Global mobile operators will be using small cells to expand the indoor coverage and improve network capacity, improving the quality of telecommunication. Small cells can divert 80 percent of data traffic in crowded areas. Increase in hotspot capacity will make up for areas not covered by macro cells (both indoor and outdoor) to improve network performance and service quality.
Kelly Hsieh, research director of TrendForce, said small cells will achieve higher level of integration, allowing for multi-mode, multi-band deployment, and integrate unlicensed spectrum.
The deployments of small cells – fuelled by 5G — will reach 2.838 million units in 2018 and 4.329 million units in 2019, an annual growth of 52.5 percent. Hsieh said that demand for 5G applications will gradually emerge as consensus on 5G standards and 5G application scenarios are being formed. Particularly, small cells are key to 5G as they can support increasing demand of data performance. It is estimated that the global deployments and installed base of small cells will reach 2.838 million units in 2018 and 4.329 million units in 2019, an annual growth of 52.5%.
The TrendForce report predicts that small cells will upgrade network performance and improve efficiency through indoor digital deployments. Small cells can carry large sum of data transmission brought by Internet of Things (IoT) and integrated wireless backhaul, reducing investment costs significantly.
China Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and SK Telecom are currently making investment for deploying small cell technology to boost customer experience. Therefore, with the development of 5G technology, small cells will become key equipment adopted by global mobile operators. Currently, mobile operators in China, the United States and South Korea are the most active, including China Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and SK Telecom.
Backgrounder on Small Cells (see IEEE reference below):
Small cells are portable miniature base stations that require minimal power to operate and can be placed every 250 meters or so throughout cities. To prevent signals from being dropped, carriers could blanket a city with thousands of these stations. Together, they would form a dense network that acts like a relay team, handing off signals like a baton and routing data to users at any location.
While traditional cell networks have also come to rely on an increasing number of base stations, achieving 5G performance will require an even greater infrastructure. Luckily, antennas on small cells can be much smaller than traditional antennas if they are transmitting tiny millimeter waves. This size difference makes it even easier to stick cells unobtrusively on light poles and atop buildings.
What’s more, this radically different network structure should provide more targeted and efficient use of spectrum. Having more stations means the frequencies that one station uses to connect with devices in its small broadcast area can be reused by another station in a different area to serve another customer. There is a problem, though: The sheer number of small cells required to build a 5G network may make it impractical to set up in rural areas.
by Chris Antlitz, TBR
The mobile industry continues to move toward realizing the vision of a hyper-connected, intelligent world and is at the cusp of a major inflection point. 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive analytics, virtualization, pervasive automation and other new technologies will be deployed at scale over the next decade, and this will have significant implications not only for end users but also for all stakeholders in the global economy.
The mobile industry has significant hope that the 5G era will address key challenges and will lead to revenue generation, stronger positioning against over-the-top (OTT) providers, as well as help communication service providers (CSPs) better handle data traffic growth. This hope appears to be premature, however, as the economics of 5G still do not make sense, evident in the lack of a viable business case for the technology. Said differently, it remains uncertain whether the revenue generation possibilities from 5G will be attractive enough to justify the infrastructure cost to deploy 5G.
With 5G likely several years away from starting to help CSPs address their revenue and OTT challenges, they are expected to remain vigilant in their quest to drive down costs. Herein lies the challenge for the vendor community.
Vendors, especially incumbent vendors, will face ongoing price pressure and significant disruption from new technologies and architectures in areas such as NFV/SDN (virtualization and the white-box threat), SaaS, automation, AI and analytics.
Despite all the talk and hope of what the 5G era will bring, industry trends are moving against the vendor community, with incumbent vendors, particularly hardware-centric vendors, poised to struggle the most. Leading CSPs are focused on significantly reducing the cost of network operations and capex, underscored by a desire to disaggregate the black box and commoditize the hardware layer.
Vendors also face overall lower spend as CSPs shift investments away from LTE now that those networks are pervasively deployed and focus instead on the service layer, where they aim to digitalize themselves and offer innovative services. Other trends that are moving against incumbent vendors include the open sourcing of software, evident by the slew of new open infrastructure initiatives such as the ORAN Alliance.
Incumbent vendors are susceptible to major disruption by relatively new companies that are not tied to legacy portfolios and are actively looking to align with the desires of CSPs. One example includes vRAN (virtual Radio Access Network) vendors, which were well represented at MWC2018. Incumbents will have to stay vigilant and keep a good pulse on the market to navigate appropriately.
“The hyper-connected, ‘intelligent’ world will challenge long-held societal beliefs and will create significant moral and ethical debates, such as how hyperconnectivity will impact people’s privacy and who owns whose data. This world will also upend and challenge tried-and-true business models that have been around for decades.”
The mobile industry is increasingly pinning its hopes on 5G to address key challenges, generate new revenues, manage exploding mobile data traffic volumes and better compete against OTT providers.
“This hope appears to be premature, however, as the economics of 5G still do not make sense, evident in the lack of a viable business case for the technology. Said differently, it remains uncertain whether the revenue generation possibilities from 5G will be attractive enough to justify the infrastructure cost to deploy 5G.”
Though use cases for 5G were myriad at MWC2018, particularly as they relate to Internet of Things (IoT), it remains to be seen how CSPs, and consequently vendors, will grow revenue from 5G. According to TBR’s 1Q18 5G Telecom Market Landscape, with the exception of fixed wireless broadband access, most of the operators that have made formal commitments to deploy 5G thus far have justified those investments by the efficiency gains that are realizable versus LTE. Said differently, the main driver of 5G investment will be the cost efficiencies the technology provides operators to remain competitive in their core business, which is offering traditional connectivity services.
In order for the business case to materialize for 5G use cases and drive revenue for CSPs, significant developmental progress must be made in deep fiber, wireless densification, edge computing and regulatory reform, among other areas. It will take years for these areas to be built up to the level required to begin delivering on the vision of some breakthrough use cases, such as hyper-connected cars and other mission-critical IoT use cases that would require 5G technology to become commercially viable.
Low latency is essential to enable commercialization of mission-critical use cases A significant reduction in latency is required to realize mission-critical uses for the network. Specifically, TBR notes that the mobile industry will have to make two variables align to see these use cases become commercialized.
First, latency must be lower than 5 milliseconds, and second, that latency must be sustained at 100% reliability. If either of these requirements is not fully met, mission-critical uses of the network will not be implemented due to a variety of considerations, including insurance and risk. For example, remote surgery will require sustained, ultralow latency for the duration of the procedure. Any lapse in connectivity, even for a millisecond, could prove disastrous from a patient outcome perspective. Insurance companies would not insure such a use case unless they are confident in the technology’s ability to perform.
