Two of the three biggest U.S. telecom network providers, T-Mobile US and Verizon Communications, contend that selling 5G FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) broadband services to homes will prove to be a good business. However, AT&T has no plans to make a big push into that space. We wrote about this topic earlier this year, but it remains a conundrum as debate continues.
Whether these 5G FWA services will heat up broadband competition with cable TV companies — who dominate in high-speed internet services — is a controversial issue for telecom stocks. The fixed 5G wireless services also may compete with local phone companies in areas still served by copper line-based “DSL” services.
“Verizon and T-Mobile think the service can be a growth driver and will have attractive economics,” UBS analyst John Hodulik told Investor’s Business Daily (IBD). “FWA (fixed wireless access) is likely to do better where there are limited options for broadband and among subscribers used to lower speeds, so that means legacy DSL subscribers and slower speed cable. The big question is whether FWA has staying power over the next 5 to 10 years given necessary speed increases.”
AT&T has downplayed the potential of fixed 5G wireless. AT&T contends that as data usage surges over time, FWA will become increasingly uneconomic vs. fiber-optic landline alternatives.
“I think it stems from a genuinely different view of the engineering and capacity constraints,” MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett told IBD. “The divergence in views about fixed wireless access between AT&T and Verizon or T-Mobile speaks to a genuine controversy in the telecom industry.” Craig added that telecom companies are scrambling to make money from huge investments in 5G radio spectrum.
Moffett said: “The renewed appetite for FWA may be a sign of a dawning realization that the gee-whizzy use cases of 5G may never materialize. That could be forcing operators to revisit every possible source of incremental revenue in a bid to earn at least some return on their huge investments in 5G spectrum.”
U.S. fixed wireless access (FWA market) captured ~ 38% share of broadband industry net adds in the fourth quarter of 2021. Approximately half of Verizon’s FWA customers are coming from commercial accounts, T-Mobile has indicated that about half its FWA customers are coming from former cable Internet subscribers. FWA’s strong Q4 showing left cable’s flow share at just 66%, about the same as cable’s share of installed US broadband households. “In other words, Cable likely neither gained nor lost share during the quarter, and instead merely treaded water,” Moffett noted. FWA “has gone from low-level background noise to suddenly a major force, with Verizon and T-Mobile alone capturing more than 300K FWA subscribers in the fourth quarter,” Craig noted. However, he isn’t sure that wireless network operators will allocate enough total bandwidth capacity for FWA to fully scale.
In a government auction that ended in early 2021, Verizon spent $45.45 billion on 5G “C-band” airwaves while T-Mobile invested $9.3 billion. AT&T spent $23.4 billion on the auction but it’s putting its 5G investments in areas other than FWA, like industrial 5G applications.
Meanwhile, there are cable TV firms looming with high-speed, coaxial cable. Comcast says it’s not worried about broadband competition from fixed 5G wireless services to homes.
“Time will tell, but it’s an inferior product,” Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said at a recent Morgan Stanley conference. “And today, we can say we don’t feel much impact from (it). It’s lower speeds. And in the long run, I don’t know how viable the technology holds up.”
Cable companies offer hard landlines while 5G wireless services provide high-speed internet to homes mainly via indoor antennae that consumers self-install.
Eighty-seven percent of U.S. households subscribe to an internet service at home, compared with 83% in 2016, according to Leichtman Research Group. Also, cable TV firms comprise 70% of the broadband market, LRG said.
Verizon ended 2021 with 223,000 fixed wireless broadband customers, but most connected via 4G wireless networks. Meanwhile, T-Mobile had 646,000 fixed 5G broadband subscribers.
T-Mobile has told Wall Street analysts it expects to serve in a range of 7 million to 8 million fixed 5G wireless subscribers by 2025. Verizon has projected 3 million to 4 million subscribers over the same period.
T-Mobile charges $50 monthly for its home internet service. Verizon’s pricing starts at $50 or $70 monthly, depending on the data speeds provided. Verizon mobile phone customers with unlimited data plans get a discount.
T-Mobile’s 5G internet to home services provides data speeds up to 115 megabits per second, or Mbps. Verizon plans to provide speeds up to 300 Mbps.
T-Mobile uses mid-band radio spectrum to deliver fixed 5G broadband to homes. Verizon uses a mix of mid-band and high-band radio spectrum. In urban areas, Verizon may be able to deliver higher internet speeds with high-band spectrum, analysts say.
One area of debate remains whether fixed 5G broadband finds more success in suburban/urban markets or in rural areas.
“FWA is definitely a threat to cable companies,” Peter Rysavy, head of Rysavy Research, said in an email. “Particularly with (high frequency) mmWave, 5G can compete directly with cable. Mid-band spectrum is also effective but is best suited for lower density population areas. In these deployments, even T-Mobile limits the number of fixed wireless subscribers it can support in any geographical area.”
At UBS, Hodulik says that even if positioned as a low-end service, fixed 5G broadband still has a potential market of 20 million to 30 million homes.
AT&T, whose forerunner was regional Bell SBC Communications, has a sizable wireline local service area in 22 states. So it will face competition from fixed 5G broadband, just like cable TV firms. Verizon is based mainly in the northeast. T-Mobile doesn’t sell local phone services.
“AT&T has a huge wireline asset base that is only 25% upgraded to fiber,” Oppenheimer analyst Tim Horan told IBD. “So they are very exposed to competition from fixed wireless.”
At an analyst day on March 11, AT&T said it plans to upgrade 50% of its local markets, about 30 million customer locations, to high-speed fiber-optic broadband service by year-end 2025.
Meanwhile, AT&T CEO John Stankey commented on the controversy over FWA. AT&T sees FWA as playing a limited role for mobile small business and enterprise applications as well as in rural areas.
“We’re not opposed to fixed wireless, and I’m sure there’s going to be segments of the market where it’s going to be acceptable and folks are going to find it to be adequate right now,” Stankey said.
Fixed 5G broadband services to homes isn’t the only potential moneymaker for telecom network providers. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile aim to upgrade mobile phone users to unlimited data plans. They also plan to sell “private 5G” connections to businesses, Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G connections to industrial devices.
The U.S. 5G experience is in the middle of a period of great change. U.S. wireless carriers will be soon be able to start using new mid-band spectrum (3.7 GHz, or C-band) in 46 markets from December. Together they have spent a combined $81.11bn in licences to improve the 5G experience with this additional capacity. Already, Opensignal has observed an impressive rise in T-Mobile users’ 5G Download Speed enabled by T-Mobile’s existing mid-band spectrum. Our T-Mobile 5G users saw their average 5G download speeds soar by 66.5%, from 71.3 Mbps in Opensignal’s April 2021 5G Experience report to 118.7 Mbps in the latest report published in October 2021.
