Houston’s a player in the race for 5G dominance

This article originally appeared on Houston Chronicle by Dwight Silverman.

Houston has a reputation as one of the friendliest city halls in the nation among wireless companies building out the next generation of cellular data service known as 5G. But at a forum in downtown on Tuesday, industry and government leaders called for more communication between officials and companies, saying the race to beat China to 5G dominance depends on it.

The 5G Futures Houston conference focused on the promise of what the technologywhich has superfast uploads and downloads with very little delay, can bring to its users and the economy. But participants also sounded a space-race like warning of falling behind competing nations who want to beat the U.S. to the 5G punch.

Government and business leaders fear that investments, jobs and new industries will flow to the nation that builds 5G networks first, leaving those that fall behind in the economic dust.ital Access for as little as 95¢

“China sees in the transition to 5G to flip the script,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told the gathering at the Hotel Alessandra downtown. “They want to beat the U.S. to 5G and thus beat the U.S. in economic development.”

The conference was hosted by the CTIA, a Washington, D.C.-based wireless industry trade group, and the Center for Houston’s Future, a local think tank. It’s the first of several forums the CTIA will be conducting around the country as the 5G rollout ramps up.

In the United States, the four major wireless carriers are rushing to upgrade their networks, which use 4G wireless technology known as LTE, to handle 5G. Sprint has already launched a 5G mobile network in Houston, and Verizon last year began offering a 5G broadband service aimed at home users. A Houston couple was the first to be connected to Verizon’s 5G Home, and were hailed at the conference as the first commercial 5G customers in the nation.

AT&T has launched a 5G network here, but currently it’s only available to invited business customers. T-Mobile has not yet launched service in Houston, but has turned on 5G networks in a handful of other U.S. cities.

5G is actually a stew of different wireless technologies that work together to provide cellular data service that is many times faster than LTE. It also is supposed to have much lower latency, meaning it takes less time between for a device on a 5G network asking for data to get a response.

Proponents say this combination of speed and responsiveness will create new applications and services such as telemedicine and autonomous cars that can “talk” to each other — as well as applications that have yet to be imagined. It also is a key component in the drive toward so-called smart cities, in which sensors, fast connectivity and artificial intelligence combine to improve the quality of life in urban areas.

And 5G backers point to the growth of entire industries that arose due to 4G — from smartphone app development to the so-called “gig economy” to online dating — as evidence that 5G can have a greater, and even more disruptive, impact.

One component of 5G is higher-frequency radio waves capable of carrying data at much faster speeds. Known as millimeter wave, they require many more cell-site transmitters than exist, and that they be placed close together to provide adequare coverage. That has challenged the permitting processes of municipalities, which must approve towers and transmission boxes along public rights of way.

“Those permitting departments have to work with every other carrier, and their workload has grown – tripled and quadrupled,” said Majid Khan, a managing diretor with Verizon, said during a panel discussion. Khan applauded Houston for how well it has supported the 5G buildout, but called for more more “communication and collaboration” between public and private entities.

Last year, the FCC stripped municipalities of many of their powers to control the placement of cellular equipment, citing the need to streamline the 5G buildout process. That ruling – which Carr described Tuesday as “getting the government out of the way” – is being challenged in court by two dozen cities. Houston is not one of them.

Both Carr and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who also spoke at the conference, warned about the dangers of China becoming the dominant player in 5G. Cruz said money, new jobs and wireless infrastructure will favor the winner of a 5G race.

“China has outspent us by $24 billion in wireless communication infrastructure,” Cruz said. “They have built 350,000 new cell sites, while the U.S. has built only 30,000 sites.”

But not everyone agrees that China beating the U.S. in a 5G race would be so dire. Atlanta-based wireless industry analyst Jeff Kagan argued, “You don’t have to be first to be a leader.”

“The United States is going to be a significant player no matter what in the world of 5G, just as we were 4G, 3G, 2G and going back through the decades,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether we are second or third, except for ego.”

America Needs to Win the Battle for 5G Supremacy

This article originally appeared on National Review by Arthur L. Herman.

The struggle for global supremacy between the United States and China has come to rest on a single vital battlefield: advanced wireless telecommunication, or 5G.

5G telecommunication technology represents a revolution in how we will connect to the Internet, and everything else. Future wireless 5G networks will span the planet, enabling everything from AI-supported smartphones and driverless cars to the smart grid, as well as governments’ access to data and networks essential to their functions, including their defense establishments. According to the Communications Technology Industry Association, in the United States alone the technologies enabled by 5G would spawn upwards of three million new jobs and $500 billion in economic growth. The impact on the rest of the world, including Africa and Southeast Asia, could be even greater.

But if China becomes the 5G hegemon of the 21st century, America will be increasingly relegated to the past, rather than the future, of advanced technologies.

The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board released a report this year that stated, “Carriers to date have not demonstrated deployment capability that would deliver high speeds to large parts of the U.S. population.” The DIB warns, “The country that owns 5G will own” future innovations such as autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things. Under today’s policies, “that country is currently not likely to be the United States.”

China and its hand-picked 5G corporate colossus, Huawei, are poised to bestride the globe with Huawei’s version of 5G technology. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last February, Huawei had more than 64 countries signed up to either use or test its 5G networks — this despite the long history of allegations that Huawei is a serial cyber and IP thief and tool of the Chinese military and intelligence services.