TBR notes that though mission-critical uses of the network are compelling, the infrastructure cost to achieve these two foundational parameters is almost cost prohibitive. Due to the limitations of physics, spectrum and capital, many mission-critical 5G use cases will not be economically viable, at least through the next five years, according to TBR’s projections for infrastructure and ecosystem development. The most likely outcome is it will take until the mid- to late 2020s before networks are at the level of development needed to begin supporting the strict requirements of mission-critical use cases.
Where are the profit margins for vendors if everyone is open?
Vendors were nearly falling over themselves to proclaim how “open” they are and how much they are partnering with other companies. Though being open helps drive innovation, it could backfire from a business standpoint. With proprietary technology under attack from virtualization, white box, and other methods of disaggregating and open sourcing traditionally closed systems, vendors’ ability to differentiate, maintain top-line revenue and earn a profit will be significantly impacted.
TBR believes there is an existential threat on black box hardware pervading the ICT industry and that it will become more and more difficult to retain pricing power and earn a profit on proprietary hardware, which will push vendors increasingly into the software and services spheres to maintain their value-add in overall solutions. These market trends are reinforced by strong words spoken by chief technology officers (CTOs) from some of the largest operators in the world who believe the black box is dead and made that point very clear in their presentations at MWC2018.
In the digital era, value will reside in the software layer of the ICT stack, with hardware increasingly commoditized and services shifting to become more software-related in nature. Vendors, particularly incumbent vendors, that can pivot and align with these fundamental changes in the ICT market will be able to stay successful in the market.
Sophisticated telcos aim for the platform:
The world’s leading telecom operators see the value of the platform in the digital era and are steering their organizations to exploit the value of those platforms. Though connectivity will remain critical to realizing the digital era, the reality is that connectivity is increasingly viewed as a commodity, reflected in falling average revenue per user (ARPU). Conversely, the value and economic profit in the digital era will be obtainable by companies in the ecosystem that either own the platform or derive significant economic value and/or differentiation from being part of a platform.
TBR notes that more and more operators in the global ecosystem are actively looking for ways to reduce their exposure to the connectivity layer, either through business diversification or by engaging in network sharing or infrastructure spin-offs or divestitures, to redeploy capital toward other domains, such as content platforms, advertising platforms and virtual network services platforms. The topic of infrastructure handling in the digital era was discussed by several well-known presenters in various keynotes and panel discussions during MWC2018.
The car is the smartphone of the 5G era:
Many demos on the floor were related to connected transportation, particularly as it pertains to the car. Samsung put it best, stating that the car is the new smartphone. There is a lot riding on connected transportation to take off. Should there be a “killer app” for the car, much like the App Store was for iPhone and smartphones in general, it could become a key driver for 5G investment at scale because connected transportation would require significant investment in 5G infrastructure to support the latency and bandwidth requirements. Some vendors posited that the “killer app” for the car will be voice assistance. Samsung, via its Bixby platform, and other vendors aim to be the central platform residing in the brain of the car of the future. There are also industry organizations established to facilitate the development of the connected car, most notably the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA).
Regulators need to get progressive faster:
Regulatory reform remains slow, and this is stifling industry development. On one hand, regulators are trying to maintain the status quo and continue to deal with CSPs like they are utilities, while on the other hand, this stance is hindering CSPs’ ability to introduce innovation in the market and effectively compete against new competitors, such as OTT providers. Political debates aside, at the very least, regulators need to be progressive and create a more level playing field between CSPs and new entrants that compete against them, particularly OTT companies, which have come to dominate the digital economy.
Business models for CSPs and other enterprises will fundamentally change during the digital era. Those companies that can navigate the landscape and align themselves with market shifts will be best able to remain profitable as their historical business models are upended by innovation. There is hope in the mobile industry that revenue growth will return, even though the actual use case(s) that will provide that growth remains elusive. In the meantime, while operators continue their search, they will remain in a sustained cost optimization phase to stay cost competitive in their traditional businesses. 5G holds some promise for a return to revenue growth, but the technology will require multiple “killer apps” to drive significant market development and deliver on the vision of a hyperconnected, intelligent world.
At the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom and Business Services Conference, John Stephens, senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, AT&T discussed the company’s plans for 2018 and beyond. Mr. Stephens said AT&T remains confident that it is on the right track to get its wireline business services back to positive growth as more customers transition to next-generation strategic services like SD-WAN and Carrier Ethernet. However, the drag from legacy services will continue to be an issue for the near term. He then outlined the company’s priorities for 2018, which include closing its pending acquisition of Time Warner and investing $23 billion in capital to build the best gigabit network in the United States.
On the entertainment side of the business, AT&T plans to launch the next generation of its DIRECTV Now video streaming service in the first half of 2018. The new platform will include features like cloud DVR and a third video stream. Additional features expected to launch later in 2018 include pay-per-view functionality and more video on demand. Note that DIRECT TV Now can operate over a wireline or wireless network with sufficient bandwidth to support video streaming. Stephens said during the interview:
“……Giving us this opportunity to come up with a new platform later in this first half of this year, the second-generation plant for giving customers Cloud DVR, additional ability to pay per view and most sporting events and movies, and all kinds of other capabilities is what we’re seeing here, that’s what we want to do with regard to that entertain business and transitioning and we’re confident that we’re on the right track and it’s going quite well.”
The company’s 2018 plans also include improved profitability in its wireless operations in Mexico and, after the Time Warner acquisition closes, deployment of a new advertising and analytics platform that will use the company’s customer data to bring new, data-driven advertising capabilities within premium video. And, as always, AT&T remains laser-focused on maintaining an industry-leading cost structure.
AT&T’s investment plans include deployment of the FirstNet network, America’s first nationwide public safety broadband network specifically designed for our nation’s police, firefighters, EMS and other first responders.
“We were 56 out of 56, 50 states, 5 territories and the districts, probably all choose to put their public safety network, their FirstNet, their first responder network with AT&T, so that’s thrilling for us, that gives us the full funding of the program, it gives us the full authority to be the public service provider for the country, we’re really proud of that, and only because of the business aspects that’s serving our fellow citizens and being able to participate in the honorable job of saving lives and protecting people. So we’re really jazzed up about that.
Secondly, our plans were made last year for how to build out, and we’ve now been given the authority and the official build plans, approved build plans from the FirstNet authority. We spend last year investing in the core network, I think if people filed us in the fourth quarter; they said we actually got a $300 million reimbursement from the FirstNet authority for the expenditures we incurred last year. So the relentless preemption, the prioritized service refers to prices for police and fire and handling some emergency medical personal; all of that’s been done and now we’re out deploying the network, not only the 700 but also our AWS and WCS, our inventoried network that we now get to put into service on a very economic basis because we can do one tower client, we have the crane out there once, we have the people out there once and they’ve put all three pieces of spectrum at it once.”
