Point-Counterpoint: 5G is the future, but deployments are slowing!


This author believes 5G is headed for the greatest “train wreck” in modern tech history.  Over-hyped, rushed to market, incomplete standards, lack of vendor interoperability, no real business case or killer apps (not until ultra low latency and ultra high reliability are standardized and implemented), operators have no serious plan to monetize 5G and recover their build-out costs, small cell permit and placement objections/ NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), power issues, massive fiber deployments needed in urban areas for mmWave small cell backhaul, and many other caveats.

Image result for image of 5G being a failure


What does the future of Qualcomm look like?

Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm interview in Sunday’s NY Times:

It’s basically 5G. Think of it like when electricity replaced steam. Who’s going to win, who’s going to lose? The reason that you see so much international competition for the leadership of 5G is because it is so important to the fundamental way in which economy works.

The first 5G wave will be a handset wave, which is very good for us, and will continue for a long time. But there’s a second wave — with artificial intelligence, the cloud and all that data. That second wave makes me think, “Wow, we are on the cusp for something very big.”


WSJ: 5G Rollouts Hit Slow Patch, Equipment Suppliers Say:

The rollout of new 5G wireless networks is showing signs of slowing, denting near-term sales prospects for some networking equipment makers and potentially delaying access for some consumers to the lightning-fast data speeds the technology promises.

Industry officials say there is no common cause for the slowdown seen across multiple markets, with various countries affected by different dynamics. In some cases, the equipment makers say, telecom providers want certainty that the investments made will reap returns before plowing more money into further infrastructure.

Investments required to deploy fifth-generation cellular networks are significant, in part because of how the systems operate. To blanket a city, 5G requires more base stations and local relay points than traditional communications infrastructure to connect devices to the network.

Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates companies spent more than $2 billion on 5G wireless infrastructure last year, more than triple the level in 2018. But spending growth is expected to slow somewhat this year, reaching about $4 billion.

Quinn Bolton, an analyst at Needham & Co., said delays in the build-out of 5G infrastructure in Asia and the U.S. were causing the slowdown.

South Korea was a trailblazer in 5G adoption, and operators that invested heavily in the first half of 2019 have since eased up, he said. Samsung Electronics Co., a major gear manufacturer for South Korean 5G networks, said last month its domestic 5G business would decline this year though grow elsewhere.

The 5G rollout in the U.S. is somewhat slower than expected because some cities and towns oppose the massive number of antennas needed to deliver ultrafast 5G data speeds to consumers, industry executives say. Some have banned antennas in residential areas, and a group of cities is suing the Federal Communications Commission over its requirement that cities make decisions on approval of 5G antennas within 60 or 90 days.

The protracted antitrust battle over T-Mobile US’s merger with  Sprint also affected the pace of 5G spending. The two agreed to combine nearly two years ago, but it was only this week that a federal judge gave the go-ahead, siding with the companies over states that had raised antitrust concerns. The companies have yet to formally close the deal.

As the companies were awaiting the merger outcome, T-Mobile told contractors in a letter last fall that new work orders were postponed, according to people familiar with the matter. Michael Sievert, T-Mobile’s chief operating officer, earlier this month told The Wall Street Journal that engineers overshot their budget at the end of 2019 but the company would ramp up investment again early this year.

Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at New Street Research, said the T-Mobile–Sprint combination would speed 5G development in the U.S., calling it “positive for equipment vendors.”

Some makers of networking equipment that pipes data to and from new 5G antennas are still largely awaiting the anticipated spending spree. Juniper Networks Inc. Chief Financial Officer Ken Miller said this week that reaping the 5G opportunity would have to wait until 2021 or 2022.

“I think it’s going to be a little slower and a little longer spending cycle than maybe people predicted a year or two ago,” he said. Juniper makes hardware that manages internet traffic, which network operators will need more of to handle fast-moving 5G data.

For companies more directly involved in the 5G deployment, such as Cree Inc., an electronics provider in Durham, N.C., the impact has been more concrete. “We’ve seen some near-term delays in the 5G rollout,” Chief Executive Gregg Lowe said last month.

Xilinx Inc., a San Jose, Calif., chip maker, also cut its sales growth outlook and announced it was reducing its workforce by 7% because of U.S. restrictions on some trade with China and a slower 5G outlook. CEO Victor Peng said many telecom operators that spent heavily to put the initial 5G networks in place now are waiting to see if the spending generates anticipated returns before plowing more money into the infrastructure.

Overseas, Sweden’s Ericsson AB—one of the largest telecom equipment manufacturers—said it has encountered higher 5G-related costs and seen a slowdown in North America sales that it attributes partly to Sprint–T-Mobile merger delays.

Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm said concerns around the use of Huawei Technologies Co. equipment also have affected deployments. The U.S. has been pressing allies not to use Huawei’s 5G gear because of cybersecurity concerns about the Chinese manufacturer—concerns Huawei has rejected.

Several countries have been reviewing what role Huawei equipment should have in their systems because of U.S. concerns. The U.K., after months of debate, recently said it would allow some use of Huawei equipment in its 5G infrastructure. Huawei late last year struck a 5G deal in Germany.

Some industry analysts expected the U.S. campaign to stem the use of Huawei equipment or to boost other vendors, such as Ericsson. Mr. Ekholm said, “This whole notion that this was a win for Ericsson and Nokia so far has not materialized.”

Some rollouts in Europe also have been delayed because governments haven’t completed the spectrum allocation to operate such systems, industry officials said.

