Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCa) And AT&T Spark – All About 5G

We attended Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCa) in Los Angeles, CA this week, as well as the AT&T Spark event in San Francisco.  Since 5G is launching first the US, these two events became the public events where significant 5G-related announcements happened.

  • Verizon.  Will launch 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) on October 1 in four markets: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
  • AT&T.  The company reiterated its own 5G plans (mobile 5G by year-end 2018 in cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, Waco, Houston, Jacksonville, Lousville, New Orleans and San Antonia), plus it made some announcements like that it is beginning 5G-ready CBRS equipment testing (using Samsung CBRS equipment and CommScope as SAS provider).  Also, at the Spark event on Monday, the company announced three strategic telecom equipment suppliers, Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung.
  • T-Mobile.  Announced that it had completed a Cisco vEPC system (upgradeable to 5G Core) carrying traffic for 70M users that was from Cisco.  It also announced that it signed a $3.5B 5G agreement with Ericsson.  This is in addition to the July 30 announcement made earlier with Nokia for $3.5B, as well.  Generally, the company has set expectations as recently as September 10 that it will provide nationwide 5G by the year 2020.
  • Sprint.  Announced that it had demonstrated a 5G NR connection of Massive MIMO with Nokia equipment.

Additionally, discussions about spectrum in the US market were very active discussions.  Some points we picked up on:

  • No new mid-band auctions will occur in the US market for another 2-3 years, so this means that new capacity is going to come from LAA (just announced on the iPhone Xs this week, as well) and from CBRS (discussed above).
  • The “who has the fastest 5G throughput” battle will be won at the millimeter wave.  In other words, using millimeter was, speeds as high as 10 Gbps are possible, but with mid-band (1-6 Ghz), where LTE is currently deployed, cannot go much over 2 Gbps.  So, to beat the Ookla Speed Test, the mobile operators who deploy mmWave early will get a leg up.  However, in order to deploy mmWave, these have to be small-cells that are within 100 meters of users.  Since it is so difficult to get real-estate rights and backhaul for small cells, this is going to be a big challenge.  Nevertheless, this is how the battle will be won.
  • T-Mobile’s 600 Mhz rollout is now in 1,250 cities.  The company will eventually enable 600 Mhz 5G.  600 Mhz should dramatically improve T-Mobile coverage because it is low-band spectrum.