AT&T, Verizon Praying People Won’t Switch to T-Mobile’s Better 5G

The U.S. 5G market is T-Mobile’s to lose. The golden 2.5 GHz Sprint spectrum will give T-Mobile the best network in 40-60% of the U.S. over the next 4-9 months. Speeds will typically be 100-300 Mbps, occasionally higher. Verizon may have triple the speed in their millimeter wave network, but that’s only in about 10% of the U.S.

Currently, most U.S. 5G networks are lousy, but 3.4 million 5G Samsung Galaxy phones sold in Q1. That’s far more than I expected. Verizon expects explosive sales when the iPhone 5G ships. 30 million U.S. 5G phones in 2020 are possible, but I don’t have enough data.

DT CEO Timotheus Höttges just said he wants to be #1 in the U.S. If he gives Neville Ray the budget to build and Mike Sievert the marketing budget, his chances are good.  

Verizon and AT&T in most of the country will be using low band spectrum. AT&T has already deployed “low-band 5G” (850 MHz) which AT&T VP Gordon Mansfield confirms is often no better than their 4G. Open Signal found actual speeds of 62 Mbps, slower than most of AT&T’s own upgraded 4G cells. (Chart below.) That can quickly be deployed using dynamic spectrum sharing, which is reaching the field.

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Millimeter Wave: What’s Goin’ On

Verizon has the only substantial mmWave network on the planet. They may have already covered 5% of the US, but most is not yet turned on. The company refuses to release any figures other than 30 million passed one day, about a quarter of the US. The majority of Verizon’s “5G” will be low or midband, which will cover about 40% of the US next summer.*

At Verizon, business areas and some neighborhoods will get mmWave, the good stuff designed for a gig or so. The rest will get low and mid-band, details pending CBRS and C-Band auctions. It will mostly be 70%-90% slower. Guess which neighborhoods will get the slow stuff.

KT was one of the early pioneers in mmWave, supported by Samsung research. Jerry Pi at Samsung was one of the first in 5G mmWave research and Samsung the first to put a large team of engineers to work building actual equipment. KT nows talks vaguely of sometime in the future, probably highly limited for the next several years.

NTT DOCOMO has similar plans. CTO Seizo Onoe has been involved in mmWave since the beginning. For now, DOCOMO is only talking about limited trials for several years. It may try for a splash at Olympic venues. Telefonica Deutsche had plans but seem to have set them aside.

Few are building mmWave. Most telcos believe they have more capacity than they can sell until the middle of the decade or later

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Fiber: What’s Goin’ On

Telcos are adding fiber at a rapid pace. It makes money. AT&T’s CFO John Stephens explains that the fiber delivers three sources of revenue.

Fiber works. I can use it three times. I can use it for my consumers. I can use it for my business customers. And I can use it for my wireless backhaul.

CEO Hans Vestberg of Verizon used almost exactly the same comments to explain the 1.400 miles of fiber it is building every month.

Orange/FT, Telefonica Spain, Bell Canada, and Telus cover more than half their territory with fiber and continue to add more. Orange has 8 million more homes set to pass.

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