This means that in our most recent analysis T-Mobile led by 62.7 Mbps over second placed Verizon and 67.2 Mbps over AT&T — with 5G download speeds more than twice as fast as those achieved by their competitors. In our new analysis we see that T-Mobile’s use of its 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum enabled this increase and non-standalone access was important here. Furthermore, this change helps explain the different amounts that each carrier spent in the C-band auction: Verizon, $45.45bn; AT&T, $23.41bn; while T-Mobile spent significantly less at $9.34bn.
To explain the change in 5G experience observed by our T-Mobile users, we analyzed their average 5G download speeds over time looking at the two different spectrum bands that the operator is focusing its 5G deployment efforts on — the 600 MHz (NR band 71) and 2.5 GHz (NR band 41).
Our analysis shows that T-Mobile’s surge in 5G Download Speed was driven by its ongoing deployment of the 2.5 GHz band. We observed that, not only T-Mobile expanded its use of the 2.5 GHz band over time, but the operator has also very likely increased the amount of spectrum capacity allocated for 5G in that band. In fact, we have seen the average 5G download speeds experienced by our T-Mobile users when connected to the 2.5 GHz band increase by more than 40% rising from 170.1 Mbps in March 2021 to 239.3 Mbps in September 2021. By contrast, average 5G speeds on the 600 MHz band had no statistically significant change and remained flat at slightly below 30 Mbps.
Notably, the bulk of the boost on the 2.5GHz band happened between March and July 2021 —an increase of 39.3% — after that average 5G speeds remained stable just above 235 Mbps. For context, in September 2021 T-Mobile said that it had deployed 60-80 MHz of the mid-band, up from the 40-50MHz it had been using in late 2020, and that stated that it is aiming to use 100 MHz on sites by the end of the year. Additional spectrum capacity makes it easier for users to see higher 5G speeds.
We saw much slower speeds that changed little when our T-Mobile users connected to the 600 MHz band. This is not surprising, given the propagation characteristics and amount of spectrum that T-Mobile owns on this band. Low bands like 600 MHz provide mobile coverage to wider areas with fewer cells deployed, but at a cost of more limited capacity. Mid-bands like 2.5 GHz, which T-Mobile acquired after its merger with Sprint, usually offer higher capacity, but need more cells per square mile to achieve similar coverage to the low bands.
T-Mobile refers to its 5G spectrum deployment strategy as a ‘layer cake’ — with low bands used for wide coverage, complemented by mid and higher frequency bands to provide greater capacity for small and dense city areas. The way T-Mobile uses these spectrum bands is consistent with what we observed in our analysis.
We then looked at the proportions of 5G readings that we collected when our users were connected to T-Mobile’s 600 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands. The share of 5G readings observed on the 2.5 GHz band has increased more than three times, from nearly 9% in March 2021 to over 27% in September 2021. This means that T-Mobile 5G users are able to access the 2.5GHz band more easily which further explains the increase in the overall 5G speed seen by T-Mobile users.
We investigated the role of standalone access (SA) and non-standalone access (NSA) 5G in explaining T-Mobile’s experience, building on our previous analysis of standalone 5G on T-Mobile. Now, we can see that the 2.5 GHz band is predominantly used with NSA and so SA is not the key reason for the improvement in 5G speeds (although it likely does continue to have other benefits).
Perhaps counterintuitively, the average 5G download speed our users saw on the 600 MHz band with SA was slower than on NSA. In part, this is because of the role of 4G bands in supporting the 5G experience when a smartphone is in NSA mode as we have seen in other markets (for example South Korea or in Europe).
“Opensignal’s latest report validates what our customers already know – T-Mobile’s differentiated approach to 5G is delivering meaningful 5G experiences now with ever-increasing speeds and expanding coverage,” said Neville Ray, president of Technology at T-Mobile, in a statement. “Our two-year lead on building 5G will continue as we add even more Ultra Capacity coverage and expand it to reach 200 million people nationwide this year. T-Mobile customers benefit from a real 5G network that today can power immersive and transformative experiences.”
T-Mobile justifiably claims they have the largest, fastest and most reliable 5G network. Nearly a dozen independent third-party reports this year also show how T-Mobile’s differentiated 5G deployment delivers meaningful connections to customers – naming T-Mobile 5G #1 in nationwide speed and availability. After recently launching a new Ultra Capacity 5G icon showing customers when they are in an area where they can tap into T-Mobile’s fastest 5G speeds, the number of customers testing T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G network increased. As customers learned how broadly Ultra Capacity 5G is available, they also experienced how game-changing mid-band 5G can be.
AT&T and Verizon will seek to boost their 5G experience with mid-band soon:
Our analysis shows that T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint’s mid-band spectrum assets through the merger allowed it to build a substantial lead over its competitors as measured in our recent USA 5G Experience reports. T-Mobile now has a significant competitive advantage over its competitors, which don’t have access to any mid-band spectrum bands just yet.
However, everything will change soon, as U.S. operators purchased licenses in the C-band spectrum band (3.7 – 3.98 GHz) during Auction 107 earlier this year. In fact, the first tranche of this C-band spectrum will be available for use by December 2021. Plus the second portion will be available by the end of 2023. T-Mobile’s 5G experience highlights the importance for Verizon and AT&T to maximize their use of new mid-band spectrum.
Peter Osvaldik (photo below), executive vice president & chief financial officer (CFO) of T-Mobile US provided a business update today at the BofA 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference.
“With respect to the (well advertised) data breach, T-Mobile US is not immune to criminal acts, but we have a responsibility to our customers which we take very seriously. We acted quickly to shut down the attack, investigate and get in touch with the consumers that were impacted. We definitely saw some temporary customer cautiousness. But now, several weeks later, consumer flows have normalized. We’re taking significant steps to enhance our security.”
“$750M annual T-Mo revenues would go away if Verizon is successful in acquiring Tracfone, which is clearly a competitor. We feel good in that space, especially with Metro by T-Mobile as the leading pre-paid service provider.”
“The network experience will become more compelling with 5G, especially mid band (2.5GHz) 5G with 300M bit/sec targeted speeds and the massive capacity that brings. We’re exactly in the right spot as we take these assets and deploy them at breakneck speeds.”
“We are the 5G (U.S.) leader and that lead will continue to grow. We were first to bring a differentiated rate plan (Magenta MAX) that won’t slow you down.”
“Certainly, from a network perspective, we’re not experiencing any supply chain issues. From a home broadband (FWA) perspective, sometimes demand did exceed supply. We’re already seeing increasing supply there. We feel very good about our momentum on the home broadband side of the house.”
“Samsung has really fallen behind the eight ball relative to other OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] on the global supply chain issue.” Osvaldik noted that Samsung discontinued its Galaxy Note smartphone “which many of our customers just loved,” and that many of the company’s S-series smartphones “are in very short supply.”
“A lot of our customer base are very significant Samsung lovers, and so we probably saw a little bit more of the supply chain issue there. Others (wireless network operators) that have an Apple oriented customer base have been less impacted.”