The company will also enhance wireless network quality and capacity and plans to be the first to launch mobile “5G” service in 12 cities by the end of the year. AT&T announced in February that Atlanta, GA; Dallas and Waco, TX. will be among its first “5G” markets.
“We think about 5G is 5G evolution and I say that because it’s really important to put it all in perspective. So we think FirstNet, put WCS, AWS with 700 band 14 [ph], and use carrier aggregation and you use forward [indiscernible]; we’ve done that kind of test without the 700, we did that in San Francisco, we got 750 mag speeds in the City of San Francisco on this new network, this new 5G evolution; it’s using the LTE technology, it’s using the existing network but all this new technology. So if you think about that evolution now, when you lower that network hub, those 750 theoretical speeds might go down to 150 or 100 or somewhere down but tremendous speed even on a loaded network; so that’s the first step, we’re doing that now extensively and we’re going to do more of that as we build the first step that work out and put the 700 band in. So that’s the first step for us in this evolution.
Second, people might not think about this way but for us absolutely critical is the fiber bill. We’re taking a lot of fiber out to the Prime [ph], we’re taking a lot of fiber out to business locations, currently we have about 15 million locations with fiber between business and consumer, and by July next year, we’ll have about 22 million, about 8 million business, about 14 million to the Prime if you will, for consumers. So fiber is the key, and it’s a key not only delivering to the home or to the business but for the backhaul support. So if you’re an integrated carrier like we are and you’re building this fiber to go to the home, you’re going to pass the tower, you’re going to get fiber to that tower, you’re going to pass the business location, shopping mall, strip center, you’re going to build out to those.
So 5G is the second stage, we’ve got to think all the inter-gig this is the ability to deliver broadband overall electrical power lines, we’re testing that, we’ll see how that goes, that’s another step. If you think about using millimeter wave to do backhaul for small cells in really congested areas, we have high traffic volumes, you want to take a lot of traffic off, we have tested that, we have used millimeter wave to do that, we can do that. If you think about millimeter wave to do fixed wireless; so from the ally to my home, we have tested that we have the capability to do that, the challenges on that is where do you take it from the ally, where do you offload it, give it on to the network at what those costs are, but we can do that.
Lastly, you will see us put 5G into the core network. All of those things that were going to have to be measured by one of the chipsets ready for the handsets, we expect the chipsets might be next year, handset will come after that but we’re looking at the historically slow upgrade timeframe for phones. We had a couple of quarters last year that the upgrade rates were about 4%, that would equate the 25 quarters before your phone base turned over in an extreme example; so suggesting that things are going to be in the core network, it’s going to take a while, we’ll have pucks [ph] out by the end of the year, that will help but you have to have balance with regard to this.
When you think about those business cases, you think about those augmented reality and virtual reality and robotics and autonomous cars and things on the edge, those are going to be really important, that’s where the business cases will take us but we’ve got a long way to go before we get there. As we build FirstNet, we have been good fortunate being able to so to speak build the network house and leave the room for our 5G capability so that when it’s ready, we can just plug it in to do it with software defined network design, we had a great advantage for that but we’re going to have to make sure we have all of the equipment, not only switching equipment, the radio, the antenna but also the handset equipment before we start — if you will over-indexing on the revenues opportunities, they will be there, we will lead in the gigabit network.
We’ll have the best one because what FirstNet provides us and what the technology developments have allowed us and we will use 5G in that network but I want to be careful about how we think about when it’s going to be — you’re going to have a device in your hand and walking around on a normal kind of usage basis using 5G.”
Stephens said that AT&T reaches about 15 million customer locations with fiber. This includes more than 7 million consumer customer locations and more than 8 million business customer locations within 1,000 feet of AT&T’s fiber footprint. He expects this to increase to about 22 million locations by mid-2019.
For 2018, AT&T expects organic adjusted earnings per share growth in the low single digits, driven by improvements in wireless service revenue trends, improving profitability from its international operations, cost structure improvements from its software defined network/network function virtualization efforts and lower depreciation versus 2017.
Like earlier quarters, the challenges in the fourth quarter for AT&T came from declines in legacy services like Frame Relay and ATM. The company noted that fourth-quarter declines in legacy products were partially offset by continued growth in strategic business services. Total business wireline revenues were $7.4 billion, down 3.5% year-over-year but up sequentially.
Stephens said that more AT&T customers are adopting next-gen services, creating a new foundation for wireline business revenue growth.
“What’s happened is our customers have embraced the strategic services,” Stephens said. “Strategic services are over a $12 billion annual business and are over 42% or so of our revenue and are still growing quickly.”
Indeed, AT&T’s fourth-quarter strategic business services revenues grew by nearly 6%, or $176 million, versus the year-earlier quarter. These services represent 42% of total business wireline revenues and more than 70% of wireline data revenues and have an annualized revenue stream of more than $12 billion. This growth helped offset a decline of more than $400 million in legacy service revenues in the quarter.
Stopping short of forecasting overall wireline business service revenue growth, Stephens said that AT&T will eventually see a point where strategic services will surpass legacy declines.
“As we get past this inflection point where strategic services are growing at a faster than the degradation of legacy, we can get to a point where we are growing revenues,” Stephens said. “We’re not predicting that but we see the opportunity to do that.”
To achieve these business services revenue goals, AT&T’s business sales team is taking a two-pronged approach: retaining legacy services or converting them to strategic services.
While wireline business services continue to be a key focus for AT&T, the service provider is not surprisingly looking at ways to leverage its wireless network to help customers solve issues in their business. The wireless network can be used to support a business customer’s employee base while enabling IoT applications like monitoring of a manufacturing plant or a trucking fleet. Stephens expanded on the role of IoT to close out the interview:
“…you (‘ve) got to realize that if you build this FirstNet network out, things like IoT, things like coverage for business customers, things like the ability to connect factories that are automated, the robotics that have to have wireless connectivity to a controlled center for business customers, all improves dramatically and with that comes this opportunity to sell these wireless services. When you’re in — with the CIO and you can solve his security business, you can solve his big pipe of strategic services but you can also solve some wireless issues that his HR guy has for his connectivity for his employees, you can solve some issues that his engineering department has because they want to get real-time information about how their products are working out, whether it’s a car or a jet engine or a tractor, how it’s working in the field in real-time or you can give them new product and services demand for their internal sources like their pipelines or their shipping fleet.
This IoT capability can solve a lot of issues, you can make that CIO as the success factor for all his related peers, that’s a great thing to great solutions approach to business and that’s what we’re trying to do. Our team is trying to provide solutions for the business customers and we think having those two things together are really important.”
