News Feature | April 2, 2019

The Week In 5G: 4/2/2019 – Verizon Defends 'First to 5G' Ads, AT&T Claims It's First US Carrier To Reach Gigabit Speeds

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq


Verizon has appealed the decision by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus — which monitors and investigates advertising claims — for the carrier to either edit or pull three television commercials declaring Verizon to be the "first to 5G" and "building America's first and only 5G ultra wideband network," because NAD believes such claims are "unsupported."

NAD recommended that Verizon's commercials "be discontinued or modified in order to avoid conveying certain messages, including the unintended message that Verizon has “launched [a] 5G mobile wireless network." NAD had issued the recommendation in response to a challenge lodged by AT&T against Verizon.

Verizon's appeal to said recommendation stated that "NAD failed to properly evaluate the net impression of the challenged commercials" and "disagrees that the challenged claims or net impression of the commercials at issue convey anything more than corporate pride in its achievements and the development of its next generation 5G Ultra-Wideband Network," reported Ars Technica.

Verizon also said it "disagrees that reasonable consumers are likely to misunderstand its claims about its '5G Ultra-wideband network,' which is unique from networks under development by other carriers."

Verizon, which launched 5G services in limited markets last year, is claiming that it has rolled out the first true 5G network in the United States based on millimeter-wave technology, instead of AT&T's 5G E (Evolution) Network, which rivals say is a pseudo-5G network that is no faster than current 4G networks.

AT&T has defended the '5G E' branding on its smartphones and this week claimed to be the first U.S. carrier to reach gigabit speeds on a mobile 5G network in "multiple cities," reported Engadget. An important caveat, though, is that this was accomplished using Netgear's 5G hotspot, and one needs an invitation to get into one. Also, the router's WiFi reportedly "isn't fast enough to guarantee peak speeds. You'll have to wait for 5G smartphones and WiFi 6-equipped hotspots before the technology can live up to is potential."

Industry sources estimate the first commercially available 5G smartphone will come with a hefty $1,300 price tag, and probably more. But Samsung plans to sell its 5G phone a little cheaper, with the 256 GB version of the Galaxy S10 5G phone available at a base price of 1.39 million won (about $1,200) and the 512 GB model at 1.55 million won (roughly $1,350), reported ETNews, via Venture Beat. If accurate, this represents a $200 price increase over Samsung's flagship Galaxy S10+ with no 5G connectivity. The 5G model is planned for sale beginning April 5 in South Korea, and will debut in the U.S. as a Verizon exclusive.

South Korean regulators have convinced local carriers to forego unlimited 5G data service for now, and instead sell 5G data plans with modest data allocations priced affordably to reach the widest range of consumers. The carriers' rejected proposals included offers for unlimited 5G to cater to users of massive data. Venture Beat reported that SK Telecom's approved plans range between $49 (8GB of data) and $110 (300GB) per month, while LG Uplus will have $49 (9GB), $66 (150GB), and $84 (250GB).

Competitive pricing is exactly why Thailand is allowing Huawei to build and test the country's first 5G network. Djitt Laowattana, chair of Thailand's state-owned telecommunications company, TOT, said recently that Huawei's low prices and high-quality equipment are attractive to a developing country like Thailand.

"Everybody in Thailand know they come to the market with maybe 50 percent of the price," Laowattana told NPR in an interview.

The U.S. is pressuring allies like Thailand to shun Huawei due to alleged security and espionage threats the Chinese company poses. NPR reported that the Thai official is not worried about spying as much as he is about Huawei's bargain basement prices beating out the competition and threatening to become a monopoly over the 5G market in Thailand.

Meanwhile, China is reaching out to countries like New Zealand, which are on the fence trying to decide which way to go in building 5G infrastructure without ruffling the U.S.' feathers. This week, China's premier Li Keqiang met New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern some four months after New Zealand ordered mobile phone company Spark to stop using Huawei gear, in a move consistent with U.S. calls to block Huawei. New Zealand authorities have yet to decide on a Huawei ban.

" willing to, on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment, elevate mutual political trust with New Zealand, expand practical cooperation and increase personal exchanges," Li told Ardern at the Great Hall of the People, following a formal welcoming ceremony, reported Fox Business. "And we hope that...when each side's businesses invest in each other's businesses, they can enjoy a fair, transparent, convenient environment."

Ardern did not directly address investment issues, but said that New Zealand's relationship with China is "one of our most important and far-reaching relationships."

A bill filed last week by senior U.S. senators could require the U.S. to work more closely with allies in safeguarding critical telecommunications equipment against foreign attacks. Specifically, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act will "require the president to develop a domestic security strategy for next-generation networks, while explicitly precluding him from recommending the nationalization of 5G or future U.S. telecom networks," reports Venture Beat. Instead of being able to act unilaterally on these matters, the president will have to coordinate with various agencies, including the FCC chair, Secretary of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, Attorney General, and Secretary of Defense, under the leadership of a proposed National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

In other news, Swedish telco equipment maker Ericsson announced an agreement with Dutch operator VodafoneZiggo for 5G trials in multiple locations in the city of Eindhoven, reports RCR Wireless. The tests will utilize the 3.5 GHz band. Ericsson also will soon launch 5G services in Bahrain for operator Batelco, which has been testing Ericsson's 5G New Radio, mobile transport, and core infrastructure in preparation of the rollout, reported Nasdaq.

Meanwhile, a Boulder, Colo., councilwoman shared to city council members and staff recently a YouTube video describing 5G technology as "the extinction event," reported Daily Camera. Councilwoman Cindy Carlisle told colleagues in a "tongue-in-cheek" message that she hopes that they "at least take a look" at the video. Carlisle in March voted against an eventually approved plan by the city council to award a 10-year lease for Verizon Wireless antennas to be installed on the South Boulder Recreation Center, provided Verizon does not install 5G equipment without future council approval. Carlisle is calling for a study session so that issues surrounding 5G can be discussed further.

"There are deep issues," Carlisle said, reported Daily Camera. "In terms of public health and safety, I would rather see us err on the side of taking more time and actually trying to get a study session together before we go ahead and sign agreements with those whose purpose it is to put 5G in the community."

Related, a Wired story claims that "hundreds of scientists and tens of thousands of others believe that the intensity of 5G represents a phase change and that 5G’s effects on mankind should be studied closely before this technology is widely adopted."

The FCC, over the years, has repeatedly downplayed serious health risks associated with electromagnetic radiation. Wired, though, reports the FCC's standard has not been updated since 1996 and doesn't account for long-term exposure or cellular/biological effects that don't involve heating. Perhaps, the article states, it is time to revisit these existing radio-frequency exposure standards and accept that there is, indeed, a gap in research about the effects of 5G technology. Maybe then we can have more science backing up regulatory decisions, and fewer alarmist conspiracy theories floating around the internet.