“The demand we’re seeing for FWA, with download speeds of 100 M bit/sec and soon to increase, is very strong. We have a target of 7 to 8M FWA customers by the end of 2025. We’re confident we’ll receive our target (number of subscribers) this year.”
“Large enterprises and government are a tremendous opportunity for us. It’s opened up a lot of conversations with government organizations. We’re very pleased with the traction we’ve seen.”
Peter Osvaldik, Executive Vice President & CFO, T-Mobile
T-Mobile US reported total revenues of $19.8 billion and service revenues of $14.2 billion in the last quarter. T-Mobile’s gain of 1.2M post-paid net additions was solidly ahead of Wall Street consensus of 1.0M, and was similar to last year’s pro forma gain of 1.3M. The company added 773K post-paid phone subscribers, dramatically better than last year’s pro-forma gain of just 104K, and blowing away consensus of 475K.
T-Mobile’s 773,000 postpaid phone customer additions during the first quarter handily beat AT&T’s 536,000 and Verizon’s loss of 178,000 customers, according to Walter Piecyk, a financial analyst at LightShed Partners. They continue to take market share. Their annual post-paid subscriber growth rate of 3.9% marks a sharp acceleration from the 2.7% growth rate reported last quarter.
T-Mobile has already migrated 20% of Sprint’s customers, and 50% of Sprint’s traffic (a doubling from
last quarter), to the much more robust T-Mobile network. The vast majority of Sprint customers
are already enjoying service benefits from access (even with legacy handsets) to T-Mobile’s
lower frequency spectrum bands.
T-Mobile: America’s Largest, Fastest and Most Reliable 5G Network Extends its Lead
- Extended Range 5G covers 295 million people across 1.6 million square miles, 4x more than Verizon and 2x more than AT&T
- Ultra Capacity 5G covers 140 million people and on track to cover 200 million people nationwide by the end of 2021
- Majority of independent third-party network benchmarking reports show T-Mobile as the clear leader in 5G speed and availability
- Network perception catching up to reality with a nearly 120 percent increase in consumers who view T-Mobile as “The 5G Company” since Q3 2019
Image Credit: T-Mobile
On the company’s earnings call, T-Mobile US CEO Mike Sievert said that “discerning customers” are choosing T-Mobile’s new Magenta Max pricing plan, which offers few limits in the amount of 5G data that customers can consume. T-Mobile’s new Magenta Max customers consume 40% more data than its other 5G customers, and fully 70% more data than T-Mobile’s average 4G LTE customers.
“The take rate has just been amazing,” T-Mobile CFO Peter Osvaldik said of Magenta Max. “There are premium customers that are attracted to this premium network.”
“We’ve never been able to outrun the insatiable demand that customers have,” Sievert said of Internet service providers in general. “So when you provide the industry’s only true, unlimited plan, they do what they do, they use it up.”
According to Sievert, that indicates that T-Mobile’s 5G network will be a big winner. “We’re really starting to pull away from the pack. T-Mobile is positioned to maintain our 5G leadership for the duration of the 5G era.”
In a great example of braggadocio, Sievert said:
“We have again demonstrated that our unique winning formula and balanced approach enables us to grow share while delivering strong financial results. In our increasingly connected world, we recognize our role as stewards of this profitable company and industry, while continuing to use our Un-carrier DNA to bring change to wireless and broadband alike, to disrupt the status quo and ultimately benefit customers. And this quarter was no exception.”
T-Mobile said it now covers fully 140 million people with its 2.5GHz network, which it calls “ultra capacity.” By the end of this year, the company said that number will increase to 200 million people. Meantime, speeds available on that network will rise from an average of 300 Mbit/s today to up to 400 Mbit/s by the end of this year, the operator said. 5G speeds will continue to rise after that, according to T-Mobile’s network chief Neville Ray. “2022 is going to be even better,” he said.
Analyst Craig Moffett (who participated in the earnings call) put somewhat of a damper on all that 5G hype by stating: “But we’re not in the 5G era yet. We’re not even a year into the first generation of 5G iPhones. Less than 10% of Americans have 5G-enabled phones, and half of those probably only got a new phone because they needed a replacement. 5G isn’t really driving handset selection, or service provider selection, yet.”
“That T-Mobile continues to take share even in the twilight of the LTE era is reassuring. In a world of roughly comparable networks, they are competing on the basis of price alone… and they are taking share rapidly. In 5G, they will compete not only on the basis of the industry’s lowest prices, but also the industry’s best network. As we’ve said before, T-Mobile’s ‘worst to first’ story is a generational one. Networks don’t achieve advantage overnight, and they don’t lose it overnight, either. Ten and twenty-year cycles in telecom aren’t unusual.”
“T-Mobile’s brand, and its network, have been ascendant for years. But they have, up to now, achieved only parity. Their path to network superiority is potentially even longer, and, we suspect, even brighter.”
T-Mobile continues to increase market share even in the twilight of the LTE era is reassuring. In a
world of roughly comparable networks, they are competing on the basis of price alone… and they
are taking share rapidly. In 5G, they will compete not only on the basis of the industry’s lowest prices, but also the industry’s best network.
Following this week’s Verizon-AWS announcement on Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), T-Mobile US has entered the mobile edge computing business using wireline carrier Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) as its initial preferred vendor.
T-Mobile US has taken a decidedly different MEC approach compared to its two domestic rivals (Verizon and AT&T). The U.S.’s #2 wireless network operator effectively views the edge as a latter opportunity that doesn’t merit a large initial investment. Its edge computing initiatives are exclusively focused on businesses and government agencies that fall under Lumen’s enterprise unit and T-Mobile for business.
“By pairing America’s largest and fastest 5G network with Lumen’s enterprise solutions, we can break down industry barriers and deliver unparalleled network reach to enterprise and government organizations looking to optimize their applications across networks,” Mike Katz, EVP for T-Mobile for Business, said in a prepared statement. “With our leading 5G network, Lumen and T-Mobile have the opportunity to accelerate business innovation in an era where the network is more critical than ever,” Katz added,
Enterprise applications will likely benefit from Lumen’s hundreds of thousands of fiber connected enterprise locations paired with T-Mobile’s “largest and fastest 5G network.”
“The Lumen platform, with 60 plus planned edge market nodes distributed on our high-capacity global fiber network enables application designs with latency of 5 milliseconds or less between the workload and the endpoint device,” wrote David Shacochis, VP of enterprise technology and field CTO at Lumen.
“Lumen’s fiber reach and edge computing resources can augment business solutions for T-Mobile customers, and private wireless solutions can augment business solutions for Lumen customers,” Shacochis added.
“The companies envision starting with metropolitan areas where they are already well connected, and expanding their joint go-to-market over time,” Shacochis wrote, adding that more details about commercial availability and services will be shared throughout 2021.
These efforts aim to address the pressing needs of enterprises to transform their networks to meet the data-intensive challenges across a variety of industries and use cases. Both companies will also continue to drive innovation in this space through T-Mobile’s labs and Tech Experience Center and the Lumen Edge Experience Center.