FCC Proposes “5G” Auctions:
In an effort to accelerate “5G” development and deployment in the U.S., Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chief Ajit Pai told a MWC sudience that he plans to put up for auction two portions of airwaves (frequency spectrum) this fall. Mr. Pai said he wants to take a market-focused approach to pull the U.S. ahead in the global “5G” race. To carry out his plan, the FCC needs quick action from Congress to remove a bureaucratic barrier that could hinder the planned fall auctions. He has said big banks are no longer willing to hold pre-auction payments from carriers because of the banks’ capitalization and collateralization requirements. So the FCC is seeking a change from Congress to allow the Treasury Department to hold the prepayments. Congress must act by May 13 for the fall auctions to take place on schedule, Mr. Pai said.
The competition to develop next-generation wireless service is expected to be crucial because 5G is eventually expected to support large new markets, including autonomous vehicles as well as the so-called Internet of Things. The 5G service will rely extensively on mid- and high-band portions of the airwaves that previously have been regarded as ill-suited for wireless.
Mr. Pai’s speech suggested he wants to reassure officials and investors that the U.S. remains a powerful force in the race to 5G.
PHOTO:JOAN CROS/ZUMA PRESS
A leaked government memo on 5G recently suggested some U.S. officials fear the U.S. is falling behind China in developing the potentially-lucrative technology. The memo noted that China has used extensive government intervention to aid its telecommunications firms in developing 5G technologies.
Mr. Pai was among officials in Washington who criticized the memo’s recommendations for greater U.S. government intervention in 5G. But administration officials say they are still examining how to ensure U.S. success in 5G.
T-Mobile, Sprint adding cities to “5G” plans:
T-Mobile: Speaking at an investor conference, T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said the company will roll out “5G” in 30 U.S. cities in 2018 and the equipment will be available in 2019. Ray said T-Mobile will boost its 4G service by adopting 4×4 MIMO, three-band carrier aggregation and LTE-Unlicensed technologies. He added that T-Mobile will bid in next year’s planned FCC spectrum auction.
T-Mobile will deploy “5G” over 600MHz, 28GHz and 39GHz frequencies this year, including New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Dallas. The wireless network infrastructure will be split “roughly 50/50” between Nokia Corp. and Ericsson AB. For example, NYC is an Ericsson city, while Nokia will handle Dallas.
“To be honest, standards-based 39GHz and 28GHz gear will only be coming in the fourth quarter of this year,” the CTO noted. [That’s before ITU-R WP5D even considers candidate Radio Interface Techonologies (RITs) for IMT 2020]. He claimed that T-Mobile has 200MHz of millimeter wave spectrum “across dense urban pops” to play with.
Ray was also cautious about what exact speeds mobile “5G” will offer initially. “I don’t know,” he said in response to questions, while suggesting that competitors may be over-promising with talk of “multi-gigabit” speeds. Ray suggested he “would love to see” a tripling of average 4G LTE speeds with the initial “5G” service.
“Are we going to see average speeds move up by tens of megabits per second? For sure,” he said. But he noted that he couldn’t promise this would be consistent, at least initially.
“There’s a lot to learn” with millimeter wave, he stated, which is partly why T-Mobile is going to deploy in NYC and other big cities, rather than smaller markets, at first.
Ray couldn’t resist taking a shot at AT&T’s announced mobile “5G” plans at the press conference: “Why are we in New York and not Waco? Because New York matters.”
As for delivering a commercial 5G service with devices that can run on the network, Ray stated that he was “confident” that “by this time next year,” 5G smartphones will be available.
T-Mobile’s spectrum strategy will also be something to keep a close eye on, considering that its recent spectrum investments have been focused on lower-capacity, but higher-coverage bands. For instance, T-Mobile emerged the biggest winner of the FCC’s 600 MHz auction that ended last year, agreeing to pay close to $8 billion for its spectrum. In comparison, other players such as Verizon have focused their recent spectrum investments on millimeter-wave spectrum.
As of May 2017, Verizon was estimated to hold about 236 and 180 billion Mhz-POP in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands, respectively, while AT&T is estimated to hold about 40 and 8 billion, respectively. Sprint also has a deep portfolio of high-frequency spectrum. T-Mobile’s millimeter spectrum holding is likely to be smaller than the big-two carriers. The company noted that it owns roughly 200 MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum across 100 million POPs in the 30 cities where it plans to build 5G.
Sprint is also expanding its “5G” market from its six initial cities, but CTO John Saw did not give details on which markets will be next.
Sprint said its “5G-ready” (?) Massive MIMO cell sites are capable of delivering up to 10 times the capacity of current LTE systems, significantly increasing data speeds for more customers in high-traffic locations. Sprint will deploy 64T64R (64 transmit, 64 receive) Massive MIMO radios using 128 antennas working with wireless network equipment vendors Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung Electronics. The Massive MIMO radios from all three suppliers are software-upgradable to 5G without additional tower climbs. The Massive MIMO radios support split-mode service, enabling Sprint to offer both 4G LTE and 5G on the same radio.
According to the carrier, all Sprint customers using a 2.5 GHz (band 41) device will benefit from the increased capacity and speed provided by Massive MIMO. In addition, Sprint is working with Qualcomm, and device manufacturers to launch “5G” mobile devices in the first half of 2019.
“Today’s announcement is a huge step toward Sprint being first to offer a 5G mobile network,” said Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO, in a prepared statement. “We’re making significant investments using state-of-the-art technology; and working with leading chip and handset partners to deliver an incredible Next-Gen Network for our customers.”
Qualcomm: Look at 5G as “the new electricity” and expects “5G” smartphones in 2019:
Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf called 5G wireless communications “the new electricity” at CES this year, and the chip design firm is placing a huge bet on the technology. Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon says the company is teaming with AT&T, Vodafone, China Mobile, SKT and Verizon on development of 5G networks.
“While we are working with a growing number of OEMs that have smartphone launches scheduled for the first half of next year. We expect 5G to become a significant contributor of volume, [but] it is unlikely to have an impact on revenues until fiscal 2020,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon.
With the first “5G” networks expected later this year, Amon said the company was working closely with AT&T, China Mobile, SKT, Verizon and Vodafone, among others.
At CES this past January, Qualcomm’s CEO Steve Mollenkopf referred to 5G as ‘the new electricity’ and, earlier this month, at a ‘5G Day’ held at its San Diego, CA campus, Qualcomm set out its vision for 5G and took the opportunity to demonstrate a number of 5G technological innovations.
Serge Willenegger, general manager for 4G/5G, said the company’s vision behind 5G was one of expanding cell phone capacity from billions of people to trillions of devices and that it saw 5G as a significant long-term opportunity.
The first technical foundations for 5G were laid last year, when the 3GPP industry group approved the New Radio specification in release 15. It is expected that 5G will bring significantly more capacity to mobile networks and support the development of new applications associated with the IoT.
