U.S. telcos on 5G rollouts (“vague promises”), devices, IoT/smart cities

Here’s what AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon said about their 5G network rollouts, soon-to-be available devices, and Smart City plans at CES 2020:

AT&T on 5G Devices, Network Plans:

Carrier and media goliath AT&T talked about 5G devices at this year’s CES event in Las Vegas, NV.  Currently, AT&T only sells one 5G-capable phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, but AT&T plans to have 15 5G phones available for use on its low-band 5G spectrum during 2020 (see Comment in the box below this article). The Dallas-based service provider said that other mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets, and hotspots will also be available this year, but no exact number of products were provided.

AT&T’s low-band 5G network went live in December 2019 and is currently available in parts of 19 cities. The carrier’s other 5G network that is built on millimeter-wave and is referred to as 5G Plus is live in parts of 35 cities. AT&T said that it plans to cover 200 million people with its 5G network by this summer.

Sprint IoT, Smart City Updates:

Wireless provider Sprint could merge with T-Mobile any day now, but the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier hasn’t slowed down in the meantime. Sprint took to CES to launch several new offerings and update the market on its IoT plans.

Sprint unveiled its Certainty network design model, which unites its entire business wireline portfolio, including its wireless, IoT, and security solutions. The carrier also launched IoT Factory 2.0, a dedicated platform that solution providers and businesses can use to build custom IoT solutions for small-to-mid sized businesses in the food service, healthcare and agriculture space.

Chris Brydon, Regional Vice President Sales, Sprint Business Northwest Region via LinkedIn:

We believe hashtagIoT has the power to improve people’s lives. Here’s a story illustrating how an IoT application can be so much more than just a cold, lifeless piece of tech. Watch the very human difference it makes in the lives of a man and his family. https://lnkd.in/gdyeT9N hashtagWorksForBusiness

Sprint updated the market on its Smart City initiative on Tuesday. Specifically in Georgia, the provider said that in 2020 “micropositioning” technology, which combines next-generation wireless technologies and small cells will be installed within city infrastructure in areas to enable real-world navigation for autonomous machines, more connected sensors and IoT solution testing in its innovation Center for solutions such as refrigeration and monitoring, and security robots in Peachtree Corners’ Town Hall. Sprint also has plans to integrate additional Smart City technology in Greenville, South Carolina, and Arizona State University.

T-Mobile Talks 5G, Avoids Sprint Mega-Merger Talk:

T-Mobile didn’t address the main topic on everyone’s mind when thinking about the Magenta-colored carrier: its in-progress $26 billion mega-merger with wireless competitor Sprint. Instead, the “Un-Carrier” took to the show to highlight its 5G connectivity.

In a surprising move last month, the Bellevue, Wash.-based provider launched its nationwide 5G network using 600 MHz spectrum acquired in the recent incentive auction, as well as two 5G phones capable of using its 600 MHz spectrum. T-Mobile originally planned to launch the network in 2020.

 Verizon 5G Devices and Ultra Wideband Availability:

AT&T’s biggest competitor, Verizon, also came to CES armed with 5G updates. Compared to AT&T’s 15 devices, Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon vowed to have 20 5G-capable devices in 2020 and said these devices would be competitively priced anywhere between $600-$800. Currently, Verizon has four 5G-capable smartphones. Subscribers interested in 5G will have to pay an additional $10 on top of their current unlimited data plan, Verizon said, but the company didn’t name any specific device manufacturers.

Verizon’s ultra wideband 5G network is available in parts of 30 cities today, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, as well as Hoboken, N.J. Des Moines, Iowa; and Providence, RI.  Please see Comment in the box below this article.

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Mike Dano of Lightreading wrote that AT&T and Verizon made “vague (uncertain?) promises” for their 5G mmWave networks:

in a New Year-themed post, AT&T’s Scott Mair wrote that “you’re in for an exhilarating ride on the AT&T 5G network in 2020 and beyond,” but he did not offer any specifics about what the carrier will do with its “5G+” network. Then, during a subsequent appearance at an investor event this week, AT&T CFO John Stephens said only that the operator’s 5G network would “continue to improve and grow.”

Similarly, Verizon touted its “vision” for its network in 2020 in a release issued this week, but said only that customers should “expect more great innovations and technology advancements from us in 2020 including a more aggressive build out of our 5G network.” At that same investor event, Verizon’s Ronan Dunne said “we will be continuing to drive hard” in 5G, but didn’t offer any specifics.