“Our relationship with T-Mobile aims to introduce a powerful trifecta – access to national 5G wireless and fiber connectivity, managed services across a range of technologies and edge computing resources,” said Shaun Andrews, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Lumen Technologies. “T-Mobile’s expansive 5G footprint coupled with our extensive edge computing platform would provide enterprise developers with the best of both worlds to power the next wave of digital business.”
- For a current list of Lumen live and planned edge locations, visit: https://www.lumen.com/en-us/solutions/edge-computing.html#edge-computing-map
- The Lumen low latency network is comprised of approximately 450,000 global route miles of fiber and more than 180,000 on-net buildings, seamlessly connected to:
- 2,200 public and private third-party data centers in North America, Europe & Middle East, Latin America, and Asia Pacific
- Leading public cloud service providers including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute & Azure Government, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud and Oracle Cloud
T-Mobile’s partnership with Lumen is likely just the beginning. “As in all things with 5G, I think a lot of our efforts have to be done through partnerships,” said John Saw, EVP of advanced and emerging technologies at T-Mobile. Apparently, the network operator will form partnerships with many of the big vendors in the space, including hyperscalers (Google, Amazon, Microsoft), and other specialized mobile edge computing vendors.
Similarly, Shacochis said Lumen is also “open to and looking at” other partnerships in the wireless space. Lumen executives outlined a plan to offer edge compute services in August 2019. The company deployed its first block of edge nodes and obtained its first customer in Q3-2020, before formally launching its edge platform in December 2020.
Building on cloud partnerships with Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS), Lumen bolstered its edge capabilities through additional deals with VMware and IBM.
T-Mobile has begun shuttering Sprint’s network in a few locations following its acquisition, but doesn’t expect to really start until 2021-to-2022.
Talking with a fireplace in the background during a UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference on December 8th, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in response to a question about when Sprint’s network will shut down: “We’ve already done some on an isolated basis.”
T-Mobile has boasted of $6 billion in savings through its Sprint merger which has resulted in a single “master brand.”
We can go into an area, and as we get capacity on the destination T-Mobile network, we can migrate traffic off the Sprint network on to that destination network without having to touch those rate plans or billing relationships at all. We might move the brand relationship from Sprint to T-Mobile in advance of that or we might wait until later.
T-Mobile acquired Sprint for $26 billion earlier this year. Industry observers have been awaiting news on the company’s plans to shutter the old network as the “New T-Mobile” rolls out—which promises 14 times more capacity in six years than standalone T-Mobile has today. Sievert went on to say most of the shutdowns won’t happen until 2022 when at least most of Sprint’s legacy customers should have transitioned over to T-Mobile’s network.
This isn’t T-Mobile’s first acquisition and network shut down. In 2012, T-Mobile acquired MetroPC’s regional network and then dismantled it. It’s a fairly standard practice which Sprint did in 2016. After acquiring Clearwire, Sprint shut down the WiMax network it so highly promoted as the first real 4G.
T-Mobile’s 3G network is based on GSM while Sprint uses CDMA. Running two competing 3G networks simultaneously doesn’t help the bottom line. Both telcos support 4G LTE which is the ONLY 4G network since no carrier deployed WiMax Advanced.
Sievert summed up the Sprint network integration with this statement:
It’s really important that we use our capacity to migrate Sprint mobile customers over, right? So, we’re going to be — while we’re revenue-farming spectrum and building the destination network that’s our priority. So, you’ll see us go at pace for the first couple of years on broadband because the bigger prize for our shareholders is synergy attainment.
“What we’ve got at the dawn of the 5G era is the ability to lead all through this era with a superior product and a superior value simultaneously, something no company has ever been positioned to do. And obviously, they see that and they feel that they need to act. Now, they’ll try and convince you that what they’re doing is economic. By the way, it’s nothing too extraordinary, nor surprising.”
With respect to use of 600MHz for 5G is 2 or 3 times faster than 4G-LTE. Sievert said:
As of the last quarterly announcement, we were reaching about 270 million people with 600 megahertz Extended Range 5G. And that’s 5G even more on 4G LTE. These are dedicated lanes, and to your point, increasing dedicated lanes, because during this farming process and transition process, we’re actually leasing additional 600 megahertz spectrum from a variety of parties.
And what that allows us to do is to open up really wide dedicated Extended Range 5G lanes, so different than what you’re seeing from our competitors with DSS instead. They don’t have those dedicated lanes. And so they’re having to divide up their LTE spectrum into both technologies. It doesn’t get you much.
Our dedicated Extended Range 600 megahertz 5G is two times faster, in some cases, three times faster than LTE. So it’s a really nice pickup and experience for customers, but importantly, also gives us the capacity that we need to move quickly on migration. And that’s obviously the bigger payday for us and for customers. So those are the numbers.
About 1.4 million square miles as of the last quarterly announcement. That’s about three times what Verizon has, about double what AT&T had around that time. And again, we announced that we weren’t stopping there. We’re moving very quickly for the year-end time period. Next time we talk to you shortly after the New Year, we’ll have covered significantly more than those numbers. And so terrific progress there.
Most of the phones are compatible with 600 on the LTE front. Right now, close to 6 million on the 5G front and rapidly growing, because as you know, some of the most popular ones have only very recently been launched. And again this is something — this level of device compatibility is not something we had in prior mergers. And, boy, is it great to see, because we’re able — again, it’s a thing that’s allowing us to move quickly.
The company will add its newly-acquired midband 2.5GHz spectrum to its existing low band 600MHz 5G network. Sievert comments were very strong and “game changing”:
We’re tracking really nicely, to be at 100 million 5G covered people by the end of this year, certainly, by the next time we talk to you. That’s incredible.
The other guys are bumping around, like a Verizon with Ultra Wideband, maybe 2, 3, 4 million. And they’re talking about a lot of new cities, but little parts of cities and towns. You know their strategy. I predict they’re going to have a wholesale change in their strategy over at Verizon. They’re going to discover that they need to have a mid-band-centric 5G approach.
This is the way that you get very-very high ultra capacity 5G experiences to people by the millions and tens of millions. Our signal reaches miles, not meters. And so, that’s really important for the everyday experience. And people are going to see — across these tens of millions of people, they’re going to see an experience that’s not a little bit better than 4G LTE, but a transformation. So 7, 8, 9, 10 times faster, 300, 400 megabits per second, peak speeds over 1 gigabit. And this isn’t just a little smattering of certain street corners and when the leaves aren’t out. This is across vast swaths of the country.
So that’s really game changing. And it’s probably the place where we lead the most. And it’s going to be what millions of people see. It’s going to be FOMO, it’s going to be bragging rights. And everybody is going to be able to see this difference that T-Mobile is able to give you across massive swaths of the country.