“In the same way that our early R&D work on 5G led to the accelerated completion of the first 5G NR standard for enhanced mobile broadband, [these] demonstrations highlight our continued commitment to inventing technologies that help drive the mobile ecosystem forward,” said Durga Malladi, Qualcomm Technologies’ senior vice president of engineering.
Qualcomm said it expects to see the first 5G smartphones appearing next year. “We are working with a growing number of OEMs that have smartphone launches scheduled for the first half of next year,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon.
General MWC Take-Aways: 5G bumps and bruises:
Commercial 5G arriving next year, in fixed and mobile forms, was taken as a given. This meant that 5G made it into nearly every vendor and operator’s messaging. Heck, where T-Mobile came to MWC17 to talk up its faith in the evolution of 4G, it announced major 5G rollout plans this year. If that doesn’t tell you something, what would? At a more granular level, however, the problem is that a massive event like Mobile World Congress is very much like Rumi’s discussion of “An Elephant in the Dark.” Any single person’s view of it will be defined by the part or two they touch. Getting a cohesive view of the whole is nearly impossible.
Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator is a cloud-based horizontal offering composed of platform services and professional services, for service providers. It provides continuous incremental functionality offered as a Service to enable agile creation and deployment of solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT).
The telecom equipment and managed services provider is launching the IoT Accelerator Marketplace to help address the need for collaboration within the digital ecosystem community and benefit developers and service providers alike. It will be demonstrated this week at MWC 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.
Key attributes of the IoT Accelerator are:
- Enabling massive adoption of Massive IoT is a stepping stone to making 5G a reality
- IoT Accelerator Marketplace boosts the potential for players in the Cellular IoT ecosystem to deliver value
- Easy on boarding of partners and customer applications for service providers advancing to enterprise IoT. Application developers and application partners can easily and efficiently join the ecosystem and scale their business in a cost-efficient way
For service providers, it is a catalog to find IoT apps from the global ecosystem to offer enterprise customers and provides shorter time to market for new offerings to their enterprise customers.
For application developers and application partners it is a window to an IoT ecosystem to connect with service providers through one single platform, exposing global cellular connectivity APIs. It also includes monetization and settlement capabilities to facilitate monetization and billing across the ecosystem.
Ericsson’s latest IoT solution covers all the 3GPP cellular technologies, including 2G, 3G, 4G, LTE-M, NB-IOT and emerging 5G, an Ericsson representative confirmed to Fierce Wireless.
Carrie MacGillivray, Group Vice President, Internet of Things & Mobility at Market Intelligence firm IDC:
“Communications service providers are racing to scale and differentiate in the fast moving IoT market. It’s necessary for these service providers to have a robust developer ecosystem that helps them compete. For developers working across multiple service provider networks and platforms, the challenges of fragmentation are addressed by utilizing APIs that apply globally and are consistent across all mobile networks.”
Jeff Travers, Head of IoT, Ericsson:
“The launch of IoT Accelerator Marketplace will unlock the potential for different players in the value chain to deliver value. It is another stepping stone to make 5G a reality by enabling massive adoption of massive IoT. This supports service providers as they seek to expose network connectivity IoT APIs and monetize these assets.”
Application developers can benefit from a new go-to-market exposing their offering globally through Ericsson. This will enable app developers to scale their business and at the same time develop applications based on cellular connectivity APIs with added value for enterprises, such as fast and automated device and subscription onboarding, higher security, ubiquitous cellular coverage around the world improved for indoor utilization, and superior handling of battery life.
Service providers and application developers can request access to the IoT Accelerator Marketplace here: IoT Accelerator Marketplace.
Osvaldo Aldao, head of IoT solutions for Ericsson, talked to TechRepublic Senior Writer Teena Maddox about the new accelerator from his home base of Stockholm, Sweden.
The IOT Accelerator is our platform for acceleration of creation of applications and connection of devices to our service providers. And Ericsson have decided that 3GPP is an extremely competitive technology for IOT. If you think about how in the new tech standards of technology is evolving from narrow band IoT to all the way to 5G, I think what we want is to work with service providers to bring value to enterprises in removing some of the hurdles that we have seen in the market for IoT. And that’s why we have created this IoT Accelerator which is our IoT platform.
And as part of that platform we have now launched the IoT Marketplace and that is the place for being able to connect the application developers with device vendors, with service providers as well, and to enable the collaboration across these different players in the ecosystem.
How Ericsson is using the IoT Accelerator Marketplace to unlock the IOT ecosystem?
What we work on in this marketplace is to connect application developers and one of the things that we will demonstrate in Barcelona [at Mobile World Congress] is we have two levels of applications developers. We will help the application developers that will have access to certain capabilities connected to this mobile technology, and also we will work with them to develop applications, that those applications can become something that can be taken at some point and offered to enterprise. We have a partnership program in place as well for bringing those applications into the marketplace where in a global scale we will enable that service providers to have access to this kind of global pool of application developers. And the role that Ericsson is doing here is more in the kind of matchmaking between opportunities in local market with service providers and enterprise and how to support or how to deliver value into those opportunities with the ecosystem of application developers.
One of the things that it’s we think very passionate for doing this is the opportunity for being able to remove some of this fragmentation in the market and friction that we see. I think there is a lot of fragmentations around different type of access and service providers and I think what we are doing with this is to have a global ecosystems scale where we could work with those, build applications and build concrete solutions for IoT and then we bring those into somebody else or clients or service providers, but also with a purpose of bringing that kind of innovation closer from service provider to enterprises.
Is massive adoption of IoT a stepping stone toward making 5G a reality?
Correct. What we see is that there is a lot of concurrent opportunities here now with IoT and those are based on narrow band IoT as we could have a much better penetration coverage in indoor areas and also we could have a use case where we could have ten years of battery lifetime. That kind of technology will evolve. We are looking at that evolution as we speak now and so we have steps like Cat-M where we could have mobility and more data functionality. And also there’s a lot of work ongoing for bringing that technology to the next step, is what we see with the 5G.
And I think this activity we are doing here now with narrow band IoT and Cat-M is a extremely important starting point for service providers to build solutions and business in the IoT space, which is really closely connected to what we are doing in the 5G.
During the MWC we will open up the platform and then we will start to register application developers to be part of our developer community. This is something that we will support them for a number of months to build applications and then we will have a process for how we will move from this incubation into production.
AT&T announced on Tuesday three cities to get its so called “5G” mobile network this year. The three cities are: Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and Waco, Texas. The U.S. mega carrier plans on deploying its version of “5G” over mmWave in a total of 12 cities by the end of 2018, as we previously reported. The remaining cities will be announced at a later date.