Today that number has grown to more than 90. More than 60 percent of Huawei’s contracts are on the European continent (some countries have more than one carrier using Huawei technology), including many leading U.S. allies.

China’s success isn’t just due to Huawei’s offer of highly favorable terms for building 5G’s capital-intensive infrastructure from thousands of cell towers to miles of fiber-optic cable, including credits from Chinese banks. The Trump administration’s current efforts to get countries to reconsider their support for Huawei, and join our ban on Huawei technology, have failed.

Even more important, our own telecommunications industry still hasn’t arrived at a workable 5G standard that can make the technology interoperable and secure and that can build an effective supply chain that networks can rely on, without having to turn to Huawei components.

In order to win the 5G race, then, the Trump administration needs to reset its approach and adopt a four-pronged national strategy.

Second, we need to get our own 5G house in order by launching a new model for expanding access to spectrum through a wholesale market. Clearing spectrum takes too long and costs too much — up to a decade and $17 billion, according to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Sharing even a portion of Pentagon-controlled spectrum will accelerate the buildout of privately financed, privately operated shared networks. It will also provide a model for the rest of the world — and an alternative to cheap Chinese money and subsidized Huawei equipment.

Third, United States carriers need to develop a truly global 5G standard to compete with China. Chinese carriers will use a spectrum band similar to what they used for 3G and 4G, which will allow them to reuse a number of their existing cell sites. Carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, however, plan to use a high-frequency band in which signals travel less far, and which consequently will require three to four times as many cell sites as 4G did. We need a standard aimed squarely at the mid-spectrum market.10

Fourth, we need sound the quantum and post-quantum alarm. If 5G networks aren’t resistant to intrusion and disruption by a future quantum computer, which would be able to penetrate asymmetric encryption of data, and aren’t capable of using future quantum technologies, such as quantum keys. for protecting that data, they will be obsolete, even dangerous to use, in ten to 15 years. America can lead the world in requiring post-quantum security and quantum capability for our own 5G standards. While China is striving to make its own 5G networks quantum-safe, it’s not going to do the same for the networks it builds elsewhere — for obvious reasons. Here’s where America can offer a competitive quantum edge — one that protects our allies and ourselves for years to come.

In the end, America can’t achieve an effective 5G strategy without leadership from the White House. Without that, we would have lost World War II and the race to the moon. The future of 5G, and the other amazing technologies it will support, represent the same race for the future. The U.S. can’t afford to lose this time, either.

Why 5G Can Be More Secure Than 4G

This article originally appeared on Forbes by Andy Purdy.

For a technical subject, the rollout of 5G has captured the imaginations of pundits, politicians and others who sometimes incorrectly characterize it either as a race to some kind of technological finish line or as a looming threat to national security. While many of these commentators lack technical expertise, I think they’re right to focus on security.

But as one of the top security executives at a global information and communications technology company, and former director of national cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I can say confidently that there’s no reason to think 5G is inherently more vulnerable, or riskier, than previous generations of mobile technology. If anything, when it’s fully deployed, 5G can be more secure than 4G for comparable services and functionality.

5G makes use of 4G’s best defensive technology, while implementing new security protocols that address previously unresolved threats. Two examples are enhanced user authentication and stronger data encryption.

Authenticating users who want access to the network is the front line of cyber defense. In a 4G network, telecommunications operators authenticate users with a SIM card placed inside smartphones and other devices. However, because internet of things (IoT) connections vary in size and power consumption, as well as in the type and quantity of data they can send and receive, a single SIM from a single telecommunications operator can’t cope with the IoT’s diverse range of devices and requirements. 5G solves this problem by assigning unique identities to each individual device, eliminating the need for a SIM card and shifting responsibility for authentication from the operator to individual service providers.

5G also provides better roaming encryption. When a 4G phone connects to a base station, it authenticates the user’s identity, but does so without encrypting the information, leaving it vulnerable to attack. So although any subsequent calls or texts are encrypted in 4G, the user’s identity and location are not. 5G uses 256-bit encryption, a substantial improvement on the 128-bit standard used by 4G. With 5G, the user’s identity and location are encrypted, making them impossible to identify or locate from the moment they get on the network.

Core Vs. RAN 

One of the biggest worries I’ve heard from commentators relates to an aspect of 5G that’s widely misunderstood: the distinction between the radio access network (RAN) and the network core and whether the distinction will start to vanish as enhanced computing power moves closer to the network edge.

As its name suggests, the core is basically the network’s brain. It controls authentication, encryption and other elements vital to security and privacy, such as sensitive customer data. The RAN, on the other hand, is the network’s arms and legs. Sitting at the network’s outer edge, it takes signals from smartphones and other devices and transmits them back to the core, using cell phone towers or base stations.

Like 4G before it — and contrary to what some contend — 5G maintains a clear separation between RAN and core. A recent report that my company commissioned explains that “the 5G standards architecture relies on a clear modular separation between the 5G core network … and the radio access network.” Ericsson released a paper with similar assertions in 2016.

Even so, I’ve heard some say that 5G’s emerging applications will erode that separation as core functions begin migrating to the network edge. I believe this is a misunderstanding based on an element of truth. 5G will deliver many services that require extremely high speeds and stable network performance. Virtual reality and other applications all require heavy processing power and minimal latency, or delay. To achieve these performance characteristics, 5G will push computing resources closer to the network edge. This move toward “edge computing” has caused some confusion. Although some 5G applications do push computing power to the network edge, core resources remain distinctly separate from the RAN and subject to the core’s robust security protocols. Moving storage, memory or computing power closer to the edge does nothing to make the network less secure.