100 million as we exit this year into the first part of 2021 and then 200 million as we exit next year. And so, this is game-changing. And it was a huge part of why we worked so hard to get this merger done, because we knew how it would benefit tens of millions of people and by extension, benefit our business.
T-Mobile CTO Ray Neville has said is “really going to deliver an incredible 5G experience.”
Neville said in May that T-Mobile’s plan is to grow the company’s ~65,000 towers to 85,000 macro cell sites by building 15,000 new cell towers and decommissioning unnecessary, overlapping Sprint cell sites. T-Mobile says that it’s been adding 2.5GHz transmission radios to its existing towers at the rate of roughly 1,000 per month.
The company claims to be the first wireless telco to deploy a 5G Stand Alone (SA)/ 5G core network.
Sievert’s 5G boasting hit a peak with this statement:
In 5G, that’s our opportunity. We’re starting out way ahead and we intend to lead for the entire era. And not just be the best 5G network in terms of speed and capacity but to be the best network. And this – we’re a pure-play wireless company. And we know that in order to win, we have to have the best and the leading network in this country. And we have to become famous for it, which frankly is even harder because brands are stubborn. Brands are powerful.
That helps us on some fronts because simultaneous to being the best network in this country we’re the best value. And consumers and businesses already give us credit for that. We can’t lose that. We build behind it and lead through the entirety of the 5G era on network.
And then the third leg of the stool is experiences. Our company believes in delivering the best experiences. We have the highest Net Promoter Scores in the history of this industry. We’ve won five years in a row on J.D. Power for both consumers and businesses. Customers love us because we hire the best people and we have a culture of treating customers with respect and love. And so when you have the best value, the best network and the best experiences, that’s a winning formula. And we intend to lead with that formula through the entire 5G decade.
With respect to the legacy wireless competition, especially AT&T, Sievert said:
I don’t think we’ve caught AT&T on revenues yet. So, we surpassed them on customers. It’s always hard to tell what these comparisons. Our competitors can always provide the same exact transparency that we do.
But we think we’re right behind them on revenues. And so there’s a few differences between our model and the others. One is we have a denser network grid which is going to convey some of that advantage that I talked about that’s so important for growth. So, we intend to be a share taker and a grower through the time period and there’s always some cost to near-term margins to that very small.
We also intend to continue being the best value and there’s a small cost to that on margins. But both of those accrue to terminal value and growth rates and enterprise value-creation potential. And so there are things that are deliberate and we’re proud of and plan to keep.
Beyond that there aren’t that big of differences. And so you’ll see synergy attainment close the gap. And there will be differences as I just said, but between synergies and cost transformation of bringing these companies together, you’ll see that margin gap start to close. And we’ll talk more about it when we lay out more of our plans. But everything we talked about in 2018 when we announced this merger in terms of long-term potential, we still see. And in fact in some cases we see it unfolding better than we had anticipated back in 2018.
On the enterprise (business) market, Sievert said:
One of our biggest growth engines right now is enterprise. And we’re very focused not just on the here and now, but what enterprises want two and three and four years from now. And again, we’ve got this big network capacity, including the spectrum that backs up the network. And ultimately that gives us tools to be able to work with enterprises around the kinds of solutions that they may want in the future for dedicated networks, very low-latency, high-capacity dedicated networks with advanced dedicated spectrum capabilities. And there’s really exciting opportunities there.
Some of them are more two and three years out before they contribute in a very big way. But they’re real. And ultimately we’re so well positioned for that part of the market. Right now what we’re doing is selling our macro capabilities. And enterprises unlike consumers, where we have a bit of a brand deficit, we’ve got to overcome on network, meaning we’re not famous yet, as the best network in the space.
Enterprises don’t care about any of that, because they check out 100 phones and test them for a few weeks and then they come back and pick us. And so that’s a tailwind on our business. You’re seeing it in our present performance. In Q3, we had an all-time record on enterprise sales and you’re going to see it continue. It’s something that we’re really, really focused on a big growth engine for the company. 90-plus percent of the customers out there are with somebody else.
T-Mobile US will increase its Home Internet service to more than 130 additional cities and towns across Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The move comes after it massively expanded its home broadband pilot to more than 20 million households in October.
The $50/month Home Internet pilot service will be deployed in underserved rural markets — through LTE-based coverage, with 5G service coming soon. The company says that only 63 percent of adults in rural America currently have access to high-speed internet.
“Home broadband has been broken for far too long, especially for those in rural areas, and it’s time that cable and telco ISPs have some competition,” said Dow Draper, T-Mobile EVP, Emerging Products. “We’ve already brought T-Mobile Home Internet access to millions of customers who have been underserved by the competition. But we’re just getting started. As we’ve seen in our first few months together with Sprint, our combined network will continue to unlock benefits for our customers, laying the groundwork to bring 5G to Home Internet soon.”
T-Mobile Home Internet is just $50/month all-in and features many of the same benefits that have made T-Mobile the fastest growing wireless provider for the past seven years:
- Self-installation. That means there’s no need for installers to come to your home.
- Taxes and fees included.
- No annual service contracts.
- No maddening “introductory” price offers. What you pay at sign-up is what you’ll pay as long as you have service.
- No hardware rental, sign-up fee or installation costs (because set-up is so easy!).
- No data caps.
- Customer support from the team that consistently ranks #1 in customer service satisfaction year after year.
Now that customers have had access to T-Mobile Home Internet since 2019, the reviews are in … and the feedback speaks for itself. Customers give T-Mobile Home Internet an average Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 42, compared to -75 (that’s a negative 75!) for their previous provider. Seventy-three percent report saving money with T-Mobile Home Internet, with 50% saving more than $30 per month (that’s $360 annually!).
The Home Internet pilot provides home broadband on the Un-carrier’s LTE network. With additional capacity unlocked by the merger with Sprint, T-Mobile is preparing to launch 5G Home Internet commercially nationwide, covering more than 50% of U.S. households within six years and providing a badly needed alternative to incumbent cable and telco ISPs.
Home broadband is one of the most uncompetitive and hated industries in America. Rural areas in particular lack options: more than three-quarters have no high-speed broadband service or only one option available. And when there’s no choice, customers suffer. It’s no wonder internet service providers have the second lowest customer satisfaction ratings out of 46 industries, beating cable and satellite TV companies by just one point according to the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index)!
T-Mobile Home Internet service is available on a first-come, first-served basis, where coverage is eligible, based on equipment inventory and local network capacity, which is expanding all the time. For more information on T-Mobile Home Internet or to check availability for your home in these areas, visit t-mobile.com/isp.
T-Mobile US 3rd quarter 2020 results, reported today, were highlighted by crossing the 100 million wireless “customer” milestone (more clarity below) after reporting record-high postpaid net subscriber additions that were nearly as much as the rest of the U.S. telco industry combined. Controlled by Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile reported third-quarter earnings of $1 per share, down a penny from $1.01 a share a year earlier. Including the merger with Sprint, pro-forma revenue rose 74% to $19.3 billion, the company said. The Sprint merger closed April 1st.
