News Feature | October 2, 2018

The Week In 5G: 10/2/2018 – Verizon's 5G Network Goes Live, FCC Hell-Bent On 5G Dominance

By Jof Enriquez,
Follow me on Twitter @jofenriq


Verizon's 5G Home broadband internet service went live this week in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. The US carrier claims the service — which is based on the Verizon-led open 5G TF network standard — is the first commercial 5G network in the world to become fully operational.

Verizon said it will upgrade the network to the upcoming 3GPP 5G NR standard specifications as soon as compatible hardware, software, chipsets, and devices become available to market.

In a statement, Verizon said it was able to launch 5G in the four cities "because of forward-looking state policy and local leaders who embraced innovation and developed a strategic vision for how 5G could be a platform to attract new investment, businesses, and next-generation services for residents."

Not all local governments in the United States are welcoming 5G deployment with open arms, though. Points of contention include alleged health hazards and the imposition of new federal rules inhibiting localities from raising their own revenue.

This week, local officials in Wisconsin decried a Federal Communications Commission order, approved on Sept. 26, that caps local fees and puts "shot clocks" on small cell construction reviews. Wisconsin officials describe the order as a federal appropriation of city property, owned by taxpayers.

"We've got a rule made by federal agents that allows private companies like Verizon to go put equipment onto our poles at a price, which we estimate is approximately one-tenth of the value," says Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, reported WPR.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless lauded the new FCC rule to streamline 5G deployment, saying that "the FCC took the next step to further strengthen the United States' lead in the race to 5G by adopting a framework for permitting and fees that will foster more widespread and robust infrastructure investment."

Despite some criticism of the agency’s approach to 5G, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sounded resolute at a White House summit on Friday, and said that "U.S. leadership in 5G technology is a national imperative for economic growth and competitiveness," according to Reuters.

White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said federal law allows the FCC to override localities on this issue. “We’re not here to be completely heavy-handed but sometimes you have to do what you got to do,” he said at the summit.

Of 5G, Kudlow said, "Let it rip!" and summed up the White House’s approach to 5G as being "free market and free enterprise," according to Forbes. The White House projects the impact of 5G to be $275 billion in private investment in broadband infrastructure in the next 5 years, 3 million new jobs, and $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy, but only if it sticks to the 5G FAST Plan (Facilitate American Superiority in 5G Technology).

Installing small cells to build 5G infrastructure is a critical part of that strategy, which Pai explained in a column originally published by The Washington Post.

"We will never realize the 5G future if we impose federal, state, local, and tribal regulatory burdens designed for large towers on every single small cell," wrote Pai. "That’s why the FCC has cut red tape for small-cell deployment and will continue to enable companies to focus on fiber roll out, allowing them to upgrade fading copper networks and making it cheaper and easier to string fiber optic lines on utility poles."

The other two components of the plan are spectrum auctions and modernizing outdated regulations.

FCC will vote this month on rule changes to allow providers to renew 3.5 GHz licenses and to expand unlicensed use, such as public Wi-Fi, on the 6 GHz band, to free up more spectrum that can accommodate increasing Wi-Fi traffic, according to BNA. FCC also will update and make simpler federal media regulations for cable TV broadcasters.

FCC also intends to free up the 3.7GHz-4.2GHz C-band for 5G, which is the band used for downlink from satellites for video distribution for cable broadcasters. Related, leading global satellite operators Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat this week announced a consortium called the C-Band Alliance that will create a commercial and technical framework enabling terrestrial mobile operators to quickly access spectrum in a portion of the mid-band spectrum for 5G services in the US.

A report from Bloomberg says European telcos are finding spectrum more expensive than they anticipated. For instance, Italy’s ongoing auction for 5G frequency this month reportedly has blown through a world record for a key frequency band, reaping 5.8 billion euros ($6.8 billion), while a recent United Kingdom auction also overshot on costs.

However, the report adds that, despite the exorbitant cost of securing the airwaves in Europe, 5G systems can push cost per gigabyte down by more than 90 percent over time. European carriers won't be able to recoup their investments until 2019, though, when the first 5G services there begin.

Meanwhile, Russian carrier Vympelcom (Beeline) just announced an agreement with Ericsson to test and deploy massive multiple-input multiple-output on the telco’s networks and develop 5G demonstration clusters by 2021, according to RCR Wireless. The two companies also will explore the possibility of creating an Internet of Things (IoT) Accelerator Lab.

Russia is building a 5G network with the help of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the company announced last month. Huawei — which has been shout out of the US, Australia, and India — also scored a win recently when the company signed an agreement with Monaco to provide full 5G coverage for the independent city-state in the French Riviera.