Why The Core/RAN Split Isn’t Likely To Vanish 

Some fear that although the RAN-core separation may persist for a while, it will disappear over time. This isn’t likely to happen, mainly for commercial reasons.

5G architecture maintains clearly defined boundaries described in detail in the standards promulgated by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), an extended network of experts who set standards for different aspects of 5G telecommunications, and other bodies. According to research from Heavy Reading, “to actually deliver services over a 5G RAN, however, also requires a system architecture and core network.” And, as asserted in the report we commissioned, “any mobile technology that broke with this separation would not be 5G and would not be compatible with 5G networks.” That’s significant: I don’t believe that a merged core/RAN system would be something operators could sell profitably to their 5G customers.

Another commercial consideration is that telecommunications operators are advised to use equipment from multiple vendors. Using more than one supplier in both the core and the RAN increases network resilience by eliminating the potential for a single point of failure. It also creates competition that can encourage suppliers to keep prices low and to provide more innovative forms of security assurance and more innovation of all kinds.

I believe that all communications networks need objective, transparent protections that hew to international standards. As we move forward, I think society must recognize that there’s no reason to believe that 5G will somehow make networks less secure than in the past. In fact, given the advanced new technology 5G brings to bear on network security, it can make networks more secure than they’ve ever been.

Why you don’t need a 5G phone just yet

This article originally appeared on ABC News by Anick Jesdanun.

No 5G iPhone? No problem. You probably don’t want one anyway.

For most people, it’s smart to stick with a smartphone that isn’t compatible with speedier 5G wireless networks, which are just starting to roll out. That’s the case even if you think you’ll be hanging on to your next phone for a few years.

Not only are the first-generation 5G phones expensive, their antennas and modems typically work only with particular 5G networks owned by specific mobile carriers. That could limit your options if you’re trying to get the faster speeds while roaming overseas or on a rival company’s network — or if you decide to switch providers later.

Experts say second-generation phones in the coming year will address those and other shortcomings. The research firm IDC, calling 2019 “an introductory year at best,” expects 5G phones to make up 9% of worldwide shipments next year and 28% in 2023.

THE TARGET MARKET

Samsung, Motorola, LG and OnePlus already make 5G phones that use Google’s Android system. Huawei announced one Thursday, though it’s missing popular Google apps because of a U.S. ban on tech exports to the Chinese company.

Although 5G phones are a niche product, IHS Markit said phone makers haven’t been able to keep up with surprisingly strong demand, especially in South Korea.

Samsung said it has sold 2 million 5G phones worldwide since April and expects to double that by the end of the year. Motorola said it has seen “tremendous engagement and excitement” from customers.

But Motorola said such first-generation products primarily suit early adopters who need to be first on the block.

New iPhones out Friday won’t support 5G. Apple typically waits for technology to mature before adopting it.

THE PRICE OF 5G

The speedy wireless technology can add a few hundred dollars to phone price tags. For instance, Samsung’s standard Galaxy S10 phone costs $900; the 5G model costs $1,300, though Samsung said it also showcases the company’s best features, including a larger screen and a better camera. For Motorola, 5G comes as a $350 option for the existing Moto Z series phones.

“This territory is reserved for the leading-edge type of consumer, those willing to sacrifice a bit more money up front to be first,” said Wayne Lam, an analyst at IHS Markit. “Longer term is where the smart money is.”

The price gap is expected to narrow and eventually disappear as 5G becomes a standard feature, Geoff Blaber of CCS Insight said.

NETWORK LIMITATIONS

Even as phone companies make big claims about revolutionary new applications, 5G coverage is limited to certain neighborhoods in a handful of cities. While 5G phones can still connect over existing 4G LTE networks, “are you willing to spend extra for something you might not see consistently until 2021?” IHS Markit analyst Josh Builta asks.

5G is actually a set of wireless technologies using different parts of the airwaves. Each wireless carrier emphasizes a different flavor of 5G, and each one is selling 5G phones designed specifically for its network.

Wireless networks have a history of Balkanization, although it tends to sort itself out. Verizon and Sprint have been using a wireless technology called CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use an incompatible version called GSM. Early on, phone makers produced separate CDMA and GSM models. But as technology advanced, they were able to pack all the necessary antennas and components into universal phones.

Similar all-in-one 5G phones should be fairly common by next year, experts say.

In fact, T-Mobile CEO John Legere suggested the company is holding back on 5G network expansions until compatible phones come out later this year. T-Mobile’s current 5G phones only work with parts of its planned 5G network. Sprint, which T-Mobile is in the process of acquiring, said first-generation phones are intended to show off 5G benefits to those who live or spend a lot of time in the company’s nine 5G markets.

Verizon didn’t return messages. AT&T isn’t offering 5G to consumers yet, although it has rebranded some existing 4G service as “5G E.”

TO WAIT OR NOT TO WAIT

If you can squeeze another year or two out of your current phone, there will be plenty of 5G phones to choose from — including iPhones — by the time you’re ready to upgrade.

But it’s OK to buy a new, pre-5G phone now if you can’t wait. You can always trade that in for a 5G model later. Even if you stick with 4G, experts say you’ll still see speed bump there as phone companies install new equipment.

And IDC is expecting deals on 4G phones to clear shelves for upcoming 5G models.