Since closing its merger with Sprint seven months ago, T-Mobile has been driving hard on integration including unifying employees and customers under one brand, rapidly improving the Sprint customer experience, and quickly rolling out 2.5 GHz spectrum to build the world’s best 5G network. Merger synergies are being realized faster than expected and the company expects to deliver more than $1.2 billion of synergies in 2020.
“Last quarter T-Mobile overtook AT&T to become #2 in U.S. wireless and today we announced our highest ever postpaid net adds. Now, with over 100 million wireless customers and America’s largest 5G network, there is no doubt that we’re the growth leader in wireless,” said Mike Sievert, T–Mobile CEO. “Customers are choosing T-Mobile in record numbers because we are the only ones that can deliver this combination of value and experience with a true 5G network that is available to customers in every single state! We’re consistently and profitably outpacing the competition – and we’re just getting started!”
T-Mo’s strong financial results included:
• Total service revenues increased year-over-year to $14.1 billion in Q3 2020, driven by the Sprint merger and continued customer growth.
• Total revenues increased year-over-year to $19.3 billion in Q3 2020, driven by the Sprint merger and continued customer growth.
• Net income increased year-over-year to $1.3 billion in Q3 2020, as revenue growth outpaced expense increases. Merger-related costs were $288 million pre-tax and $208 million, net of tax, in Q3 2020.
• EPS was relatively flat year-over-year at $1.00 in Q3 2020, as growth in net income was offset by a higher number of outstanding shares as a result of the Sprint merger.
• Adjusted EBITDA increased year-over-year to $7.1 billion in Q3 2020 primarily due to the Sprint merger and continued customer growth.
• Net cash provided by operating activities increased year-over-year to $2.8 billion in Q3 2020.
• Cash purchases of property and equipment including capitalized interest increased year-over-year to $3.2 billion in Q3 2020, as the company accelerated the build-out of its nationwide 5G network and ramped network integration activities related to the Sprint merger.
• Free Cash Flow decreased year-over-year to $352 million in Q3 2020.
Delivering Merger Synergies Faster Than Expected:
T-Mobile says it remains highly confident in its ability to deliver $43 billion of synergies and achieve the $6 billion of annualized savings from the Sprint merger from a combination of cost avoidance and expense reductions. In fact, the company is delivering faster than expected and targeting more than $1.2 billion of synergies in 2020. The company said in its earnings report that they:
• Expect more than $600 million of network synergies primarily from avoided new site builds and early site decommissioning.
• Expect approximately $500 million of sales, service and marketing synergies primarily from accelerated rationalization of retail stores, marketing consolidation and organizational redesign.
• Expect approximately $100 million of back office synergies primarily from accelerated organizational redesign.
The network team is quickly adding capacity to the T-Mobile network to facilitate more Sprint customer traffic. 15 percent of Sprint postpaid customer traffic has already been moved over to the T-Mobile network and customer network migrations have begun, as the company enabled cross-provisioning last month, thus separating the network migration from the billing system migration and enabling gross additions and upgrades from Sprint customers to be activated on the T-Mobile network.
The company also added 1.29 million devices other than phones to its network in the third quarter as school districts built out wireless hot spots to students during the coronavirus pandemic. The increased new wireless connections pushed T-Mobile’s total customer base to 100.4 million. T-Mo counts any wireless device with its own mobile identifier as a single customer.
Management also said that 15% of former Sprint traffic has been shifted over to the T-Mobile network. T-Mobile said its 5G network currently covers 270 million Americans. But that’s mostly on lower-frequency spectrum bands that meet the technical requirements of 5G but don’t deliver the full speed and capacity benefits the new technology promises. Sievert said Thursday that T-Mobile expects to have nationwide 5G coverage on the mid-band 2.5 GHz spectrum by the end of next year.
Extending 5G Network Leadership:
T-Mobile says they’re on a mission to build America’s best 5G network, offering all of the Un-carrier customers unrivalled coverage and capacity in every place that they live, work and play. The company has already been the first to launch a nationwide 5G network, first to launch standalone 5G (without a 5G core network implementation standard), and first to have 5G coverage in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
- America’s largest 5G network covers 270 million people in 8,300 cities and towns across 1.4 million square miles. That’s more square miles of 5G coverage than Verizon and AT&T combined – 3.5x more than Verizon and 2x more than AT&T.
- T-Mobile continued to leverage its network to expand into new complementary 5G business opportunities like broadband and video to grow revenue per household. ◦ Expanded its Home Internet Pilot service to parts of 450 cities and towns, laying the groundwork for a nationwide 5G commercial launch of fixed wireless broadband.
- Launched its latest Un-carrier move with the introduction of next-gen streaming services TVision LIVE, VIBE and CHANNELS, and the TVision HUB, a new streaming device.
Image Credit: GoranJakus/Dreamstime …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
T-Mo marketing boss Matt Staneff said remote classes triggered a surge in demand for broadband connections, though the company only counted what it considered long-term accounts among the customer additions. School districts in California and New York were among the first to provide the cellular hot spots to students without enough internet bandwidth at home. “We have the capacity in the network to handle all this traffic,” Mr. Staneff said. “The education system was caught off guard and will never want to be that way again.”
Regarding the wireless telco’s 5G leadership in the U.S., analyst Craig Moffett wrote:
T-Mobile, can benefit from 5G simply by taking market share (from AT&T and Sprint). T-Mobile’s 5G network will be the first to offer significant mid-band coverage, and therefore to deliver meaningfully higher-than-4G speeds, and that advantage is likely to last for years into the future. That advantage will matter most in precisely the segment in which T-Mobile under-indexes most: business wireless.
That T-Mobile is poised to be first in 5G is an extraordinary turn of events. When AT&T made its ill-fated bid to buy TMobile in 2011, T-Mobile was a distant fourth place network. Their 3G GSM network was fast, but coverage was poor, and they compensated with ultra-low prices. T-Mobile made huge strides towards closing that gap in the 4G era, but their position in business wireless still lags. Their prices have remained the industry’s lowest, and their urban speeds are often now the industry’s fastest, but their coverage map is just now catching up. In 5G, T-Mobile won’t just catch Verizon on network quality; we expect they will pass them by. Worst-to-first stories are rare. You don’t have to believe that 5G is “the next big thing” to believe that T-Mobile itself is, well, “the next big thing.”
When T-Mobile’s 2.5 GHz spectrum is more or less fully deployed, they will have 2.5 GHz-based 5G available to 100M pops (potential 5G subscribers- NOT traditional Point of Presence) by the end of 2020. By the end of 2021, T-Mobile’s 5G service will be genuinely differentiated.
Spectrum licenses acquired from Sprint have helped T-Mobile engineers to expand their 5G footprint. The company said its existing 5G towers cover about 270 million Americans.