Several carriers have been trialing various versions of non standardized 5G networks for some time. AT&T says this rollout will be based on the 3GPP release 15 New Radio specification (which will not by itself be presented as a contribution to ITU-R WP5D for IMT 2020 radio aspects- see Closing Comment below).
This AT&T version of “5G” is said to offer theoretical peak speeds of several gigabits a second at much lower latency than existing 4G-LTE wireless networks. The combination of faster speeds and lower latency is thought to help speed adoption of real time control of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and electric utilities that require a persistent Internet connection.
“After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G — and do it much sooner than most people thought possible,” said Igal Elbaz, SVP of Wireless Network Architecture and Design at AT&T.
The AT&T “5G” rollout is ahead of availability of consumer “5G” devices. Both device makers and wireless carriers need to closely time launching “5G” devices and networks so the return on investment is maximized. If one launches significantly early or late, the other will suffer.
There’s a good chance major hardware makers will announced some of the first “5G” devices next week at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. Let’s hope there’s not a proliferation of “5G” device versions- one for each wireless carrier!
From the previously referenced AT&T press release:
We believe 5G and SDN go hand in hand. A virtualized and software-defined network lets you develop, deploy, and protect new network applications faster than with a hardware-based model.
We’re on the most aggressive network virtualization path that we know of in our industry. We plan to virtualize 75% of our network by 2020. Our goal in 2017 was 55%, and we hit that mark.
The experience we’ve gained by leading the industry transformation to network virtualization and software control will help our customers to get the most out of 5G.
Ultimately, we expect to reach theoretical peak speeds of multiple gigabits per second on devices through mobile 5G. While speed is important, we also expect to see much lower latency rates. With higher speeds and lower latency rates, our mobile 5G network will eventually unlock a number of new, exciting experiences for our customers.
For these experiences to become reality, you need mobile 5G powered by SDN and edge computing. We’re making the cloud smarter, faster and local.
Let’s carefully examine this quote from the press release:
“This is standards-based, mobile 5G we’re talking about. AT&T is the only U.S. carrier that’s announced plans to deliver this ground-breaking technology to its customers in 2018.”
AT&T will likely be the first U.S. carrier to deploy mobile “5G” based on millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum and technology. Sprint’s rollout is expected in 2019, T-Mobile only anticipates national mobile coverage by 2020, and Verizon has focused on fixed access “5G” for its early deployments (also not standardized).
However, AT&T’s mobile “5G” initial deployment is NOT close to being “standards-based mobile 5G,” as the company claims. That’s because the only true 5G standards will be the ITU-R WP5D IMT 2020 recommendations, which won’t be completed till the end of 2020 (as we’ve pointed out countless times). ITU-R won’t even start their detailed Radio Interface Technology (RIT) evaluation process till 2019! Further, 3GPP won’t even submit the initial templates for their proposed IMT 2020 RIT till the January 30 to February 7, 2019 ITU-R WP 5D meeting with their final WP 5D submission in July, 2019.
From the 3GPP website:
The final and fully comprehensive 3GPP IMT-2020 submission (encompassing both Release 15 and Release 16) is planned for July 2019 (to be presented at the July 9-17, 2019 ITU-R WP 5D meeting).
To help the Evaluation Groups in their work, 3GPP is currently planning a workshop to present the 5G solutions to interested external bodies – specifically the Evaluation Groups – to allow a better understanding of the 3GPP technologies for 5G. More news will follow soon – on the date and place of the 3GPP Workshop.
AT&T should know better than to call it’s 2018 (3GPP New Radio based/mmWave spectrum) wireless roll-outs “standards-based mobile 5G.” That’s because Stephen Blust (email@example.com) of AT&T chairs the ITU-R WP5D standards committee! AT&T also sends other delegates to WP 5D meetings, so the company is totally on top of the real 5G/IMT 2020 standards effort which we’ve shared with IEEE techblog readers for several years now.
Also note that neither ITU-R or ITU-T have any serious standards project(s) underway for SDN or network virtualization or NFV aspects of IMT 2020 (standardized 5G). Those are considered out of scope for ITU. That leaves it up to Open Source Consortium(s) to develop those related specifications.
From the February 2018 ITU-R WP 5D Meeting in Seoul, Korea:
Addendum 1. High-level scopes for Working Party 5D working and Ad hoc Groups:
|WG GENERAL ASPECTS||– To develop deliverables on services, forecasts, and also convergence of services of fixed and mobile networks which take account the needs of end users, and the demand for IMT capabilities and supported services. This includes aspects regarding the continued deployment of IMT, other general topics of IMT and overall objectives for the long-term development of IMT. To update the relevant IMT Recommendations/Reports.
– To ensure that the requirements and needs of the developing countries are reflected in the work and deliverables of WP 5D in the development of IMT. This includes coordination of work with ITU-D Sector on deployments of IMT systems and transition to IMT system.
|WG TECHNOLOGY ASPECTS||– To provide the technology related aspects of IMT through development of Recommendations and Reports. To update the relevant IMT‑2000 and IMT-Advanced Recommendations. To work on key elements of IMT technologies including requirements, evaluation, and evolution. To develop liaison with external research and standardization forums, and to coordinate the external and internal activities related to the IMT-2020 process.
– To manage the research topics website and its findings.
|WG SPECTRUM ASPECTS||– To undertake co-existence studies, develop spectrum plans, and channel/frequency arrangements for IMT. This includes spectrum sharing between IMT and other radio services/systems coordinating as appropriate with other Working Parties in ITU-R.||A. JAMIESON
|AD HOC WORKPLAN||– To coordinate the work of WP 5D to facilitate efficient and timely progress of work items.||H. OHLSEN
Addendum 2. Agreed overall deliverables/workplan of ITU-R WP 5D:
The following table provides the schedule of when approval of the planned major deliverables will be achieved following the procedures of WP 5D.
