SCWS Americas: Verizon and AT&T 5G Roadmaps Differ on FWA vs mobile “5G”

Verizon has no plans for linear or on-demand (or any other form) of pay TV for its “5G” FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) based residential/Verizon Home broadband service, according to  Bill Stone, the company”s VP of technology development and planning.  Stone stated that in a question from this author (during the Q&A session after his second presentation) at the excellent SCWS Americas conference in Santa Clara, CA on December 5, 2018.  Instead, Verizon has a partnership with YouTube TV (first three months free) to provide OTT video to its FWA customers.   Verizon Home customers get a free Apple TV 4K or Google Chromecast Ultra (Internet TV adapters with HDMI connection to the customer’s TV) when they sign up for 5G Home service.

Stone also said that Verizon’s FiOS will continue to offer higher speeds than its 5G Home service, which will transition from its proprietary “5G TF” spec to 3GPP release 15 5G NR NSA (non stand alone) in the near future.   He told me privately that any wireless base station vendor that supports 5G NR would be able to interoperate on the carrier’s 5G FWA network (we don’t think so for many reasons).  Verizon’s 5G Home service is currently available in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Stone noted with pride that the mega carrier continues to bolster its 4G LTE network with new technologies.  “LTE has a lot of runway left,” Bill said to the audience.

Verizon currently says that customers of its 5G Home service will receive download speeds of at least 300 Mbps.  A video was shown of satisfied customers who all got download speeds of 800 Mbps or higher.  The mega carrier said that speeds can range up to 1 Gbps depending on customers’ location in relation to the towers for the service.

Verizon currently charges new customers $70 per month for 5G Home service, but only $50 per month for existing customers (with 1st three months free) who also subscribe to the carrier’s $30/month mobile data plan.  Voice is offered along with high speed Internet access, but no pay TV is available as with FiOS.

“The peak data rates here in millimeter-wave will definitely increase,” Stone told the audience.  Verizon currently runs its 5G Home service in its 28 GHz licensed spectrum in 400 MHz channels. But he said the carrier has the ability to increase that spectrum allotment to 600 MHz and 800 MHz channels (Verizon owns huge amounts of millimeter-wave spectrum via its purchases of XO and Straight Path). Stone explained that expanding the service’s spectrum channels would both increase user speeds and increase Verizon’s network capacity.  Verizon will move from 400 MHz to 800 MHz, and that will result in the speeds and capacity available  would double as a result.

Currently, the antennas and receivers for Verizon’s Home broadband service are installed by “white glove” professional technicians.   In the future, the carrier is planning to offer a self-installation option for its 5G Home service.  “Over time the goal is to introduce the ability to drop ship equipment that the customer can install on their own,”

Stone said, without providing a timeline for such a move. tone touched on several other data points for its FWA home broadband service:

  • 50% of Verizon’s 5G Home customers do not subscribe to the operator’s mobile service.
  • The service can transmit 1 Gbps downstream up to 3,000 feet.
  • The millimeter-wave service works in conditions including rain, snow and non-line-of-sight scenarios. Indeed, Stone said some transmissions work better in non-line-of-sight scenarios than when customers are within sight of the tower, due to the fact that millimeter-wave transmissions can reflect off various objects in order to reach their intended destination.
  • Verizon’s 5G Home customers are switching to the carrier from a variety of other service providers, though no details were provided.
  • Verizon ultimately expects to expand 5G Home to 30 million households at some unspecified time in the future, though Dunne said the carrier may revisit that figure as the company’s rollout progresses.
  • Verizon won’t build any more locations with its 5GTF equipment, and will instead wait for 3GPP release 15 5G NR equipment to become available before expanding to additional neighborhoods and cities.  However, the implementation of 5G NR by vendors will initially be non stand alone (NSA), which means its dependent on a LTE core network and LTE signaling.  That may differ amongst wireless base station vendors as will the frequencies used for different 5G NR carrier networks.
  • Verizon is making significant progress toward implementing vRAN technology on its 5G network, working with its vendors—including Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia—to virtualize the lower layers of its network in addition to the upper layers. The process of virtualizing the baseband functions in the RAN is part of a broader trend in the wireless and wider telecom industry in which operators are increasingly looking to move away from expensive, dedicated hardware from traditional suppliers and toward general-purpose compute servers running (mostly) open source software.
  • Verizon remains interested in providing edge computing services, services he said the operator could sell to companies looking to provide offerings ranging from drones to autonomous vehicles.  Verizon’s efforts in edge computing stem from the carrier’s moves to densify its network and to virtualize parts of its network functions. Those efforts, Stone said, would create a foundation for Verizon to eventually run edge computing sevices for third parties.