This post is actually three separate articles concerning “Ericsson in the news” today. Rather, than read all three parts, simply scroll down to the story that interests you. Let me (and others) know what you think by commenting in the box below the article.
1. Multi-User MIMO demo with T-Mobile US
T-Mobile US and Ericsson demonstrated a 16-layer multi-user multi-input multi-output (MU-MIMO) [1.] on one channel of 2.5 GHz spectrum. The peak cellular data rate was more than 5.6 Gbps.
During the test, engineers connected eight separate smartphones to the same 5G radio and resources using MU-MIMO and beamforming in a specific direction to achieve more than 700 Mbps data rate on each device.
Note 1. Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) is a set of multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) technologies for wireless communication, in which a set of users or wireless terminals, each with one or more antennas, communicate with each other.
In contrast, single-user MIMO considers a single multi-antenna transmitter communicating with a single multi-antenna receiver. In a similar way that OFDMA adds multiple access (multi-user) capabilities to OFDM, MU-MIMO adds multiple access (multi-user) capabilities to MIMO. MU-MIMO has been investigated since the beginning of research into multi-antenna communication.
Using MU-MIMO, T-Mobile US could potentially connect many more devices to the same cell infrastructure and still deliver very fast speeds to all of them. Using that set of technologies, wireless telcos might be able to deliver even better 5G performance to more people than was expected.
Using a commercially available massive MIMO radio with 64 antennas from Ericsson and OnePlus 8 5G smartphones T-Mobile sells today, 16 unique data streams were transmitted. Each stream was capable of transmitting/receiving at more than 350 Mbps. With two data streams for each device, that’s 700+ Mbps for each smartphone, all using the same radio resources at the same time.
With 100 MHz of total 5G spectrum used in the demonstration, T-Mobile US was able to achieve a 50+ bps/Hz in spectral efficiency. That is much higher than the single digit efficiency typically experienced today.
“This is what you get when you pair T-Mobile’s unmatched spectrum portfolio with the best damn team in wireless — innovation that changes the game for the entire industry,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile. “We have a 5G network that’s second to none, and it’s getting better by the day thanks to our amazing engineers and partners. Just wait until you see what they do next for our customers!”
T-Mobile US expects to begin deploying this technology in 2021 as they continue the goal of building America’s best 5G network.
For more information about T-Mobile’s 5G vision, visit: www.t-mobile.com/5g. To see all the places you’ll get T-Mobile’s current 5G down to a neighborhood level, check out the map at www.t-mobile.com/coverage/5g-coverage-map.
2. Ericsson partners with Telefónica on Spain 5G launch
Ericsson is providing new 3.5Ghz radio equipment and software upgrades to 5G-ready Ericsson radios in Telefónica’s network. With Ericsson Radio System products already deployed in parts of Telefónica Spain’s network, fast, flexible, and cost-efficient 5G activation is made easier.
Joaquín Mata, CTO, Telefónica Spain, says: “The launch of our 5G network constitutes a leap forward towards the hyper connectivity that will change the future of Spain. We are very pleased with the collaboration with Ericsson to build one of the best 5G networks in Europe.”
Arun Bansal, President of Ericsson Europe and Latin America, says: “With our leading technology, Telefónica will offer its customers 5G faster and support them to reach 75 percent coverage of the population by the end of the year. With our swift 5G roll-out, Spain is ready for the next digital revolution and Ericsson is proud to be powering it together with Telefónica.”
As the industry evolves towards RAN virtualization, with virtual RAN or Open RAN (O-RAN), it is important that a risk-based approach is taken to adequately address security.Virtualization throughout the network and a service-based architecture means that security needs to be handled in a new way.5G will accelerate innovation and provide transformative use cases across multiple global sectors. However, it will also bring new security challenges for the mobile ecosystem, with broader attack surfaces, more devices and increased traffic loads. We must have networks that are trustworthy, resilient, and secure at every phase of the system lifecycle. These new security challenges are addressed by 3GPP’s SA3 security work group.
Expanded threat surface
The introduction of new and additional touch points in O-RAN architecture, along with the decoupling of hardware and software, has the potential to expand the threat and attack surface of the network in numerous ways, including:
- New interfaces increase threat surface – for example, open fronthaul, A1, E2, etc.
- Near-Real-Time (RT) RIC and 3PP xApps introduces new threats that could be exploited
- Decoupling of hardware increases threat to Trust Chain
- Management interfaces may not be secured to industry best practices
- (not exclusive to O-RAN): adherence to Open Source best practices
These and other areas are explored in greater depth in Ericsson’s report, Security considerations of Open RAN. Many of these items are being studied in several O-RAN Alliance working groups, including the Security Task Group, a consensus-based standards group that will ensure that O-RAN implementations meet the levels of security expected by the industry.
Ericsson is committed to providing leadership and guidance in the O-RAN Alliance on these emerging areas of study. In the meantime, let’s take an in-depth look at just one of these new areas of risk:
Weakened Links in the Trust Chain
Virtualization and the use of cloud platforms give the possibility to utilize hardware resources better between different applications, but it will also introduce security risks as isolation between applications are only “logical” in software without physical isolation across hardware resources. Recently discovered vulnerabilities like Meltdown and Spectre reveal that there can be increased security risks when sharing hardware resources.
To establish a secure and trusted communication channel between two endpoints, one needs first to authenticate each side before a secure (confidentiality and integrity-protected) channel can be established. To authenticate each endpoint, a unique identifier and one or more credentials that shall be kept secret are needed. To protect the credentials in a computer environment, hardware security functionality such as Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Hardware Security Module (HSM), and secure enclaves, are used to establish a hardware root of trust.
In the case of virtualization and cloud environments, there are many layers that need to be considered to ensure the trust chain is maintained between applications and the underlying hardware. The authentication process is the base for establishing a secure communication channel, but it must trust the layers underneath to attest that the node, layer or data set has not been compromised. For example, a node could request a valid service, authenticate correctly to the system and be authorized to use that service yet still represent a malicious threat if it is running on compromised firmware.
As there are different layers between the hardware and its security functions and the application, one needs standardized interfaces and APIs to use the hardware security functions and allow those to attest to and validate the layers above. Together with standardized and interoperable APIs, there must also be a transparency to how the different layers use and provide the security functions in the chain, especially as different hardware vendors may have different security functions, capabilities or implementation variances.
Ericsson will continue its leadership role within the O-RAN Alliance and its Security Task Group to incorporate security best practices, ensuring that new deployments are ready to meet the level of security, resilience and performance expected by service providers and their customers.
The Open RAN Policy Coalition, a U.S. special interest (i.e. lobbying) group looking for U.S. government funding for Open RAN technology, today announced several new members (American Tower, Broadcom, GigaTera Communications, Inseego, Ligado Networks, Nvidia, RIFT, Texas Instruments and Xilinx). Ericsson is not a member, but arch rival Nokia is. Cloud giants AWS, Google and Facebook are members. Obviously, Chinese vendors aren’t welcome to join the Coalition. The complete Coalition membership list is here.
