5G Reality vs 5G Hype: The Un-carrier vs the Carriers

Neville Ray
Chief Technology Officer
Last week at CES 2018, we saw some pretty amazing innovation, some exciting power outages and flooding, and perhaps not surprisingly, we also saw the carriers’ 5G Hype Machine shift into overdrive.
 
Look, I get it. Any LTE network advantage they may have once had is all but gone. T-Mobile wins on speed and performance and has all but closed the gap on coverage. In fact, OpenSignal, an independent third party that measures billions of actual customer experiences, just published a blog about the impacts of unlimited data on download speeds over the last year, and of course T-Mobile is fastest and getting faster. Naturally, the Duopoly is now desperate to try to change the subject. Verizon even launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to do just that. It’s classic carrier strategy. If you can’t win, distract, distort, confuse, convolute.
 
“Look over here!” is not a strategy for delivering on real network transformation. It does a disservice to customers, the industry and to the technology itself – because 5G *is* truly transformational. You have to wonder if this is purposeful or if they’re really just that, well…carrier. Just look at what they announced.
 
AT&T breathlessly announced they’ll launch 5G in 2018 – with zero details. (Of course, AT&T already launched “5G Evolution” – aka #Fake5G last year.) The questions on spectrum band, geographic scale and device format are all left unanswered. And in our dialog with handset OEMs and chipset vendors, there’s no tangible path to what AT&T is promising. BUT at least AT&T acknowledged that 5G mobility is what’s meaningful. So that’s something.
 
Never one to be left behind when the BS train is leaving the station, Verizon jumped on board and declared they’d be first – and doubled down on their commitment to launch a pre-standards fixed wireless 5G offering in late 2018. Why does it matter that Verizon doesn’t use 5G industry standards? Well, it won’t scale and won’t work with the vast majority of 5G smartphones that will come to market, which will be standards based. Oh, and Verizon still hasn’t gotten the message that mobile 5G is what matters. So, not only is Verizon standing alone on the Fixed 5G Island, but it *really* is an island!!! (Of course, Verizon first told us 5G was coming in 2017, then 2018, so all this assumes you even believe them … again.) 
 
Consumers deserve better. At T-Mobile, we intend to give them something better, and we’ve been rock solid consistent about 5G from the start:
 
Real 5G is mobile and nationwide
T-Mobile gets this. It’s why last week we reiterated our commitment to launch 5G nationwide by 2020, starting in 2019 in 600 MHz. We were encouraged by confirmed chipset and OEM plans to deliver 5G smartphones in 2019. And we will of course be leveraging our mmW assets to drive not just great 5G mobility but also enhanced speeds and latency. We also announced our NB-IoT plans and our 600 MHz 5G strategy will enable future evolution on IoT solutions.
 
It’s hard for me to believe that T-Mobile is STILL the ONLY wireless company committed to deploying a nationwide 5G network.
 
Real 5G work is happening now
One of the beautiful things about 5G smartphones is that they will work with BOTH 5G and LTE networks. That’s why LTE networks of today still matter and you can’t just change the subject. T-Mobile’s leadership on LTE-Advanced technologies and speed matters for a 5G network. Because LTE will underpin 5G networks, and in some cases, provide even faster speeds where needed.
 
And, we’re already deploying 5G-ready 600 MHz equipment, so when the technology is ready, we’re a software upgrade away from lighting up 5G in our network.
 
Real 5G is a LOT more than speed
5G means more than blazing fast speeds. It’s also longer battery life, lower latency (more responsive networks) and the ability to have exponentially more connections per cell site. Sure, speed will be one of the benefits of 5G, but if that’s all you’re talking about, you’re missing the whole point. We expect 5G will bring sensors so small with battery life so long that they could be stitched inside every garment you own – every child’s glove for example – and you could track them for a decade without ever recharging. Never lose anything again! And it will make networks so responsive that everything happens faster than the blink of an eye. The possibilities are so much more than just lots of data at super-fast speeds.
 
Standards based 5G is also more efficient than LTE, and will continue to evolve. 5G will not only improve speeds and efficiency, it will provide a path to even more technology capabilities in the future.
 
Real 5G works across all spectrum bands
Good to see (almost) everyone talking up 5G across all spectrum bands at CES last week. You heard it first from us! You need ALL bands to really unleash the promise of 5G. Each band provides a unique contribution to the overall 5G experience.
 
  • Low band for national coverage reach and reliability
  • Mid band for reliable capacity and consistent mobile broadband speeds. (This is why we’ve been advocating for the allocation of licensed 3.5 GHz spectrum for 5G. This band is quickly becoming a global focus for 5G, and the US needs to get on this!)
  • mmW for urban multi-gigabit hotspots, campuses and buildings
Reality Check:  mmW for fixed wireless is plagued with in-building penetration challenges and the looming need for external household antennas and truck rolls. There’s still a LOT we have to figure out before this becomes a feasible business model. #SorryNotSorry, Verizon.
 
The best way to launch a new technology is new, clear spectrum like 600 MHz, then re-use other spectrum bands for 5G over time. We are in a best position to execute on this strategy, and will drive the network evolution to 5G.
 
Real 5G is standards-based
I can’t believe I have to say this, but yes, industry standards matter. Verizon’s ignoring them in their rush to fixed 5G this year, but that just means they’re building a bridge to nowhere. 5G should be built with interoperability and scalability in mind … and that means respecting industry standards.
 
Real 5G will start showing up in 2019 and be broadly available in 2020
5G technology provides a path to amazing new capabilities and experiences that LTE can’t deliver, but it’ll be evolutionary just like LTE has been. We’ll see it start in 2019, with broad availability in 2020, but it won’t stop there. Unquestionably, the best starting point for that technology evolution is a foundation of nationwide 5G coverage. But you don’t have to believe me here -- believe the chip makers, equipment vendors and handset manufacturers.  They know when 5G will be ready, and everything they’ve said maps to these timelines.  Anything coming before this is some seriously #Fake5G.
 

With all of this, it becomes even clearer why the carriers 5G Hype Machine is already in overdrive. They don’t have a nationwide, multi-band spectrum, mobile 5G story to tell! And if they acknowledge 5G isn’t coming until 2019, they have to face that their network advantages are long gone. But, rest assured, when they distract, distort, confuse and convolute we will be there to call them on it. Because this technology is too important for this carrier BS. It’s time for a grown-up conversation about 5G.
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