Verizon CTO Upbeat on 5G Millimeter Wave vs Lack of mid band spectrum?
Millimeter wave spectrum “opens up so many possibilities,” said Verizon Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Kyle Malady at an investor conference today. Malady made his comments at the Wells Fargo Telecom 5G Forum, which was webcast. “The cloud will go closer and closer and closer,” he said without providing any rationale or support for that statement.
The latest pre-standard 5G technology was designed to support speeds of a gigabit or more, along with lower-latency 9via 3GPP Release 16 not yet completed) and other attributes. However, getting the highest wirelessspeeds requires wide swaths of spectrum that are nearly impossible to come by in frequency bands traditionally used for cellular service. Wide swaths of spectrum are available in high-frequency millimeter wave bands – the downside is that range is not as great as with lower-frequency bands which will require many more small cells in a given geographical area.
5G pioneers AT&T and Verizon used millimeter wave for their initial deployments, but as Sprint and T-Mobile get into the game or make plans to do so, they have touted their ability to quickly cover broad areas by using lower-frequency spectrum, although that didn’t stop T-Mobile from spending more than $842 million to obtain millimeter wave spectrum in the recent auctions. Likewise, AT&T and Verizon have said they expect to deploy 5G in lower-frequency bands as well as in the millimeter wave band.
Verizon 5G Millimeter Wave
Nevertheless, Verizon executives get most fired up when they talk about the millimeter wave band.
Malady offered an interesting data point to support his millimeter wave enthusiasm. Before obtaining millimeter wave spectrum through the acquisition of Straight Path, Verizon had amassed licenses for an average of 160 MHz of spectrum in all bands nationwide. In comparison, the company used four segments, apparently each comprised of 100 MHz, for a total of 400 MHz of millimeter wave spectrum to support its initial mobile 5G launches in Chicago and Minneapolis. And according to Malady, “we’re working on bringing [that] to eight” segments.
Malady didn’t discuss the speeds Verizon is experiencing with mobile service, but he noted that some customers are obtaining gigabit speeds using fixed wireless 5G service in the millimeter wave band, which Verizon has launched in four markets.
AT&T has said it has seen speeds of 1.2 Gbps in mobile 5G trials using a 400 MHz channel over a distance of 150 meters. More on AT&T’s mmWave spectrum holdings here.
Millimeter wave distance limitations are driving a change in network topology, Malady noted. “As the network [becomes] flattened, the antennas [are] smaller and lower,” he explained. “Wireless becomes fiber with antennas hanging off of it.”
As Verizon builds out more fiber to support this model, the fiber also can be used by the company’s other business units, he added.
There may be one additional requirement before 5G can reach its full potential, and Malady discussed that as well. He pointed to the example of police using facial recognition to help find an abducted person by comparing a photo with numerous public cameras, then identifying the closest officer to the abductee’s location. Applications such as that will require processing power located closer to the network edge.
Verizon CTO: 5G Millimeter Wave “Opens Up So Many Possibilities”
AT&T owns >630 MHz nationwide of mmWave spectrum + HPE partnership for Edge Networking & Computing
Meanwhile, carriers and analysts say that a lack of mid-band spectrum is delaying the deployment of wireless services. The Federal Communications Commission has recently proposed allowing carriers to share parts of the Educational Broadband Service spectrum in this range, a plan that a number of educational groups oppose.
The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model)
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WSJ on Midband Spectrum (on line sub required to access url provided in References):
U.S. wireless companies’ limited access to some of the nation’s most valuable airwaves threatens to slow down their plans to build faster 5G networks. At issue are broad swaths of the radio spectrum in frequencies that can travel long distances and penetrate buildings. This “mid-band” is considered ideal for faster, fifth-generation wireless service.