The bottom line here is that neither operator is offering any concrete information on the number of cities, cell sites or customers it plans to touch with mmWave 5G in 2020. As Heavy Reading analyst Gabriel Brown writes, it’s time for these operators to show their hands.

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From a marketwatch.com article titled: The long-promised ‘Year of 5G’ arrives with more promises and little 5G

For years, telecommunications companies and gadget makers have invaded CES to talk about how big 5G was going to be in 2020.

At CES 2020 though the promise was still unfulfilled as the faster wireless service is still spotty and not entirely what was envisioned.

Without the premier connections that were promised, it is questionable how many consumers will buy the more expensive 5G-enabled devices that were introduced at the giant trade show this year, even though the same glowing predictions of a new future were readily available throughout Las Vegas.

5G promises faster data speeds, a reduction in lag time, and greater density for smart devices, all things that could eventually be catalysts for futuristic applications like autonomous driving and connected cities. More immediately, carriers are focused on exposing businesses and customers to those faster data speeds, where and when they can.

Verizon Communications Inc. expects to launch 20 devices with access to 5G by the end of the year, up from the seven that currently exist, according to Tami Erwin, who heads the company’s business group. AT&T Inc. mobility executive Kevin Petersen told MarketWatch at CES that accessibility will also be a key theme in the year ahead.

T-Mobile US claimed that it conducted a nationwide 5G rollout at the end of last year, providing access over a greater area but at slower data speeds than competitors. Verizon and AT&T both plan to add new cities to their coverage later this year, with AT&T still expecting to have nationwide coverage this year also.

Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research, cautions that these upgrades won’t happen right away due to some technical aspects of the 5G rollout. The more exciting type of 5G, millimeter-wave spectrum, primarily works outdoors and on campuses where it’s been specifically deployed. Sub-6 5G service works indoors and offers some benefits in speed and latency, but it’s a less dramatic step up from the 4G service consumers have come to know.

“The pieces are coming together but the forward-looking benefits are still a few years off,” O’Donnell said. Part of the issue is that 5G currently runs on top of 4G, rather than in a stand alone manner. Moving to stand alone 5G requires that carriers “refarm” spectrum frequencies from 4G to 5G, but they’re hesitant to make that big leap right away while most customers are still using 4G connections and while few phones support 5G.

“That’s like opening a 10-lane highway only for people with electric cars,” he said, since only a small minority of drivers would have access.

Making 5G a reality is a bit of a “chicken and egg” scenario, according to O’Donnell, given that carriers thinking about moving away from 4G want there to be enough devices in the market to take advantage of the new wireless standard, and consumers want to make sure 5G networks are broad enough before investing in a mobile device that works on the network.

The device part of the equation showed signs of progress at CES, with connected PCs being one notable category. Lenovo Group Ltd. announced it will launch in the spring the Yoga 5G two-in-one device, which it says is the first 5G PC. Always-connected PCs let customers rely on cellular connectivity rather than hunt for WiFi networks, and the 5G products shown by Lenovo, HP Inc. HPQ, and others offer faster speeds than 4G ones currently on the market.

Those devices are more expensive than competitive gadgets without access to the technology, though, and that will most likely continue to be the case. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. will be holding a smartphone launch in early February, where the company is expected to introduce a family of 5G Galaxy devices, and Apple is thought to be planning a 5G iPhone rollout later this year, with analysts expecting the 5G versions of those popular smartphones to carry a higher price tag.

Instinet analyst Jeffrey Kvaal expects “a large increase” in 5G unit sales for 2020, up from a small base of sales last year, but he thinks most of these sales will come at the expense of 4G devices, rather than a rush of upgrades. He estimates that 5G could boost a phone’s retail price by at least $75.

Today’s devices tend to be in the $1,000-plus range, but consumers should “start to see prices coming down, which ultimately helps the adoption curve,” as more mid-tier devices come to market this year equipped with 5G capabilities. Verizon’s consumer chief executive Ronan Dunne said at a Citi investor conference earlier this week that there could be 5G devices priced below $600 by the end of the year.

AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens told investors at the Citi conference that trying to predict 5G unit sales is missing the point a bit, since handset sales are “not a profitable enterprise for a business like ours.” The company sees various new service revenue opportunities from being able to compete “in the geographies where our service has gotten much better.”

The promise of 5G goes well beyond smartphones, and executives pointed out that the services that have developed in the past decade likely wouldn’t have existed without the move to 4G.