How 5G will reinvent “working from home”

This article originally appeared on Quartz by Omar Abbosh & Paul Nunes.

It’s 10:00 am. Do you know where your employee is? No doubt they are working—somewhere.

Thanks to greatly improved internet connectivity and workforce applications, employees in an increasing number of professions can work just about anywhere they want—in their home, at a coffee shop, on a plane. And chances are they’re more productive and more engaged than they would be if they were in the office. They may even be planning to stay in their job longer because of their flexible work location. In 2017, Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom, in a TED Talk, went so far as to call work-from-home potentially as innovative as the driverless car.

Now, work-from-home is itself about to be disrupted, by the coming of 5G and its ability to enable virtual reality (VR) anywhere through what’s known as XR, the combination of extended, augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies. Fifth-generation (5G) communications networks, with their exponentially faster connection speeds, capacity, and communication response times (known as latency), will make possible an astonishing range of innovative new products and services.

As history has shown, new opportunities abound when wireless connectivity becomes faster and costs less. Watching HD video on a smartphone could only have been made possible with the shift from 3G to 4G, just as surfing the web went mobile with the jump from 2G to 3G. Now the shift from 4G to 5G will fundamentally change how, where, when, and in what ways we work.

Imagine being able to interact with a full-size “digital twin” of every place and thing that exists in the physical world, all from a home office. A plant manager in Seattle can immerse herself in a factory in Vietnam; she can see, hear, feel, even smell the shop floor. Avatars of executives can appear in a conference room anywhere in the world. Doctors can even assist with surgeries in faraway hospitals, operating remotely using immersive 3D holograms beamed right into their homes or offices.

In other words: While basic internet access allowed work to be done remotely, XR and 5G will allow work to be done truly virtually.

Consider our work-from-home arrangements today: Employees can perform a wide range of jobs remotely, including accounting, computer programming, graphic design, engineering, database management, corporate communications, and market research. But none of these jobs requires the employee’s actual physical presence or the manipulation of physical things like equipment and vehicles. For that, you need the kind of capabilities that 5G and XR will provide.

Based on our research and years of experience working with major clients to grow their talent, we see seven ways 5G and XR will change the nature of work:

1. The notion of the workplace will become increasingly fuzzy

Historically, how and where we live has been dictated by where we work.  5G and XR will allow many of us to perform almost any aspect of our jobs, including those that formerly required physical presence or physical tasks, anywhere, truly freeing us to live anywhere. Unlike telecommuting, which brings us to the workplace from remote locations, 5G and XR will bring the workplace to us.

2. Specialists—and even executives—may work for multiple employers

Surgeons or other medical specialists who are currently tied to a hospital or physician’s practice and limited to a single geographical area could conceivably be employed by many hospitals or practices around the world. We might even see the day when talented executives, with an ability to be virtually present for a meeting in New York and another meeting minutes later in Hong Kong, work as salaried employees for two or more companies simultaneously. And more and more professionals and specialists of all kinds could become freelancers—in effect entering the gig economy.

3. Working virtually could be as good as or better than being there

That Seattle-based manager of the Vietnam manufacturing facility will be able to do a realistic walk-through of the plant in real time and examine any aspect of its operations, at any level of detail. With an XR app’s ability to put operational data, diagnostics and controls at her fingertips, she will be in an even better position to do her work than someone on-site who lacks her augmented capabilities.

4. Companies that train their people to use—and be augmented by—technology will perform better

Large companies like Walmart, AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, and Amazon are equipping  their employees by the thousands with new skills for a new era filled with artificial intelligence, blockchain, quantum computing, robots, and XR and 5G. As they undertake this new important retraining work, they will soon do so with a new advantage: 5G, and XR in particular, will make it possible to train workers anywhere, anytime, on a global scale, and with a degree of realism that will be indistinguishable from experiential learning on the job at the job site. With such reskilling made easier by the technology itself, companies will find an important value proposition: If they equip their people to leverage all the new tech—and be augmented by it—they will ultimately perform better.

5. Companies will have to figure out how to maintain virtual cultures

As fixed places for work diminish in importance, maintaining a desired culture will become increasingly difficult. Global companies have longed faced a version of this challenge across borders, but in the future it will become pervasive, even the smallest units of an enterprise, as flesh-and-blood encounters become increasingly rare.

6. Companies that figure out how to create the best value propositions for workers will win

As more people have the opportunity to work for multiple companies simultaneously, the very relationship between corporations and employees will be dramatically changed. How should compensation and benefits packages be structured? What about retention strategies? The reality is, companies that understand how to leverage new technologies to create the best value propositions for people, including perhaps letting them work for other employers simultaneously, will be the ones with the best people and therefore will win. The challenge then becomes how to structure employment contracts to get the most out of these high-performing employees.

7. Burnout and abusive work environments could multiply

Because 5G and XR will enable many employees to perform almost any of their duties anywhere, any time, they may be tempted—or expected—to be on the job around the clock. Those who work for more than one employer could be doubly squeezed, taking on too much and serving two or more highly demanding masters.

Today, the 5G/XR world seems to lie over a distant horizon. But when the availability and power of both technologies reach the tipping point and converge, the way we work will change radically. Companies will race to build business and operating models that use 5G’s capacity and XR’s immersiveness to create competitive advantage. As they do so, they will inevitably transform the workplace in ways that will challenge our concepts of work and place—and our remote-work capabilities will be utterly transformed.