5G Home is one of many services Verizon plans to offer via 5G network technology with mobile 5G (again, based on 3GPP release 15 “5G NR”o NSA) being the next “5G” offering.  When mobile “5G” is deployed in the 11st half of 2019, the Motorola moto z3 smartphone, paired with the 5G moto mod and a Samsung 5G smartphone will be available.  So will an Inseego 5G hotspot that can access Verizon’s mobile network.

Addendum:  5G is one network, multiple use cases, Verizon CEO says

Last week at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg touted the carrier’s 5G home residential broadband service as complementing its wired Fios offering while extending the ability to provide a wireless alternative to home connectivity. While the fixed wireless access service is only available in four markets, the carrier said half of the customers are new to the company.

In a discussion with John Hodulik of UBS Investment Bank and HSBC analyst Sunil Rajgopal, Vestberg said 5G Home comes with a guaranteed 300 Mbps but its millimeter wave spectrum can support up to 800 Mbps or 900 Mbps.

“It’s a totally different way to doing broadband, meaning, instead of having a cord into the house, you have a wireless wave into the house, but the experience is the same in the house. And I think that’s a big opportunity for us. We have one footprint of Home, and that’s the Northeast where we have our Fios footprint. For the rest of the country, we don’t have it. So of course, we see that as an opportunity.”

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In a SCWS Americas keynote speech, title “Building our 5G network,”  Al Burke, AT&T Assistant Vice President – RAN Hardware and Software Development, described the progress the carrier has made in upgrading its network for 5G.  The key points he made were:

  • 5G will facilitate and support new applications such as VR/AR, remote surgery (Bill said he doesn’t want to be one of the first patients), connected cars, etc.
  • Small cells will be an integral part of 5G networks and “bring them to fruition”
  • By the ned of 2017, 55% of AT&Ts network functions were virtualized (I take that to mean they were implemented as software running on commodity compute servers)
  • There have been huge shifts in AT&Ts network in the last few years:

1.  From hardware to software implementations (e.g SDN, NFV);

2.  From centralized to decentralized control (e.g. EDGE computing)

3.  From observation (of network events, alerts, alarms) to insight via AI/ML (e.g.AT&T’s INDIGO)

  • Open RAN (ORAN) is the way to move forward.  Via disaggregation of RAN functions with well defined interfaces, ORAN is “open, modular, enables automation, and is lower cost.  ORAN results in interchangeable network modules (from different vendors) vs vendor proprietary equipment.

AT&T’s 5G Roadmap (only mobile 5G was shown on Al Burke’s slide – nothing on fixed 5G):

  • 2019:  5G NR access with LTE Core network and LTE Access (=signaling?).   The spectrum for AT&Ts initial mobile 5G rollout was not disclosed, but many believe it will be mmWave.
  • 2020-2022+:  5G NR access with 5G Core network (3GPP Release 16 SA or IMT 2020?); also LTE Core with LTE Access
  • 2019-2022+:  mmWave NR : Evolution to Ultra High Speed and lower latency
  • End of 2019-2022+: (unspecified time frame?), AT&T will provide sub 6 GHz 5G coverage in the U.S. speed and latency; dedicated & shared spectrum (LTE-NR-Coexistence)

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When AT&T introduces its “5G” FWA residential service it will be based on LTE, according to Mr. Burke.  In answer to a question from this author during the Q&A session, he said it would start as LTE but then transition to 5G NR based FWA.  The spectrum to be used was not revealed, but you can assume it will be mmWave (like Verizon’s 5G Home).

Author’s Closing Comments:

A claim we’ve heard before (by Ericsson and Vodafone), but don’t believe:  LTE network and terminal equipment will upgrade to 5G NR via “only a software upgrade.”As noted many times by this author and others,

AT&T has repeatedly stated they would roll out “standards based 5G” in 12 cities by the end of 2018 (they have only 3 weeks to fulfill that promise) and 19 cities in 2019.  Some of the cities identified by AT&T for the 2018 launch include Houston TX, Dallas TX, Atlanta TX, Waco TX, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, Oklahoma City OK, Jacksonville FL, Louisville, KY, New Orleans LA, Indianapolis IN, and San Antonio TX.

How long can AT&T claim their “5G” network is standards based when they only support 3GPP release 15 “5G NR” NSA access with a LTE core network and LTE signaling?  The ONLY 5G RAN/RIT standard is IMT 2020 which won’t be completed till the end of 2020.

 

 

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Fierce Wireless writes about what to expect from AT&T’s 5G mobile service.  We’d like to know How much will it cost? And who will subscribe when only a WiFi hotspot with 5G backhaul is offered?

 

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