“If someone was watching a streaming video on a connection 10 years ago, you would’ve swatted the phone out of their hand and said they were going to use up the whole monthly data plan in 13 seconds,” Qualcomm’s  vice president of engineering John Smee told MarketWatch. Now, streaming over wireless is commonplace. Verizon’s Erwin noted that the proliferation of ride hailing also wouldn’t have been possible without the upgrade in data speeds.

AT&T’s Petersen thinks it’s too soon to know what the killer use case for 5G will be, but he’s upbeat about its ability to provide upgraded experiences in gaming, translation and medicine. A reduction in latency, or lag time, could create better responsiveness for gamers and reduce awkward pauses when people are using mobile devices to translate from one language to another in real time. Doctors could more easily monitor patients remotely after procedures by using connected devices.

Over time, the expected benefits of 5G and the growth of accessible smart devices could change the way consumers and workers think about doing data-heavy tasks. Smee even suggested that it could replace the need for Wi-Fi for most users.

“If you think of your cable modem or your DSL and you look at the rates you get compared to the 5G data rate, all of a sudden wireless is the preferred medium and that’s a big game changer versus the idea that you have to have wired connectivity to have high data rates,” he said.

References:

https://www.crn.com/slide-shows/networking/ces-2020-top-telecom-carriers-talk-5g-new-devices-and-iot

https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/heres-why-it-might-be-time-to-worry-about-mmwave-5g/a/d-id/756706?

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ces-2020-the-long-promised-year-of-5g-arrives-with-more-promises-and-little-5g-2020-01-10

7 thoughts on “U.S. telcos on 5G rollouts (“vague promises”), devices, IoT/smart cities

  1. AT&T CFO John Stephens remarks on “bundling services” at Citi TMT conference Jan 2020:

    We’re going to have a national footprint on 5G this year in our core network. We already have 35 cities up and running for the 5G+ service and about 20 cities up and running for 5G (?) in our core network.

    But — so they (AT&T customers) will be able to consume wireless services, but also data, also entertainment. They will use it as their — not only their wireless, but their broadband, wireless broadband. And we’ll be the provider who can have the ability to do that, not only from a traditional postpaid account, but a prepaid account or with our capacity, even resellers.

    Secondly, on the fiber side or on the whole broadband side, the ability to bundle that with video, the ability to bundle that with wireless services. The ability to bundle that with a full TV package clearly have that advantage, whether it be AT&T TV, whether it be our wireless services, whether it be our fiber-to-the-home.

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4315873-t-inc-t-management-presents-citi-2020-global-tmt-west-conference-call-transcript?page=2

    as new 5G comes out, we’re going to have just, quite frankly, a really unique intersection. We have a network that’s, quite frankly, ahead of devices, which is the first time that’s really happened. And so we’re going to have a national footprint. By the middle of the year, we’ll have great speeds, great — and it will continue to improve and grow throughout the end of the year.

    In the middle of this year, we’ll have HBO Max coming out, and we’ll have tremendous packages for our wireless customers to bundle with those. And then we’re going to have new 5G phones come out throughout the year. We have some out today, but they will be coming out throughout the year. And when you put that grouping in place as an offer for customers who are looking throughout the year and certainly in the second half of the year, that’s a tremendous magnet for those customers, a really attractive situation. So, we feel really good about where we’re at.

    But I would — in short order, I would think, people are going to consume broadband data in much the same way they do today, but it’s going to be higher demands for speed, more continuing demands for bundling, continuing demands, growing demands for video, and we feel like we’re going to be really extremely well-positioned to play in that market.

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4315873-t-inc-t-management-presents-citi-2020-global-tmt-west-conference-call-transcript?page=3

  2. From Lightreading on Verizon’s 5G Home (so called 5G FWA):

    Verizon’s Ronan Dunne reiterated the company’s ultimate 5G Home deployment goal of covering roughly 30 million American households with the service. And he confirmed that the company expects to reach that goal in the next five to seven years.

    Verizon’s initial launch of its 5G Home fixed wireless service in 2018 used the operator’s proprietary 5GTF transmission standard and not the official 3GPP-approved 5G NR transmission standard, Dunne explained in comments this week at the Citi 2020 Global TMT West investor conference.

    Verizon relaunched its 5G Home service in late 2019 in Chicago with 5G NR equipment and receiver/routers that customers could install themselves. That kind of do-it-yourself installation helps Verizon sidestep the expense of paying a technician to install 5G Home equipment on the inside or outside of a user’s home or office.

    However, Dunne explained that Verizon’s refreshed launch in Chicago isn’t part of a wider expansion of 5G Home — at least, not yet.