Verizon plans 5G Home Internet in every city where it deploys mobile 5G

This article originally appeared on ARS Technica by Jon Brodkin.

Verizon says it will bring its “5G Home” Internet service to every market where it deploys 5G mobile service.

That might not be saying much, given how limited Verizon’s early 5G deployments are. But it would mean that at least some people in each 5G mobile market would be able to buy the 5G fixed Internet service, which offers an alternative to wired Internet.

“You should expect that every market that opens a 5G mobility market will in due course be a 5G fixed wireless [market] because it is one network,” Verizon Consumer Group CEO Ronan Dunne said Wednesday at an investor conference (link to webcast and transcript).

Verizon brought 5G Home to parts of four cities—Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento—late last year, charging $70 a monthfor service with no data caps and typical download speeds of 300Mbps.

Verizon plans to launch 5G mobile in parts of 30 cities by the end of 2019, and the company has done so in 10 of those cities so far. Those cities are Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Phoenix, Providence, Washington DC, Atlanta, Detroit, and Indianapolis. Other cities getting Verizon mobile 5G later this year include Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Houston, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, San Diego, and Salt Lake City.

After testing the home service in the four pilot cities, Dunne said Verizon is “ready to go mass market” with 5G Home. The “full commercial launch” of the home service will happen in the “back end of this year,” he said.

Early 5G deployments are limited

But Verizon’s early 5G launches, which use millimeter-wave spectrum for both mobile and home service, have been anything but widespread. This isn’t surprising, given that these high-band frequencies have trouble covering large distances and indoor spaces. Reviewers of early Verizon 5G mobile deployments had trouble finding mobile signals, and Verizon’s 5G Home service only covered a fraction of each launch city.

5G can work on any frequency, but the biggest speed gains come on millimeter-wave spectrum bands because there’s simply more spectrum available in those higher frequencies. But carriers have admitted that millimeter-wave coverage won’t scale beyond densely populated urban areas.

Verizon rolled out millimeter-wave 5G to 13 NFL stadiums, but the network isn’t good enough to cover all of the seating areas in any one of those stadiums. In some of those cities, the stadium is the only place where Verizon 5G is available at all.

Given that, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to get Verizon 5G home Internet even if you’re in one of the upcoming launch cities. But if your home is in range of the Verizon network, it could be a good option since it’s a fixed connection rather than a mobile one that can vary widely in speed and availability as you move about a city.

In-home antennas

Verizon’s first 5G Home launch was based on its own version of 5G instead of the 5G New Radio (NR) industry standard. But toward the end of this year, Dunne said that Verizon “will launch the first of our 5G Home markets that are on the NR platform.” That’s because NR equipment is now becoming readily available, Verizon said.

Despite using non-standard 5G, the early deployments in four cities helped Verizon “understand how we develop our go-to-market and how we actually market street-by-street,” Dunne also said. The early deployment helped Verizon determine the right “balance between indoor and outdoor antennas and the proportion of those indoor antennas that can be self-activated rather than needing to have a truck roll,” he said.

Nearly 80 percent of new 5G Home deployments rely on an antenna inside a customer’s home instead of outside, like on the roof, making it easier for customers to set it up themselves, he said. “That’s critical for [customers], the ability to self-provision,” he said. Like wired Internet, the fixed wireless service uses a router in the home to create a Wi-Fi network.

The in-home equipment today is “effectively using a cellphone chipset” instead of something more powerful, Dunne said. But the next generation of chips available in the first half of 2020 will bring “higher power output” to the home Internet service, he said.

Verizon will eventually deploy mobile 5G on the lower-band spectrum it uses for 4G, but Verizon says the speed gains from 5G on this spectrum will be minimal. If Verizon also brings 5G Home to lower spectrum bands, we’d expect that the top speeds would fall far short of what cable and fiber networks are capable of, and there’d be a greater likelihood of Verizon imposing data caps.

Broadband Access a Must, Farm Bureau tells House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee

This article originally appeared on FBNews.

Farmers and ranchers, who are already dealing with a drastic 50 percent drop in net farm income in the last four years, must have access to fixed and mobile broadband to be more efficient, economical and responsive to market needs, the American Farm Bureau Federation recently told members of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

“Broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. While most Americans take broadband for granted, data compiled by the Federal Communications Commission show that 26.4 percent of rural Americans lack access to broadband compared to only 1 percent of urban Americans,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. The letter was sent in advance of the subcommittee’s Sept. 11 hearing on improving national broadband maps.

Among the bills discussed at the hearing was the Farm Bureau-supported Broadband Data Improvement Act (H.R. 3162), which would improve the accuracy of broadband coverage maps and better direct federal funds for broadband buildout.

Specifically, the bill would correct the current method of mapping by requiring broadband providers to report data in a way that allows them to create a significantly more accurate and granular National Broadband Map. To that end, the measure includes a three-pronged data validation process that focuses on public feedback, third-party commercial datasets and on-the-ground field validation.

“More granular and accurate maps are critical to successfully target and distribute federal broadband programs; this is particularly true given that only limited funding is available and there is an overabundance of need,” Duvall wrote, pledging Farm Bureau’s support to help lawmakers achieve swift passage of the legislation.

Verizon brings 5G connectivity to 13 NFL stadiums in time for kickoff

This article originally appeared on USA Today by Edward C. Baig.

