Friday, April 26, 2019

Today's 5G: Not Ready for Prime Time

Last week Verizon Wireless admitted that their new 5G coverage is a bit "spotty" but that's to be expected with new technology.  That may be so, but many of us are fearful that wireless coverage at such high frequencies will not be the new broadband promised land.  Verizon's 5G coverage utilizes 39 GHz.  That's 80 times higher than UHF TV signals, and that's already "Ultra High".  We know that region as "microwaves", but the wireless industry calls it "mmWave".  If it quacks like a duck...  ARS Technica posted a great discussion from Verizon's stock earnings call on the topic.

AT&T is using equally high microwave...uh, mmWave...frequencies, but their customers can't move around (they don't have any mobile devices, yet) so the effects are less of a problem...for now.  Interestingly, T-Mobile issued a post about Verizon and AT&T's 5G performance, which is clearly one-sided in favor T-Mobile, but it does portray a view of how many hurdles each carrier has getting to 5G-nirvana.

We agree that it's really early in the process, but if the carriers are depending on frequencies above 3GHz, universal 5G coverage is l o n g way off.  Visible light is on equally high frequencies and you get an approximation of how limited coverage can be if you set up a light bulb on a phone pole and observe how far away you can see it...literally!  That's "line-of-sight."  Those channels do have potential for fixed wireless access, but mobile access will probably need much lower the ones T-Mobile are about to use.

C Spire Wireless in Mississippi is running fiber to certain customers' homes and then connecting neighboring homes with a wireless link from an outside antenna.  It works, but at what cost?  Someone will get this right, but they haven't, yet.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

AT&T Now Offers 5G in 19 Cities

AT&T claims the next prize for the most 5G coverage, now in 19 cities.  The bad news? AT&T so far only supports one 5G device, a hot spot...and the actual areas with 5G coverage are very small.   The good news? AT&T 5G speeds are as fast as expected.

Related Post: When 5G Isn't Really 5G.

Of course, 5G phones are coming, maybe this year.  Keep in mind 5G will change our lives mostly in its application of the IoT (Internet of Things) which involves far more than our smart phones.  This also means, to be effective, 5G coverage must be even more universal than 4G-LTE coverage is today.  This looks years away, especially when construction of additional cell sites is facing so much opposition.  That means for the near term, 5G service will best serve as a wireless replacement for your current Internet access.  That also means new competition for video services like cable and satellite TV.

So, in the short term, when 5G comes to your neighborhood (lucky you!), there can be some significant changes in how you connect to the rest of the world...but you'll still have to drive your car yourself.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Verizon Launches Mobile 5G in 2 Cities

Verizon Wireless calls this a "first".  They have switched on 5G wireless in Minneapolis and Chicago and this time it isn't limited to home Internet service.  There is one 5G smartphone, the Moto Z3 combined with 5G Moto mod, that can be used on the new 5G network in these 2 cities.  Fortunately, everything is backwards-compatible so you won't lose service when you travel outside the still very tiny 5G coverage area.

The Verizon 5G rollout today is about a week earlier than planned, but more important, it claims the first 5G wireless mobile network in the world, beating the same announcement in South Korea.  This is also Verizon's first use of the actual 5G standard which allows the potential higher speeds by 5G, approaching 1 Ghz downloads.

We have added a couple more dots to the 5G Coverage Map.  Hopefully, the actual 5G coverage will soon expand to cover the whole dot.