Despite the recent slowdown in equipment purchases, executives remain bullish on longer-term 5G prospects. Handset makers are ramping up plans for new devices: Gartner forecasts 221 million 5G smartphones will be sold this year.

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, this week unveiled three Galaxy S phones with 5G capability.

“There appears to be a significant bifurcation in demand trends currently between the 5G infrastructure and smartphone segments,” Mr. Bolton, the Needham analyst, said.

Not every network operator is taking a pause, either. AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson last month said the company’s 5G network covered 50 million people and was expected to reach the entire U.S. in the second quarter. “We’re not slowing down,” he said.

Verizon Communications Inc. Chief Executive Hans Vestberg last month projected fast growth of the company’s 5G network, though he said it would be more pronounced next year.

In China, a key market for 5G handset sales, network rollout plans remain broadly on track, according to analysts. Bernstein Research telecom analyst Chris Lane said Chinese operators were building hundreds of thousands of cell towers and weren’t going to slow down, barring any effects of the coronavirus outbreak.


WSJ: 5G Sends a Confusing Signal –Marketing hype remains hot for next-gen wireless technology, but network expansion seems to have slowed:

Part of the problem is that services marketed under the 5G label can vary widely in terms of speed and availability. Some aren’t much faster than existing 4G networks. And the fastest—including those using millimeter wave technology—currently are available only in certain dense urban areas due to their signal limitations.

Meanwhile, 5G devices remain expensive. Samsung’s new 5G phones range in price from $999 to $1,399. The lowest of those would be the cheapest price seen in the U.S. for a 5G phone so far, but still a bundle for a product offering an unclear benefit. Samsung itself noted previously that smartphone prices creeping above the $1,000 range were “driving market resistance.”

5G will see its biggest test this fall, when Apple Inc. is widely expected to launch its first 5G iPhones. Many assume this will spur adoption of the technology: Apple’s share price has nearly doubled in the past 12 months in part based on hope for a 5G-driven “supercycle.” But Apple’s phones won’t be cheap either given the cost of 5G chips and Apple’s famous focus on maintaining industry-leading margins.

The onus will remain on carriers to get 5G services built out enough to attract consumers to invest in the phones. VerizonAT&T and T-Mobile all have broadcast aggressive plans in this vein for the year. Like its predecessors, 5G will one day be the default standard for all wireless devices. A growing number of companies and investors are counting on it happening sooner than later. That looks risky.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/superfast-5g-rollout-hits-slow-patch-some-equipment-suppliers-say-11581676202  (on line subscription required)

https://www.wsj.com/articles/5g-sends-a-confusing-signal-11581681603 (on line subscription required)




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8 thoughts on “Point-Counterpoint: 5G is the future, but deployments are slowing!

  1. Alan has been on a one-man mission to question and criticize the hype around 5G and its timelines which the industry is touting. He deserves high recognition.
    Here’s a question for all major carriers worldwide: When should your customers expect a standardized 5G network BETWEEN a 5G endpoint device and Internet/Carriers’ Point of Presence (or Wide area PoP)?
    5G features should include IMT 2020 RAN/RIT, 3GPP Release 16 mobile packet core, common 5G signaling, network slicing, network management, security, and network virtualization used. At the very least, the carriers should be able to present a credible roadmap and timelines for these key 5G features. Anything short of a clear answer, 5G is heading toward a “train wreck”.

  2. I totally agree with Qualcomm’s CEO that 5G is the future, but development is quite slow on this new technology. I believe that companies should start accepting 5G only when a sufficient number of users are satisfied with the 5G service(s).

  3. From an ITU-R WP5D contribution from Korea and Japan on IMT 2020.specs:

    Applicable areas of IMT 2020 are expected to be expanded further to various specific applications to facilitate the digital economy, e.g. e-manufacturing, e-agriculture, e-health, intelligent transport systems, smart city and traffic control, etc., which could bring requirements beyond current capabilities of IMT;
    that IMT-2020 should be able to provide these capabilities without undue burden on energy consumption, network equipment cost and deployment cost to make future IMT sustainable and affordable;
    that other capabilities may be also required for IMT-2020, which would make future IMT more flexible, reliable, and secure when providing diverse services in the intended usage scenarios.
    Does anyone believe those objectives will be met by the first IMT 2020 standard? Note that it will only contain the RIT/SRITs and NOT the 5G network architecture, mobile packet core, signaling, network management, security, network slicing, virtual RAN/5G Core, etc

  4. March 15, 2020:
    Beijing has put 26,000 5G base stations into operation, with 5G users reaching about 800,000, according to the Beijing Municipal Communications Administration.

    Beijing municipal government rolled out policies in the past year to support the telecom industry by slashing the expenses in carrying out 5G infrastructure construction, said the administration in a statement.

    According to a report compiled by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, the 5G commercialization in China is expected to generate a direct gross output of 10.6 trillion yuan (about 1.51 trillion U.S. dollars) from 2020 to 2025, plus an indirect gross output of about 24.8 trillion yuan.

    Given the complexity of the current epidemic control and the economic development, it is an important and pressing task to expedite the development of 5G technology, said Chen Zhaoxiong, vice minister of Industry and Information Technology, recently.


  5. Great article! Thank you for sharing such unique and useful information -pros and cons- of 5G.

  6. Thank you for sharing such a useful and honest article about 5G. It is true that while it might be the future, deployments are slowing!

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