Ahead of the kickoff to the NFL’s 100th season, Verizon announced that it is bringing 5G “Ultra Wideband” connectivity to 13 NFL stadiums. 

At some of the venues, including New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, the field the New York Jets and Giants call home, the stadium is the only local place a consumer with a 5G handset (there are currently only a few) can experience the next-generation network. (Verizon has launched 5G in parts of 10 cities, with the goal of reaching 30 markets by the end of the year.) 

In the NFL stadiums where coverage will be available starting with Thursday night’s Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field and then on to a full slate of games on Sunday, Verizon says 5G service will be accessible in concentrated seating areas and perhaps elsewhere. Fans with phones will still be able to tap into 4G LTE when 5G is unavailable. 

AT&T says ‘game on’

Not to be outdone, rival AT&T said it would enable 5G at its namesake venue, AT&T Stadium, before the home team Dallas Cowboys host the Giants on Sunday. Back in February, AT&T Stadium became America’s first with live mobile 5G, but service was limited, and that was after the Cowboys season ended.

AT&T will provide Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphones and Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspots for fan experiences around the stadium. 

For example, using “volumetric” video, fans will be able to interact with Dallas Cowboys players – Randall Cobb, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Jaylon Smith – in chants and other experiences. Or, they’ll be able to “pose” with Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Leighton Vander Esch.

Through another experience, fans can access live player stats through the camera lens of the Galaxy S10 5G using localized augmented reality. 

Verizon will also make phones available for fan use in 5G stadiums, from Samsung, LG and Motorola.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement about the Verizon partnership: “As we celebrate the NFL’s 100th season we look forward to the day when Verizon will have their 5G Ultra Wideband service in the stadiums for all 32 NFL Clubs. Having this cutting-edge technology in our stadiums will greatly enhance the game-day experience and bring a multitude of benefits to our fans and clubs in a number of different ways.”

In his own statement, Verizon CEO Hans Vesberg said in part, “We expect the impact on the sports entertainment industry to be massive – it promises to revolutionize the entire game-day experience for fans.”

These are still early days for 5G, of course. All four U.S. carriers, not only Verizon and AT&T but would-be merger partners T-Mobile and Sprint, have all begun building out and in some cases deploying these latest networks, which not only promise blazing speeds but low latency, a measure of network responsiveness.

Aside from MetLife, below are the stadiums where Verizon will provide limited 5G coverage, with more to follow:

  • Bank of America Stadium (home to the Carolina Panthers) 
  • Empower Field at Mile High (Denver Broncos)
  • CenturyLink Field (Seattle Seahawks)
  • Ford Field (Detroit Lions) 
  • Gillette Stadium (New England Patriots)
  • Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Dolphins)
  • Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis Colts)
  • M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens)
  • NRG Stadium (Houston Texans)
  • Soldier Field (Chicago Bears)
  • U.S. Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings)

Verizon says one additional stadium whose name has not been announced yet also will get 5G.

While service is limited today, the ultimate goal is to have 5G work throughout a stadium and out into the parking lots where fans tailgate.

The race for 5G and what you need to know

This article originally appeared on The Seattle Times by Mike Freeman.

Since cellular service first popped up for consumers four decades ago, it’s been all about phones – from brick phones to flip phones to smartphones to today’s 4G LTE handsets that stream music and video, deliver pinpoint directions and hail a ride from Uber.

Now fifth-generation 5G wireless technology is rolling out in the U.S. and elsewhere globally. These much-hyped networks are still about phones, especially in early deployments when the emphasis is on faster speeds for high-definition video streaming and instant access to workplace apps via the Internet cloud.

But as 5G matures, it’s about connecting a lot more than just smartphones. The technology has been designed to create a fabric for fast, reliable and secure connectivity to things ranging from driver assisted cars to health-care devices to smart cities infrastructure.

“There is probably no technology right now that is more talked about in terms of what impact it will have on the future than 5G because all the things we want to do are dependent on connectivity, and right now it is the fastest, most reliable connectivity being built,” said Daniel Newman, principal analyst at industry consulting firm Futurum Research.

Out of the gate, 5G is expected to deliver peak speeds up to five times faster than today’s 4G LTE. Over the long haul, 5G aims to deliver speeds 20 times faster.

And it promises to eventually deliver a 10-fold improvement in transmission lag times, enabling cellular to power things sensitive to delays such as virtual-reality headsets, immersive mobile gaming and industrial robots.

5G has its skeptics. They doubt whether the technology delivers enough improvement over 4G LTE to become a must-have service for consumers, at least in the early years.

“As I sit here in my office on my mobile phone with 4G, I get 175 megabits per second with 20 milliseconds latency, so if you deliver me a gigabit per second with 10 milliseconds latency, am I going to notice the difference? Probably not,” said Richard Windsor, publisher of Radio Free Mobile and a longtime wireless industry analyst. “Which means why would I pay for it?”

The promise of 5G

With 5G, connected power grids could tap cloud computing to create artificial intelligence algorithms so when a tree falls on a line, the grid automatically adjusts to minimize outages and heal itself.

5G connected cars could sync to stoplights and other infrastructure to improve traffic flow, while vehicles automatically track the movements of other cars and pedestrians nearby to help avoid accidents.

Factories could leverage 5G to more easily reconfigure equipment to produce different products – boosting efficiency and lowering costs. Connected assembly line robots could instantly reposition an off-center part. Massive cranes at ports could adjust on the fly to the weight of cargo being loaded on ships.

