will increase the number of broadband subscribers. Currently, telehealth service isn’t covered by Medicare and Medicaid in many rural homes, and they don’t reimburse telehealth at all in urban areas.

One of the major telehealth benefits is that it enables people to stay at work or home and have electronic doctor “house calls.” Medicaid and Medicare, as a guard against fraud, required patients to get telehealth treatments at a healthcare provider’s facility. Many private-sector insurers take their cues from Medicaid and Medicare as to what healthcare services they reimburse. Altogether, this has stifled telehealth adoption.

Eric Wicklund, editor of mHealth Intelligence, says that “the CMS changes open the door for more telehealth and remote patient monitoring programs. In turn, this pressures community broadband providers to make sure healthcare providers have the resources to deliver these services.” The FCC has publicly pledged to boost broadband access in rural areas, and hopefully the CMS’ actions will intensify the FCC’s commitment