Coalition members believe that by standardizing or “opening” the protocols and interfaces between the various subcomponents (radios, hardware and software) in the RAN, we move to an environment where networks can be deployed with a more modular design without being dependent upon a single vendor. The Coalition will promote policies that:
- Support global development of open and interoperable wireless technologies;
- Signal government support for open and interoperable solutions;
- Use government procurement to support vendor diversity;
- Fund research and development;
- Remove barriers to 5G deployment; and
- Avoid heavy-handed or prescriptive solutions
The FCC is scheduled to host an open RAN forum on September 14th. FCC Chairman Pai will host experts at the forefront of the development and deployment of open, interoperable, standards-based, virtualized radio access networks to discuss this innovative new approach to 5G network architecture.
Panelists include representatives from Nokia, Parallel Wireless, Mavenir, Altiostar, HP Enterprise, Dell, VM Ware, and other would be Open RAN hardware/software vendors. But Ericsson will not be among them.
T-Mobile USA claims they are the first wireless network operator in the world to launch a commercial nationwide standalone 5G network (5G SA). The “Un-carrier” is also expanding 5G coverage by 30 percent, now covering nearly 250 million people in more than 7,500 cities and towns across 1.3 million square miles.
“Since Sprint became part of T-Mobile, we’ve been rapidly combining networks for a supercharged Un-carrier while expanding our nationwide 5G footprint, and today we take a massive step into the future with standalone 5G architecture,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile. “This is where it gets interesting, opening the door for massive innovation in this country — and while the other guys continue to play catch up, we’ll keep growing the world’s most advanced 5G network.”
IEEE Techblog readers know that all previously deployed (pre-standard) “5G” networks focused on delivering new 5G radio (3GPP Rel 15 5G NR) in the data plane while leveraging existing LTE core networks, management and signaling in the control plane. With a new 5G Core network, T-Mobile engineers have already seen up to a 40% improvement in latency during testing. T-Mo claims:
“This is just the beginning of what can be done with Standalone 5G. When coupled with core network slicing in the future, 5G SA will lead to an environment where transformative applications are made possible — things like connected self-driving vehicles, supercharged IoT, real-time translation … and things we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”
In the near-term, 5G SA enables T-Mobile US to unleash its entire 600 MHz footprint for 5G. With non-standalone network architecture (NSA), 600 MHz 5G is combined with mid-band LTE to access the core network, but without SA the 5G signal only goes as far as mid-band LTE. With today’s launch, 600 MHz 5G can go beyond the mid-band signal, covering hundreds of square miles from a single tower and going deeper into buildings than before.
To make the world’s first nationwide commercial SA 5G network a reality, T-Mobile partnered closely with Cisco and Nokia to build its 5G core, and Ericsson and Nokia for state-of-the-art 5G radio infrastructure.
OnePlus, Qualcomm Technologies and Samsung have helped the Un-carrier ensure existing 5G endpoint devices can access 5G SA with a software update, based on compatibility. The 5G SA software update is required to activate the 5G SA functionality. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G requires a software download (available August 4, 2020) to enable 5G SA operation.
For more information about T-Mobile’s 5G vision, visit: www.t-mobile.com/5g. To see all the places you’ll get T-Mobile’s current 5G down to a neighborhood level, check out the map here: www.t-mobile.com/coverage/5g-coverage-map.
Comment and Analysis: Specs for 5G Core (there is no standard)
T-Mo’s launch of standalone 5G is noteworthy considering there are no standards for 5G Core from any SDO! ITU-T IMT 2020 non radio aspects SG’s aren’t even working on it!
Yeah, we know about 3GPP Rel 16 5G Core/Architecture specs:
- TS 23.501 5G Systems Architecture, with annexes which describe 5G core deployment scenarios
- TS 23.502  contains the stage 2 procedures and flows for 5G System
- TS 23.503  contains the stage 2 Policy Control and Charging architecture for 5G System
Collectively, all three of the above referenced 3GPP Rel 16 5G Systems Architecture documents do not specify the detailed mechanisms, protocols and procedures to implement a 5G core network.
For example, there are many software choices for implementing a “cloud native” 5G Core: containers, virtualized network functions, kubernetes, micro-services. Each Network Function (NF) offers one or more services to other NFs via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). And there is no standard for the APIs associated with a given NF!
The only 5G Core implementation spec we know of is from GSMA. It’s titled: “5G Implementation Guidelines: SA Option 2.” That document provides a checklist for operators that are planning to launch 5G networks in SA (Standalone) Option 2 configuration, technological, spectrum and regulatory considerations in the deployment. The current version of the document currently provides detailed guidelines for implementation of 5G using Option 2, reflecting the initial launch strategy being adopted by multiple operators. There is an implementation guideline for NSA Option 3 already available.
However, as described in “GSMA Operator Requirements for 5G Core Connectivity Options” there is a need for the industry ecosystem to support all of the 5G core connectivity options (namely Option 4, Option 5 and Option 7). As a result, further guidelines for all 5G deployment options will be provided in the future.
GSMA says “5G Stand Alone to Become Reality“:
“The deployment of fully virtualized networks using 5G Stand Alone Cores, thereby facilitating Edge Computing and Network Slicing, will enable enterprises and governments to reap the many benefits from high throughput, ultra-low latency and IoT to improve productivity and enhance services to their customers,” said Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA.
Other Voices on 5G Core Deployments:
1. From Rakuten CTO Tareq Amin via email to this author:
– Containerization/Cloud native 5G Core from Rakuten-NEC:
3GPP specification requires cloud native architecture as the general concept like distributed, stateless, and scalable. However, an explicit reference model is out of scope for 3GPP specification (TS 23.501). Therefore NEC 5GC cloud native architecture is based on 3GPP “openness” concept as well as ETSI NFV treats “container” and “cloud native,” which NEC is also actively investigating to apply its product.
2. Alex Quach, VP of Intel’s Data Platforms Group, said most operators around the world are still leveraging a 4G core network. “The way different service providers implement their 5G core is going to vary,” said Quach. “Every service provider has unique circumstances. The transition to a new 5G core is going to be different for every operator.”
4. Asked if SK Telecom has now completed its 5G Standalone core network, the South Korean carrier was vague in an email reply to FierceWireless. “To commercialize standalone 5G service in Korea, we are currently making diverse R&D efforts including conducting tests in both lab and commercial environment. Our latest achievements include the world’s first standalone (SA) 5G data session on our multi-vendor commercial 5G network.
3GPP Rel 16 5G Core/Architecture specs:
- TS 23.501 5G Systems Architecture, with annexes which describe 5G core deployment scenarios:
- TS 23.502  contains the stage 2 procedures and flows for 5G System
- TS 23.503  contains the stage 2 Policy Control and Charging architecture for 5G System