Logistics, fleet management, education, video security with facial recognition, medical imaging, enterprise storage as a service and even retail are some of the industries that could mine the speed, bandwidth, reliability and low latency of 5G to disrupt the status quo.

“It is pretty exciting times to create something that is almost a platform for innovation where other players come in and tap into it,” said Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, a director at industry research firm Strategy Analytics. “You can have people turn that into hype. But at the same time, it is building something that is a bit future proof and very useful as an open building block to create connected societies.”

For consumers, the lure of 5G in initial rollouts is video. Streaming 4K movies could become as seamless as streaming music is today on 4G. At a sporting event or concert, everyone with a smartphone could become a live broadcaster.

The low lag times of 5G – or latency – also could spark mobile gaming that’s on par with console gaming, and new services that don’t exist today could emerge from the bells and whistles that come with 5G.

“I think we are going to see some killer applications that take advantage of this low latency with 5G,” said Will Townsend, senior analyst with industry research firm Moor Insights & Strategy. “We couldn’t get to the ride sharing disruption of the taxi industry until we had 4G. Look at how that changed our lives. We are going to see the same thing happen with 5G.”

How does it work?

In some ways, 5G is similar to 4G. It uses the same Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex (OFDM) air interface encoding system to cram as many data packets as possible onto each megahertz of airwave spectrum.

One thing that’s new, however, is 5G has been tailored to take advantage of millimeter wave spectrum – high-frequency bands above 24 gigahertz that have never been used for cellular communications.

Millimeter wave frequencies serve up vast swaths of uncrowded airwaves to deliver uber-fast speeds and massive data capacity. With millimeter wave, cellular operators aren’t just adding a few extra lanes to the existing cellular data highway. They’re opening up big new freeways.

But millimeter wave bands have drawbacks. Signals don’t travel very far. They don’t penetrate buildings and can be blocked by foliage and even rain. They require complex beam forming, beam tracking and beam switching technologies to work.

San Diego-based Qualcomm and others believe they have cracked the code for getting millimeter waves to function for smartphones, particularly in dense cities.

In San Francisco, for example, Qualcomm says 70% of mobile outdoor data traffic could be handled by millimeter wave without installing any additional cell towers.

Off-loading that traffic improves performance on the rest of the network, including on non-millimeter wave, mid-band frequencies earmarked for 5G – those between 1 gigahertz and 6 gigahertz.

These mid-band frequencies, which already are used for wireless, penetrate buildings and travel farther than millimeter wave. But they don’t deliver the speeds or wide open capacity available with millimeter wave.

5G also lowers the cost for network operators of delivering mobile bandwidth, said Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm.

“It is a network structure that allows operators to see a step-function decline in the cost per bit,” he said. “When you look at the consumption of data, the gigabits per month continues to climb. We are already at an inflection point where it is uneconomical to do (unlimited plans) with 4G.”

Qualcomm estimates that with 5G, network operators can achieve a 30-fold reduction in their cost per gigabit by 2025. Much of this cost benefit stems from tapping into millimeter wave spectrum, though 5G does boost data traffic flow in mid-band frequencies as well.

Finally, 5G delivers flexibility, reliability and consistency. The network can be sliced to carve out dedicated lanes for specific services – such as a guaranteed Internet connection for mission critical applications or 5 milliseconds latency for mobile gaming.

“4G is very good, but the system has been designed for what we call best-effort Internet. Sometimes you lose the connection,” Amon said. “What 5G does is enable you to serve mission-critical applications for the first time in the history of cellular.”

Guaranteed connectivity opens the door for mobile operators to serve new industries.

“That is really critical for businesses in particular,” said Welsh de Grimaldo of Strategy Analytics. “If you are putting a business’s critical functions on wireless connectivity, you have to make sure it works all the time.”

Up and running

About 20 operators worldwide are expected to light up 5G networks this year or next, although coverage won’t be everywhere at first.

Smartphone and mobile hotspot makers are lining up to support 5G. Samsung, LG, Motorola and others already have devices on the market.

Qualcomm has signed deals to supply 5G chips to 150 devices, which is double the backlog of just three months before.

In the U.S., Verizon has 5G up and running in parts of Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver and Providence, R.I., with another 30 cities in the pipeline, including San Diego. Verizon expects three-quarters of the phones that launch on its network next year will be 5G.

AT&T has 5G wave in parts of 21 cities, with an initial focus on business customers rather than consumers. It plans to add nine additional cities by year end, including San Diego. The company is on track for nationwide 5G coverage in mid-2020.

The Sprint/T-Mobile merger is expected to accelerate the combined company’s 5G rollouts, though both have limited 5G deployments in about a half-dozen cities each today.

Globally, 5G networks are operating in South Korea, Australia and a few countries in Europe. Japan is expected to launch 5G early next year. In China, the three state-supported mobile operators plan to install 100,000 5G base stations by the end of this year.

The race to 5G

Because 5G has the potential to connect infrastructure and transform industries, it has emerged as a bit of an arms race among nations, particularly the U.S. and China.

The technology has been at the center of the Trump administration’s national security concerns over the growth of Chinese-made equipment in telecommunications networks globally, which it believes could be used for cyber espionage.

China was mostly on the sidelines during the 3G and 4G cellular standard setting process, where Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung were among the major players contributing technologies used in networks globally.

But Chinese companies have been much more active in standard setting for 5G.