    He said new, high-powered customer premises equipment (CPE) is scheduled to arrive in the second half of this year, and “that’s really the key.” He said such CPE will be able to receive 5G signals from transmitters that are much further away, thus significantly expanding Verizon’s 5G Home coverage area. He said Verizon’s current 5G Home CPE uses a regular smartphone chipset and “as a result the footprint is significantly smaller.”

    When questioned about Verizon’s goal of covering 30 million households — or roughly 23% of the population of the US — with 5G Home, Dunne said it would probably take the operator five to seven years to do so. Dunne’s comments appear to reiterate Verizon’s plans to eventually reach 30 million households with the offering — that’s noteworthy because operator executives appeared to walk back that goal last year. It now appears to be back in the plan.

    Dunne said it would take years for Verizon to reach that 30 million deployment goal because the operator is primarily building 5G coverage in dense urban areas that are “low residential.” Meaning, Verizon’s 5G network today mainly functions in downtown urban areas — where Verizon sees the bulk of its mobile customer traffic — instead of the residential and suburban locations where 5G Home makes more sense.

    “It’s very much a mobility strategy, with a secondary product of Home, rather than us changing our overarching mobility deployment to try to accelerate Home at the expense of the overall 130 million customer base,” Dunne said.

    https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/verizon-dont-expect-much-from-5g-home-until-h2-2020/d/d-id/756677
    ……………………………………………………………………………………
    Archived Jan 7, 2020 webcast from Citi TMT conference: Ronan Dunne, EVP & Group CEO of VZ Consumer, Verizon Communications

    https://veracast.com/webcasts/citigroup/tmt2020/73103173164.cfm#/player/html5/speed/a8

    1. Verizon is postponing the broader rollout of its 5G Home fixed wireless Internet service as it’s waiting for new and better equipment expected to become available in H2 2020, writes online publication LightReading citing Verizon’s executive Ronan Dunne. At present, the service is available in five cities, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Chicago.

      Dunne reiterated that the company plans to expand 5G Home to 30 million American households in the next five to seven years.

      He said the new, high-powered customer premises equipment (CPE) will be able to receive 5G signals from transmitters that are much further away, thus significantly expanding Verizon’s 5G Home coverage area. He added Verizon’s existing 5G Home CPE uses a regular smartphone chipset and “as a result the footprint is significantly smaller.”

      The carrier planned a “full” launch for Home late in 2019 using the official 5G standard (which is not a standard at all but 3GPP Release 15 “5G NR.”).
      https://www.telecompaper.com/news/verizon-postpones-broader-rollout-of-5g-home-service–1322545

  3. Eric Savitz in Barron’s:

    5G is going to be a big deal, but maybe not in the way you think. This is the year that fifth-generation wireless technology hits the mainstream. Qualcomm (QCOM) President Christiano Amon said last week that 45 operators around the world have deployed 5G; he predicts 200 million 5G smartphones will be sold in 2020, growing from there. “5G is a multifaceted technology, a foundational piece of everything for the next decade,” says Simon Segars, CEO of chip design house ARM.

    The real opportunity is going to be at the edge of the network, where companies of every stripe will take advantage of 5G’s ability to connect a million devices to a single cell site. John Harrison, global sector lead for media and entertainment at EY, the parent of accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young, said 5G was “front and center” in discussions with his clients at the show. But nagging questions remain. For one, the real power of 5G involves millimeter wave radio spectrum, which can carry signals at high speeds, but only short distances. It’s not a real option for covering cities and suburbs with 5G signals. For most people, 5G will come on slower “sub 6” networks that won’t be a lot faster than LTE, the current standard. And while everyone expects killer 5G apps, no one has a clue what they’ll be.

    https://www.barrons.com/articles/5g-autonomous-driving-reviewing-ces-51578697680?mod=past_editions

  4. Is IMT 2020 irrelevant? Note that Verizon doesn’t attend ITU-R WP5D meetings where IMT 2020 RIT/SRITs are being standardized. More from LightReading….

    Verizon, Vodafone, Others Team Up for ‘Interoperable’ 5G Specs

    A half dozen major global operators announced the formation of the 5G Future Forum to “collaborate to develop interoperable 5G specifications across key geographic regions.” América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone are the group’s founding members.

    “The 5G Future Forum will focus on the creation of uniform interoperability specifications to improve speed to market for developers and multinational enterprises working on 5G-enabled solutions,” Verizon stated in a brief release announcing the formation of the association. “In addition, Forum participants will develop public and private marketplaces to enhance developer and customer access to 5G, and will share global best practices in technology deployment.”