|June 2018||Mexico WP 5D #30||• Finalize CPM text on WRC-19 agenda item 9.1, Issue 9.1.8 (MTC)
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.EXPERIENCES]
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT. MTC]
• Further update/Finalize draft new Report/Recommendation ITU-R
• Finalize draft CPM text on WRC-19 agenda item 9.1, Issue 9.1.1, and send input to WP 4C
• Finalize draft CPM text on WRC-19 agenda item 9.1, Issue 9.1.2, and send input to WP 4A
|October 2018||[Japan] WP 5D #31||• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.MS/MSS.2GHz]
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.1 452-1 492MHz]
• Finalize draft new Report/Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT.3300 MHz RLS]
• Finalize draft new Recommendation ITU-R M.[MT.3300 MHz FSS]
• Finalize draft new Report/Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT.COEXISTENCE.AMS]
• Finalize draft revision of Report ITU-R M.2373
• Finalize revision of Recommendation ITU-R M.1036
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.BY.INDUSTRIES]
• Finalize revision of Recommendation ITU-R M.1457
|February 2019||Geneva WP 5D #31’bis’|
|July 2019||[Geneva] WP 5D #32||• Finalize Doc. IMT-2020/YYY Input Submissions Summary
• Finalize revision of Recommendation M.2012
• Finalize draft new Report M.[IMT.AAS]
• Finalize Addendum 4 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
|December 2019||[Geneva] WP 5D #33|
|February 2020||[TBD] WP 5D #34||• Finalize Doc. IMT-2020/ZZZ Evaluation Reports Summary
• Finalize Doc. IMT-2020/VVV Process and use of GCS
• Finalize Addendum 5 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
|June 2020||[TBD] WP 5D #35||• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT-2020.OUTCOME]
• Finalize Addendum 6 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
|October 2020||[TBD] WP 5D #36||• Finalize draft new Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT‑2020.SPECS]
• Finalize Addendum 7 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
Huawei and Canadian telco Telus will work together on a trial for providing 5G wireless connectivity to residences in Vancouver, Canada. The companies will use tested millimeter-wave technology with 800 megahertz of bandwidth on the 28-gigahertz spectrum.
Nokia President and CEO Rajeev Suri expects 5G network deployments to be a major growth driver for the network equipment and services company. In prepared remarks he said:
“For 2019 and 2020, we expect market conditions to improve markedly, driven by full-scale rollouts of 5G networks. As those roll-outs occur, Nokia is remarkably well-positioned. Unlike previous generations of technology, 5G requires a coordinated, holistic approach across all network elements, far beyond radio. That requirement plays to the strength of our end-to-end portfolio and our 5G Future X architecture.”
Investments necessary to take advantage of this growth opportunity will hit the bottom line in 2018, but this is expected to be temporary:
“As a result of the acceleration of investment in 5G due to the opportunity provided by the accelerated time frame of 5G deployments, Nokia’s operating margin will come under some pressure in 2018. That investment, combined with continued strong execution of our strategy to expand to new vertical segments, build a stand-alone software business, and maximize the value of our licensing business, will allow us to target improved results in 2020. Therefore, the Board is committed to propose a growing dividend, including for 2018.”
“We’re getting a good sense of what 5G is going to be like. It is clear the demand is there on the basis of capacity increase,” as well as from the B2B environment where industrial, utility and transportation companies are asking operators to give them 5G capability from a capacity and latency perspective.
Of course, we look at it differently from another peer or some other peers because we have an end-to-end portfolio. This really is a reinvention of the network as we know it,” he said. “Our operators, if they go end-to-end with us, will get the benefit of a lower TCO, so total cost of ownership, [and] a higher throughput at the network level, not just at the radio level but at the network level.”
Nokia this week announced its new ReefShark chipsets, which incorporate Nokia Bell Labs artificial intelligence (AI) technology as well as Nokia’s capabilities in antenna development for mobile devices and base stations. Nokia says the ReefShark chipsets significantly improve the performance of antennas, resulting in halving the size of massive MIMO antennas and reducing power consumption in baseband units by 64% compared to today’s units.
Suri also talked about Nokia’s expertise in network slicing, which he said would be a key component of 5G.
“There will be thousands and thousands” of network slicing, perhaps millions in the future, he said, and “our operators will be able to tap into the demand” of an SLA-based business where they can give slices to a group of clinics or hospitals, for example, including regionally and globally. “We would be able to slice the network at the network level,” he said, adding that somebody else who doesn’t have an end-to-end portfolio would only be able to do that at the core network of the radio, and that’s not good enough.
While Nokia’s results for 2018 are unlikely to impress, the company sees brighter skies ahead in 2019 and 2020 based on demand for 5G network technology. Nokia expects a dramatic improvement in profitability in 2020.
We remain skeptical, because we believe the pace of 5G rollouts won’t accelerate until the ITU-R WP5D IMT2020 standards are completed at year end 2020. 3GPP’s New Radio (NR) is one of several RIT proposals to be submitted for consideration later this year and in early 2019.
Separately, Australian teleco Optus said will begin the rollout of its “5G” network early next year for ‘key metro areas’, as recent tests with network partner Huawei have attained 2Gbps speeds using commercial customer devices.
Optus MD of Networks Dennis Wong explained that Optus can now “increase momentum” on 5G due to 3GPP approval of “5G” New Radio specs last December: “Throughout 2018, Optus is going to lead the Australian market in the development and deployment of pre-5G and 5G technologies,” he said.
Finally, Qualcomm and a handful of Chinese smartphone manufacturers are working together on a new initiative aimed at introducing 5G endpoint devices as early as next year. The initiative will support China’s smartphone industry and seeks to introduce commercial devices that comply with 3GPP New Radio specifications as soon as 2019, Qulacomm said.
“Qualcomm Technologies has close relationships within China’s mobile and semiconductor ecosystem, and we’ll continue to work with this ecosystem to drive innovation as we move from the 3G/4G era to the 5G era,” said Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon.
A recent survey conducted by Qualcomm shows that Chinese mobile users are showing unprecedented interest in 5G, with 60% of Chinese consumers are likely to purchase 5G smartphones when available.
Qualcomm announced its “5G Pioneer” initiative at the 2018 Qualcomm China Tech Day in Beijing last month. At that time, Qualcomm executives were joined by representatives from six Chinese smartphone makers – Lenovo, Oppo, vivo, Xiaomi, ZTE and Wingtech.
Through the “5G Pioneer” Initiative, in addition to deep expertise and leadership in semiconductor solutions, Qualcomm Technologies anticipates being able to provide Chinese manufacturers with the platform they need to develop premium tier and global 5G commercial devices. Qualcomm Technologies, together with leading Chinese manufacturers, is not only exploring new mobile applications and experiences enabled by 5G, but also focusing on other transformative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to continue to drive technological evolution and industry transformation worldwide.
“5G will bring massive new opportunities to the mobile industry, and we are excited to work with these manufacturers on this 5G Pioneer Initiative,” said Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm Incorporated. “Qualcomm Technologies has close relationships within China’s mobile and semiconductor ecosystem, and we’ll continue to work with this ecosystem to drive innovation as we move from the 3G/4G era to the 5G era.”
China was picked to lead global 5G adoption by 2023. According to CCS Insight’s 5G forecast, 5G connections will reach 1 billion worldwide in mid-2023, and China will account for more than half of all 5G subscribers as early as 2022. Meanwhile, China has many leading 3G/4G smartphone makers. According to Counterpoint Research, in 2017, seven of the top ten global 3G/4G smartphone manufacturers were from China.
In a separate announcement, Qualcomm signed a MoU with Lenovo, OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi for multi-year purchases of RF front end silicon worth $2 billion.