Huawei – the Chinese multinational technology company that makes telecommunications equipment – has declared more patent families as relevant to the 5G standard than anyone else, according to intellectual property research firm iPlytics.

In an internal memo seen by Bloomberg News, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said the Chinese company’s dominance in 5G has been cited as motivation for a U.S. campaign to contain its growth.

“The U.S. doesn’t use the most advanced 5G technology,” wrote Zhengfei in the memo quoted by Bloomberg. “That may leave it lagging behind in the artificial intelligence sector.”

But Qualcomm and Samsung were the first companies to deliver 5G silicon to devices on the market today. Qualcomm’s chips support both millimeter wave and mid-band 5G frequencies.

Huawei’s self-make 5G silicon is 50% larger than Qualcomm’s first generation 5G chip, according to industry research firm IHS Market. Huawei 5G chips don’t support millimeter wave.

Not all contributions to standard-setting organizations are created equal, according to analysts. Qualcomm has been working on 5G for nearly a decade. The company says it has developed many foundational technologies that are part of the 5G standard.

“5G is the (cellular) transition that everyone should pay attention to,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf. “Qualcomm’s focus on 5G has not only provided others with the 5G foundation to build on top of and capitalize on, but we have put ourselves in a strong position.”

Warren says US broadband lags compared to other nations. She’s close

This article originally appeared on Politifact by Jon Greenberg.

To Elizabeth Warren’s list of plans, add improving rural broadband. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Warren wrote that over 21 million Americans lack access to high-speed broadband. She blamed the major internet service providers, such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and Charter, for profiting at the expense of rural communities and others.

“We lag behind many other developed nations in connectivity and speed, while also paying more for that service,” Warren continued.

We decided to see where the United States stands compared with its peers.

Trying to measure this is challenging but Warren’s comments are broad enough that experts say it’s generally accurate. The United States does lag behind other nations by some measures, but rarely is it among the worst performers and it has also gained ground in recent years when it comes to its high speed offerings.The FCC rankings

Warren cited the latest numbers from the Federal Communications Commission. The agency looks at speed, price and the reach of broadband in 26 countries, plus the United States.

The list includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Some things to note when making international comparisons: The United States is less densely populated than Europe, which raises costs here. Fixed broadband and mobile broadband are measured separately, and rankings can vary. The 21 million figure Warren cites in her claim refers to those without a fixed, on-the-ground connection.

Michael J. Santorelli, director of the Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute at New York Law School, urged caution when comparing nations on this topic. 

“Each country’s broadband market is highly unique, having been shaped by factors like regulatory regime, population density, income, and consumer demand, among many others.”

With that in mind, here’s some of what the FCC found based on 2016 numbers.

Speed

For fixed broadband, the United States ranked 10th on download speed. The tiny country of Luxembourg was way out in the lead with a median download speed of 358 Mbps (megabits per second). After Luxembourg, the speed drops fast. No. 2 Iceland posted a speed of 96 Mbps. The United States was in a tight cluster in the 55 Mbps range, with Spain and Denmark a little faster, and Norway and Portugal a little slower. 

Rankings are always a little dicey, because sometimes, tiny differences in speed put one country above another.

University of Pennsylvania law professor Christopher Yoo, who specializes in communications and information technology matters, noted that the United States has gained ground over the years. In 2012, the United States ranked 25th for fixed broadband.

“We seem to be in the top half and getting better,” Yoo said.

On a similar measure for mobile broadband, the United States ranked 24th. With a speed of about 41 Mbps, the Netherlands was the winner. The United States clocked in about 19 Mbps, below Portugal, Italy and Czech Republic.

Price

The FCC has three ways to come up with prices to compare across all the countries. It uses average prices, and two other approaches that factor in the value of the service as well as variables like population size and density.

The results from the different methods vary widely: When it comes to average price, the United States ranks 18th. But when measured using the FCC’s more nuanced methods, it ranks 7th for fixed connection and 10th for mobile.  

Penn State telecommunications professor Rob Frieden generally agrees with Warren’s summary, but he says the big picture can mask that some American customers do better than their foreign counterparts.

“For so-called bandwidth hogs who stream lots and lots of video, the U.S. offers some of the lowest cost per megabit transmission speed and megabyte data delivered,” Frieden said.

A British firm called, appropriately, Cable, also collects broadband price information worldwide. In its 2018 survey, based on average monthly cost, the United States ranked 23rd among a list of countries that is similar, but not identical, to the FCC’s list.

Connectivity

This is the area where the FCC report delivers more mixed signals.

The United States ranks 10th overall for the percentage of the population reached by its fixed broadband networks. For rural areas, the country ranks 9th.

But the FCC has no breakdown by country for mobile broadband.

Instead, the study compares the United States to a group of 21 European nations. In that light, the United States does better overall, but especially in rural areas: 98% of rural U.S. households have high-speed service. For the 21 EU nations, the fraction slips to 83%. But, using this FCC snapshot as a guide, we don’t have a clear picture of how the United States’ population using mobile broadband stacks up against countries that are not mentioned in this section of the report. 

Our ruling

Warren said that the United States lags “behind many other developed nations in connectivity and speed, while also paying more for that service.” 

Her words are sufficiently broad to fit the government report she cited, but the numbers show the United States generally in the middle of the pack for speed, price and reach. 

While the top performing nations might stand out, in many cases, small differences in values determine their placement in the rankings.

Warren’s statement is generally accurate, but it needs context.

We rate this claim Mostly True.