    Verizon representatives declined to comment beyond the group’s press release. It’s not clear how the group might interact with similar standards efforts in the global wireless industry. Groups working in similar areas range from the 3GPP to ATIS to the NGMN.

    A Verizon rep said the group would be similar to Verizon’s 5G Technology Forum (5GTF) that the operator formed in 2015 with vendors Ericsson, Qualcomm, Intel, LG, Cisco and Samsung. That group developed the 5GTF transmission standard that Verizon used for the initial launch of its 5G Home fixed wireless Internet service. Verizon scrapped that effort last year and is moving forward with 3GPP-capable equipment for its 5G Home service. Operator executives have said that Verizon’s 5GTF work helped the operator move more quickly into the 5G arena in general and fixed wireless services specifically.

    Team-ups and exclusions
    The members of the new 5G Future Forum already have plenty of things in common. For example, Verizon and Vodafone are already teaming up in edge computing with Amazon’s AWS. They are among the first operators to officially support the cloud computing vendor’s Wavelength 5G edge computing service, introduced late last year.

    Separately, América Móvil’s US MVNO, TracFone, heavily uses Verizon’s network for its various prepaid brands in the US, which stretch from Straight Talk to Simple Mobile.

    And Verizon has often highlighted its corporate ties to South Korean operators including KT in the past.

    Finally, as VentureBeat pointed out, there are no Chinese operators in the 5G Future Forum, despite the fact that China Mobile itself could rack up as many as 100 million 5G customers this year. That probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise though given the increasingly heated debate over the role of China and Chinese suppliers like Huawei in the global move toward 5G technology.

    — Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

    https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/verizon-vodafone-others-team-up-for-interoperable-5g-specs/d/d-id/756843?

    1. Are 3GPP and ITU now irrelevant for 5G specs?

      The 5G Future Forum will collaborate to develop interoperable 5G specifications across key geographic regions, including the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. The Forum’s founding members are América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone.

      The 5G Future Forum will focus on the creation of uniform interoperability specifications to improve speed to market for developers and multinational enterprises working on 5G-enabled solutions. In addition, Forum participants will develop public and private marketplaces to enhance developer and customer access to 5G, and will share global best practices in technology deployment.

      https://www.verizon.com/about/news/global-5g-leaders-create-future-forum

  5. Verizon, Rogers, and Vodafone form global 5G interoperability group

    Although a cellular industry organization called 3GPP is the primary source for international 5G standards, member companies often pursue their own individual and collaborative technology projects as well, laying the groundwork for future developments and standards. Today, six major carriers announced that they’ve formed the 5G Future Forum, a group that will collaborate on global 5G interoperability in hopes of accelerating adoption of the new technology.

    The founding members are U.S. carrier Verizon, Canada’s Rogers, Europe’s Vodafone, Australia’s Telstra, Latin America’s América Móvil, and South Korea’s KT — each a heavy hitter, if not the heaviest, in its respective market. While the initial and second releases of the international 5G standard are more or less set in stone at this point, the 5G Future Forum appears to be focused on advancing 5G-enabling technologies, notably including mobile-edge computing to radically reduce network latency and improve data performance.

    According to a press release this morning, the Forum will “focus on the creation of uniform interoperability specifications” and marketplaces so developers and companies can deploy 5G solutions across multiple markets and nations. Members will also share their global best practices for deploying technology.

    “5G is a key enabler of the next global industrial revolution,” explained Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, “where technology will transform how we live and work. It’s critical that technology partners around the world unite to create the most seamless global experience for our customers.” Fellow member CEOs, such as América Móvil’s Daniel Hajj, suggested that the group’s efforts will enable 5G applications to work on a global scale, rather than just in individual countries. This might otherwise prove tricky, given the growing array of 5G-targeted edge computing solutions being offered in various regions.

    The 5G Future Forum’s list notably doesn’t include any carrier from China, an omission that might seem surprising, given the massive scale and ambition of Chinese 5G deployments. However, security concerns over Chinese networking hardware — particularly, but not exclusively, gear made by government-backed Huawei and used in Chinese 5G networks — might be leading the Forum’s members to seek alternative solutions. We’ve reached out to see whether the omission was deliberate and whether other members will be allowed to join. If so, this article will be updated with additional details.

    https://venturebeat.com/2020/01/15/verizon-rogers-and-vodafone-form-global-5g-interoperability-group/

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