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.

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