“Mid-band is in the sweet spot in terms of what’s most valuable to wireless operators,” said Walt Piecyk, an analyst at investment bank BTIG, in part because carriers can deploy those frequencies atop existing cell towers, rather than blanketing neighborhoods with hundreds or thousands of new antennas. While U.S. officials take their time making mid-band airwaves available to carriers, he said, “a lot of countries are auctioning off that spectrum.”
Sprint Corp. and Dish Network Corp.already hold large amounts of mid-band spectrum not yet put to work serving customers. Other nearby frequencies remain reserved for satellite communications and military use in the U.S.
Telecom companies have spent more than $25 billion over the past three years to snap up wireless-airwave licenses beyond the mid-band range, targeting both high and low extremes considered useful for carrying wireless data.
Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. have launched 5G services in a few cities using high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum that provides ultrafast speeds but can’t travel long distances and is limited in its ability to penetrate hard materials like walls.
Stuck in the Middle
Telecom companies are hungry for 5G-friendly ‘mid-band’ spectrum capable of carrying large amounts of data over longer distances.
First reserved for military use, CBRS can serve 5G users under a spectrum-sharing plan.
Some bands are reserved for educational institutions and Native American tribes; others have commercial users including Sprint.
AT&T promises to offer nationwide 5G in the first half of 2020 over spectrum licenses it already controls. Company technology chief Andre Fuetsch said more mid-band spectrum under FCC consideration “would help round out our current holdings” and speed up that 5G expansion.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled a plan Tuesday June 18th to commercialize licenses in the Educational Broadband Service. The service was created in the 1960s for use by educational groups for instructional television, and some licenses are now used for wireless broadband systems for school districts.
Some of the airwaves, which are above 2.5 gigahertz and often lumped in with mid-band spectrum, are used by federally recognized Native American tribes in rural areas of the U.S.
The FCC’s plan aims to make available to wireless companies and other businesses some unused or underused swaths of that spectrum. Schools that currently use some airwaves can continue to use their licenses, expand that use or sell them, a senior FCC official said. Tribal groups also maintain priority access.
WISPA, a trade body for fixed wireless broadband companies, said the move would expand broadband coverage, including in rural areas.
Mariel Triggs, chief executive of Mural Net, an organization that is building a wireless network to serve the Havasupai tribe in the Grand Canyon, called the move “a major step forward in the effort to close the digital divide in rural America, especially for Indian Country.”
Verizon’s 5G roll out
Verizon has started deploying 5G networks using high-band millimeter-wave spectrum but the telecom will vary its strategy depending on the propagation needs of a particular market. “Not all 5G is created equal,” Executive Vice President Ronan Dunne told analysts, adding that high-band spectrum is more useful in Verizon’s initial dense urban markets because of the need for faster speeds and broader capacity.
“The broader the bandwidth you have…the more of the features and capabilities of 5G that you can enable. We want to have both a coverage strategy and a capability strategy. A very large majority of data that we carry on our network goes to large, dense, urban environments. When it comes to the ability to use 5G as a significant capacity enhancement, there’s more of an opportunity to leverage that in urban areas.”
“The lower down the spectrum tiers you go, the more that will approximate to a good 4G service,” Dunne said, speaking at Oppenheimer & Co.’s 22nd Annual Technology, Internet and Communications Conference in Boston. “If someone is rushing to bring out 5G nationwide” it could be because they “don’t have a credible 4G service” to start with.
Speaking last week on a quarterly earnings call, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said dynamic spectrum sharing is “an important piece” of 5G. “Ultimately, 5G is going to be on all bands. And I have a high confidence that my team is going to be doing that well, continue to have the leadership in the market when it comes to network performance. There might also come up opportunities all the time where it could be added spectrum. But right now, to launch both capacity and coverage, we feel confident on the assets we have.”
Dunne also reflected on Verizon’s reorganization into three business units–consumer, business and media, under the direction of Vestberg. Dunne said the reorganization was meant to reflect the company’s network-centric strategy.
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg Explains Why 5G Will Change Everything
Verizon to speak at Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference September 19
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