News Feature | October 9, 2018

The Week In 5G: 10/9/2018 – Huawei Claims Ban Will Delay U.S. 5G Deployment; 5G Threatens Cable Broadband Monopoly

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq


After being banned by the Trump administration in August, Chinese telco equipment giant Huawei apparently wants another crack at the U.S. market, and is pleading its case with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials.

In a letter, Huawei said it's "lack of presence in the U.S. would raise prices, harm competition, hinder innovation, and ultimately delay 5G deployment."

Huawei said the U.S. government's ban will cost small carriers in rural and remote areas in the U.S. (where Huawei equipment is used) "hundreds of millions [of dollars]," and some even "would go out of business entirely" if Huawei is made to pull out its products.

The company said it supports more than 500 telecommunications operators across more than 170 countries, many of which "are close allies of the United States." One of those allies, Australia, recently decided to ban Huawei over security concerns first raised by U.S. intelligence agencies.

According to Venture Beat, U.S. officials have maintained that Chinese law requires Huawei to participate in government-sponsored espionage, and that its products can contain backdoors, enabling clandestine monitoring.

In its letter, Huawei said that cybersecurity risks should not be met with a blacklist on vendors, but rather, with a comprehensive security framework as part of an inter-agency effort in which it wishes to participate through "the development and promulgation of security standards and best practices."

Huawei is arguably the global leader in the telecoms market, boasting a 15 percent revenue growth —amounting to $47.6 billion — for the first half of 2018, well-ahead of other telco equipment suppliers. Even if it's still angling for entry to the U.S. market, it continues winning opportunities in other important markets with its aggressive pricing strategy and increasing technological sophistication.

Huawei last week scored an invitation to participate in 5G trials in India, a huge market where the government plans to spend around $100 billion over the next 5-7 years to build a nationwide 5G infrastructure, starting in 2020.

"We are investing in India with long-term vision. I see India to be the most dynamic country in terms of overall economic growth in next 5 years when Indian telecom sector will be full of hope and opportunities as things are moving in right direction. 5G is going to transform everything," said Huawei CEO Jay Chen, according to the Economic Times.

In Russia, in association with VimpelCom (Beeline), Huawei showcased recently a demonstration of a holographic call using a commercially available Huawei 5G base station — the gNodeB — as well as a practical 5G virtual reality (VR) use case, reported Light Reading.

Huawei, along with ZTE and three Chinese state-owned carriers, also completed last week the third phase of China's national 5G trial program, which started in 2016, according to RCR Wireless. The program consists of three phases: key technologies testing, the verification of technology and solution, and 5G system verification.

However, U.S. carriers already have begun installing and using 5G hardware made by Huawei's rivals Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung. AT&T plans to roll out its 5G service in 12 cities by the end of 2018, but rival Verizon beat it with the launch of its 5G Home broadband internet service in four cities last week

Verizon Chief Technology Architect Ed Chan told Ars Technica that Verizon is focusing on using the $70-per-month wireless home Internet service to compete against dominant cable companies, which have "done a very good job of always aligning to a single cable-only provider" in each area. "Those customers are very eager to get a choice in their broadband provider."

According to Ars Technica, Verizon is bullish on 5G for home Internet partly because of its low latency of about 2-4ms each way, or less than 10ms for a round trip.

"There is a magic number of round-trip latency of about 25ms, where humans will feel the difference when you have that kind of lag or lack of response," Chan said.

Low latency will benefit applications like online gaming, robotics, and augmented reality.

Related, Verizon already is exploring new entertainment experiences made possible by 5G. Verizon's RYOT, the company's premium entertainment studio, and its partner, the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), last week opened a new production facility "to serve as a hub for experimentation with new storytelling forms that leverage Verizon’s Ultra Wideband 5G network."

According to Verizon, artists and creators can experiment with augmented and mixed reality, volumetrics, CGI, and motion capture —all of which hold promise for a range of applications — using its 5G network.

Verizon's 5G Home internet uses 28 GHz spectrum in the launch cities and uses many more antennas than 4G in a (massive multiple-input multiple-output) Massive MIMO setup. According to Ars Technica, that's one big reason why the 5G home Internet service offers unlimited data without any throttling or congestion.

But the Massive MIMO setup, where many more antennas and hardware components are installed per base station, will likely increase the total energy consumption of 5G base stations (compared to 5G). Still, the system is expected to become more efficient eventually.

“Just as computer processors become vastly more efficient over time, the analog and digital circuits that are used in base stations become more efficient,” Emil Björnson, an associate professor at Linköping University, in Sweden, told IEEE Spectrum. “The first generations of 5G hardware will be all about delivering all the new features to the market, but then there will be time to refine the hardware, as well.”

The same is true for multimode small cells, which will overtake 4G small cells by 2024, and will number approximately 13.1 million in 2025, according to Spectrum.

These small cells, which need to be installed a few meters apart on utility poles, are the object of consternation among some U.S. city councils, which feel sidelined by new FCC rules streamlining 5G deployment.

Add Seattle to the growing list of U.S. cities opposed to these federal regulations. As reported by the Seattle Times, city officials plan to appeal said rules, which they describe as an "overreach" by the federal government. Further, FCC "impedes local authority to serve as trustees of public property and to fulfill cities’ public health and safety responsibilities while establishing unworkable standards. This will increase costs and impose an unreasonable burden on local governments."

In other news this week, the New York Times reported that Italian telecom companies coughed up 6.6 billion euros, or about $7.8 billion, to secure the prized 3.7 GHz frequency in two large, 80 megahertz blocks. Per the research company Bernstein, that cost is three times the amount forecast originally by Italian regulators, twice the value of similar 5G spectrum sold in Britain earlier this year, and almost eight times as costly as Spain’s recent auction.

Because of the huge investments, Italian operators will likely pass some of the cost on to customers, and likely will skimp on investing in mobile networks or fiber broadband.