Qualcomm said its RF front end modules will support China’s current mobile ecosystem and also address the rapidly expanding complexity and challenges of (true) 4G-LTE Advanced and “5G” networks.
Verizon, KT and Samsung have teamed up such that the CEO’s of the two telcos could have a secret video call with each other during the Superbowl.
- Verizon set up a temporary (and secret) 5G network at Super Bowl LII.
- Using the 5G network, guests were able to watch high-resolution streams of instant replays.
- Meanwhile, in New York City, engineers were able to view a stereoscopic 180-degree video of the game in nearly real time.
The video call was yet another pre standard “5G” demonstration taking place between Minneapolis, MN and Seoul, Korea. The trio have also stated, quite illogically, that such a grounded use case is an indication of how close the reality of 5G actually is.
“The fact that 5G is no longer a dream owes its debt to the collaborations we have carried out with operators like Verizon and vendors like Samsung,” said Hong-beom Jeon, Head of Infra laboratory at KT. “Our efforts have enabled some of the most demanding tasks to come to fruition.”
“Seeing Samsung’s 5G end-to-end solutions in action, including a working prototype 5G tablet, underscores how important our collaborative relationship has been in helping accelerate the availability of commercial 5G mobility for customers,” said Ed Chan, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Architect, Verizon.
“As we say at Verizon, ‘we don’t wait for the future, we build it.’ We are glad to be working with like-minded partners to build the 5G future globally.”
Looking at the nitty gritty side, Samsung supplied the network Infrastructure composed of 28GHz 5G access units, 5G home routers(CPEs), virtualized RAN, virtualized core network and prototype 5G devices. The trio claim the exercise successfully demonstrated how to bring one of the smallest 5G radio base stations and 5G home routers (CPEs) to market.
As well as allowing the two telco CEOs to whisper sweet nothings across thousands of miles with no threat of buffering or losing sync between video and audio, Samsung also took the opportunity to showcase a new 5G tablet. The Samsung tablet is capable of running on multi-gigabit per second speeds via 5G networks, as well as the latest 4G LTE network speeds.
Sanyogita Shamsunder, the Executive Director of 5G Ecosystems and Innovation at Verizon, said, “This latest demonstration at Super Bowl LII and in New York City is another example of how we’re pushing 5G to exploit never-before-imagined uses cases and applications.”
This is not the first time Verizon has used football to demonstrate the power of 5G. A few days earlier, two football players in virtual reality headsets were able to pass a football and complete plays without ever physically looking at each other. The 5G network their helmets were connected to was so fast that the milliseconds of latency didn’t affect their ability to interact in nearly real time.
There’s currently an arms race going on between the four major telecommunications companies in the United States, for which will be the first to roll out a commercial 5G network. What does this show of 5G power say about Big Red’s stakes in the race?
Sprint will increase its network capital expenditure by at least $1 billion for the coming year as promised on Friday morning’s earnings call. The #4 U.S. wireless carrier plans to deliver mobile 5G in the first half of 2019.
–>That’s 1 year before the IMT 2020 standards will be completed!
Sprint Corp talked about its mobile 5G plans: “We’re working with Qualcomm [and others] in order to deliver the first truly mobile 5G network in the US in the first half of 2019,” CEO Marcello Claure said on the call.
Mr Claure said that Sprint will be able to deploy mobile 5G nationwide on 2.5GHz band in 100MHz channels. “We have the spectrum to lead on 5G, and basically lead in a different way,” he noted. Claure said later in the question and answer session that Sprint had a commitment from a “leading Korean” device vendor that it will have a 5G device ready within its 2019 timeframe.
This implies an increase in capital expenditure spending for Sprint’s network for fiscal 2018, new CFO Michel Combes said. Sprint’s total capex spending for fiscal 2017 will be in the $3.5-$4 range. Capex will hit $5-$6 billion in fiscal 2018, which starts in April 2018.
Sprint will spend to increase the number macro cell sites by 20%, and support its 2.5GHz, 1900MHz, and 850MHz bands on nearly all of its existing macro sites. Currently, around half of its macro sites have tri-band support.
The CEO added that Sprint plans to deploy more than 40,000 outdoor small cells, and “more than 1 million Magic Boxes,” the wireless small cells that it uses to improve in-home coverage.
In the field, Sprint expects to update sites with multiple-antenna array hardware, or “Massive MIMO” in 2018. “Massive MIMO will serve as Sprint’s bridge to 5G,” Claure said. (See Sprint Says No to mmWave, Yes to Mobile 5G.)
This is because the MIMO hardware can be updated to 5G NR standard over-the-air, the CEO said.
Our strategy is predicated on creating on amazing customer-experience, offering customers the best products and services, while delivering superior financial results. First, we recognize that to be a truly great company we have to have a great product, which for us is our network. While our network is much improved, we believe our next-gen network will truly differentiate Sprint over the next couple of years, due to our strong spectrum assets that enables Sprint to be the leader in the true mobile 5G.
This is the biggest network capital program in many years. And I will share more details of our network strategy in a few moments. I cannot wait to, once and for all, be able to sell the product that is best in the industry with competitive coverage, the fastest speed and the highest capacity.
Second, we will continue to deliver the most compelling value proposition to our customers across all of our segments. We will continue to play from a position of strength by leveraging our spectrum holdings and continue to lead with the best-only net offering in the market. Data usage strength are projected to grow exponentially, especially with 5G.
By having the most spectrum, combined with new technology that massively increases our capacity, we’re certain that we’ll be best position for to support unlimited data in the future.
Third, we will continue to drive a smart distribution strategy, with over 1,000 new stores open year-to-date across our Sprint and Boost brand, and several hundred several hundred throughout next year. We have designed a dynamic distribution model that allows to continuously optimize the right balance of physical and distribution – and digital distribution.
Sprint will also leverage its partnerships with Altice and Cox Communications Inc. to expand its backhaul capabilities for LTE-Advanced and 5G. Sprint CTO John Saw chimed in briefly on the call to say that some of the capex spend could be on “dark fiber” for backhaul needs.
Against this backdrop, Claure said there would be continuing job cuts at Sprint, including at the executive level, aiming for “a leaner and more agile company across our non-customer-facing workforce.” Sprint has cut thousands of jobs during the past couple of years.
True to his reputation as a “turnaround specialist,” new CFO Michel Combes said he is looking at more ways to “decrease cost structures” at Sprint. He promised to reveal more details in the March quarter. (See Sprint Appoints Ex-AlcaLu Boss Combes as CFO.)
For the quarter, Sprint reported revenue of $8.24 billion, down from $8.55 billion a year ago. Net income for the quarter was $7.16 billion (or $1.76 per share) thanks almost entirely to tax reform gains of about $7.1 billion, compared with a net loss of $479 million a year ago.